Jan Olszewski

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Jan Olszewski
Jan Olszewski 3.jpg
3rd Prime Minister of Poland
In office
23 December 1991 – 5 June 1992
President Lech Wałęsa
Preceded by Jan Krzysztof Bielecki
Succeeded by Waldemar Pawlak
Personal details
Born Jan Ferdynand Olszewski
(1930-08-20) 20 August 1930 (age 84)
Warsaw, Second Polish Republic
Political party Centre Agreement
Spouse(s) Marta Olszewska
Profession Lawyer
Religion Roman Catholic

Jan Ferdynand Olszewski ['jan ɔlˈʂɛfskʲi] ( ) (born 20 August 1930) is a Polish lawyer and political figure.[1] He is best known for serving as Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland from 1991 to 1992.

Early life and World War II[edit]

Olszewski, a native of Warsaw, came from a worker's family with strong socialist traditions. Despite a later right-wing career, he considered himself a socialist during his early political life. Many members of his family belonged to the first tier of the Polish Socialist Party.

During World War II, beginning in 1943 he was active in Szare Szeregi ("Grey Ranks"), the underground Polish Scouting Association.[1] After the war he was an active supporter and campaigned for Stanisław Mikołajczyk's Polish People's Party (1946–1947).

During People's Republic of Poland[edit]

He graduated from secondary school in 1949 and went on to study law at the University of Warsaw, graduating in 1953. Afterward he was an employee of the Ministry of Justice and later the Polish Academy of Sciences.[1] In 1956 he became a member of the staff of the weekly Po prostu ("Simply") magazine.[1] In one of his articles (11 March 1956) he called for the rehabilitation of former Armia Krajowa soldiers, prosecuted by communist authorities. Soon he became one of the best known public critics of the regime, which resulted in a prohibition of publicist activity in 1957 (to 1959). From 1956 to 1962 he was a member of the Klub Krzywego Koła ("Club of the Crooked Circle"), a discussion group comprising intellectual elites critical of the communist regime.[2]

During the 1960s Olszewski became the leading defense attorney in political trials. He defended, among others, Melchior Wańkowicz in 1964, Jacek Kuroń and Karol Modzelewski in 1965, and Janusz Szpotanski.[1][3] His professional activity was banned again in 1968 after the March student protests.[1] He returned in 1970, when Edward Gierek came to power.

In the 1970s he continued his activity as a lawyer and became one of the most prominent leaders of the democratic opposition – later Solidarity.[1] In 1984 he was auxiliary prosecutor in trial of murderers of priest Jerzy Popiełuszko.[1] Olszewski participated in the Polish Round Table Agreement,[1] but refused to run for the Contract Sejm or to join Tadeusz Mazowiecki cabinet.

After the fall and rebirth of communism[edit]

He joined the Centre Agreement party in 1990.[2] After the 1991 parliamentary election he was named by President Lech Wałęsa as the new Prime Minister.[1] His cabinet, however, lasted just under half a year (23 December 1991 – 5 June 1992). His cabinet fell over issues related to lustration of former communists, and the proper way of handling communist secret police files.[2] In the next, 1993, election he lost his Sejm seat which he had held since 1991. He returned to the Sejm in 1997 and 2001, this time on the right wing League of Polish Families ballot.[4] He ran for President in 1995, winning fourth place (after Aleksander Kwaśniewski, Lech Wałęsa and Jacek Kuroń) with 1,225,453 votes (6.86%).[4] In 1996 he founded and became the leader of the Movement for Reconstruction of Poland (now disbanded).[4]

A longtime political ally of Jarosław Kaczyński and Lech Kaczyński, he is currently a strong supporter of their policy and Law and Justice party.[1] From 10 April 2006 Olszewski served as one of President Kaczyński's political advisors until the latter's death.[1] He also served as the Vice President of the State Tribunal of the Republic of Poland on two occasions (1989–1991, 2005–2006).

Further reading[edit]

  • Market Myths and Polish Realities, an interview with Jan Olszewski in the Multinational Monitor (September 1993)
  • Prosto w oczy - Ewa Polak-Pałkiewicz talks with Jan Olszewski (the book published by Inicjatywa Wydawnicza Ad Astra, Warsaw, 1997, Polish language)
  • Olszewski. Przerwana premiera - Radosław Januszewski, Jerzy Kłosiński and Jan Strękowski talk with Jan Olszewski (the book published by Tygodnik Solidarność, Warsaw, August 1992, Polish language)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l The official website of the President of the Republic of Poland, "Jan Olszewski – Political Advisor to the President", [1]
  2. ^ a b c Michael Bernhard, Henryk Szlajfer, "From the Polish Underground-Pod, Ls", Penn State Press, 2004, pg. 419, [2]
  3. ^ Vladimir Tismăneanu, "Fantasies of salvation: democracy, nationalism, and myth in post-communist Europe", Princeton University Press, 1998, pg. 129, [3]
  4. ^ a b c Antoni Dudek, "Historia Polityczna Polski, 1989–2005" (Political History of Poland, 1989–2005), Arkana Historii, Krakow, 2007, pgs. 321–322, 403

This article incorporates information from the revision as of 01-08-2007 of the equivalent article on the Polish Wikipedia.
Political offices
Preceded by
Jan Krzysztof Bielecki
Prime Minister of Poland
Succeeded by
Waldemar Pawlak