Bolesław Bierut

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Bolesław Bierut
PL Bolesław Bierut (1892-1956).jpg
Bolesław Bierut, also known as Jerzy Bolesław Bielak and Bolesław Birkowski.[1]
President of the Republic of Poland
In office
5 February 1947 – 21 November 1952
Prime Minister Józef Cyrankiewicz
Preceded by Himself
as President of the Popular Council
Succeeded by Office abolished
Aleksander Zawadzki (as Chairman of the Council of State)
Wojciech Jaruzelski (After office was restored)
President of the Popular Council
In office
31 December 1944 – 4 February 1947
Prime Minister Edward Osóbka-Morawski
Preceded by Władysław Raczkiewicz
as President in Exile
Succeeded by Himself as President of Poland
Secretary General of the Central Committee of the PUWP
In office
22 December 1948 – 12 March 1956
Preceded by Władysław Gomułka
as Secretary of PWP
Succeeded by Edward Ochab
as First Secretary
Prime Minister of the People's Republic of Poland
In office
21 November 1952 – 18 March 1954
Preceded by Józef Cyrankiewicz
Succeeded by Józef Cyrankiewicz
Personal details
Born Bolesław Rutkowski
(1892-04-18)18 April 1892
Rury Jezuickie or Rury Brygidkowskie, Lublin Governorate, Congress Poland, Russian Empire (present-day Lublin, Poland)
Died 12 March 1956(1956-03-12) (aged 63)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Political party Communist Party of Poland
Polish Workers' Party
Polish United Workers' Party
Spouse(s) Wanda Górska (1903-1983)

Bolesław Bierut ([bɔˈlɛswaf ˈbjɛrut]; born Bolesław Rutkowski; 18 April 1892 – 12 March 1956; also known under assumed names Jerzy Bolesław Bielak and Bolesław Birkowski[1]) was a Polish Communist leader, NKVD agent,[2] and a hard-line Stalinist who became President of Poland after the Soviet takeover of the country in the aftermath of World War II.


Partly damaged old monument to Bierut formerly in Lublin, now in Kozłówka museum, 2007
File:BM OderNeisse.jpg
1951 East German stamp commemorative of the Treaty of Zgorzelec establishing the Oder-Neisse line as a “border of peace”, featuring the presidents Wilhelm Pieck (GDR) and Bolesław Bierut shaking hands over the new border

Bierut was born Bolesław Rutkowski in Rury Jezuickie, now a part of Lublin, to Wojciech Rutkowski, a village teacher, and his wife Maria (née Biernacka).[1] He later adopted the surname "Bierut" combining the first syllables of his parents' surnames. In 1918 he took courses at the Warsaw School of Economics. From 1924–30, he was in Moscow for training at the school of the Communist International.[1]

In 1930–31, he was sent by the Comintern to Austria, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria.[1] In 1933 he became an agent of Soviet military intelligence, the GRU, and subsequently, was sentenced in Poland to 10 years in prison for "anti-state activities" (incarcerated between 1933–1938).[1] The pro-Soviet Communist Party of Poland was dissolved by Joseph Stalin in 1938. Bierut avoided being caught in the Great Purge, which led to the execution of many leaders of the Communist Party of Poland in the USSR. After an amnesty from the Polish government in 1938 Bierut settled down in Warsaw and worked as a bookkeeper in a cooperative.[citation needed]

After the outbreak of World War II, Bierut fled to Eastern Poland (soon occupied by the Red Army) in order to avoid military service. Bierut spent part of the war in the USSR and was sent to head the new Polish Workers' Party in 1943. He functioned as head of the Provisional National Council, a quasi-parliament (Krajowa Rada Narodowa), created by the pro-Soviet and Moscow-based Union of Polish Patriots, from 1944 to 1947. Bierut played a leading role in the establishment of the Polish People's Republic.[citation needed]

From 1947 to 1952, he served as President and then (after the abolition of the Presidency with the creation of the People's Republic of Poland) Prime Minister. He was also the first Secretary General of the ruling Polish United Workers Party from 1948 to 1956. Bierut oversaw the trials of many Polish wartime military leaders, such as General Stanisław Tatar and Brig. General Emil August Fieldorf, as well as 40 members of the Wolność i Niezawisłość (Freedom and Independence) organisation, various church officials, and many other opponents of the new regime including the "hero of Auschwitz", Witold Pilecki, condemned to death during secret trials. Bierut signed many of those death sentences.[citation needed]


Bierut's grave in Powązki Military Cemetery, 2004

Bierut died under mysterious circumstances in Moscow on 12 March 1956 during a visit to the Soviet Union, shortly after attending the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during which Nikita Khrushchev delivered his "Secret Speech", denouncing Stalin's cult of personality. His death gave rise to speculation about poisoning or suicide.[citation needed]

Speculations about identity

Polish historian Paweł Wieczorkiewicz posited that Bierut might have had a Soviet-sent double (an NKVD agent) posing as Bierut since 1943 with his full knowledge. Wieczorkiewicz referred to an account of Piotr Jaroszewicz made soon before his death, and published by Bohdan Roliński. The Polish President's double was shot dead by an unidentified assassin – likely another agent wearing an NKVD uniform and killed at the scene – at the Hotel Francuski in Kraków, Poland in 1947. The real "Bierut" showed up half an hour later and calmed the security according to statement made by one of them. The assassination attempt was kept secret by the authorities. Wieczorkiewicz himself referred to this theory as an urban legend.[3]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Bolesław Bierut. Dane osoby z katalogu kierowniczych stanowisk partyjnych i państwowych PRL. Biuletyn Informacji Publicznej. Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, 2007. (Personal Data from the Catalogue of Party and Government Appointments in the People's Republic of Poland webpage at the Institute of National Remembrance, 2007) (Polish)
  2. Błażyński, Zbigniew (2003). Mówi Józef Światło. Za kulisami bezpieki i partii, 1940-1955. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo LTW. pp. 20–21, 27. ISBN 83-88736-34-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Wieczorkiewicz: Mimo wszystko Stalin nas szanował." Interview with prof. Paweł Wieczorkiewicz by Robert Mazurek,, 5 November 2007. (Polish)
Political offices
Preceded by
Władysław Raczkiewicz
(President of the Polish Republic in Exile)
Chairman of the State National Council
31 December 1944–4 February 1947
Succeeded by
Himself as President
Preceded by
Himself as Chairman
President of Poland
5 February 1947–21 November 1952
Succeeded by
Aleksander Zawadzki
(Chairman of the Council of State)
Preceded by
Józef Cyrankiewicz
Prime Minister of Poland
20 November 1952–18 March 1954
Succeeded by
Józef Cyrankiewicz
Party political offices
Preceded by
Władysław Gomułka
(as general secretary of the Polish Workers' Party)
General Secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party
22 December 1948–12 March 1956
Succeeded by
Edward Ochab