Marian Spychalski
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Marian Spychalski

Marian Spychalski
Marian Spychalski.jpg
Marian Spychalski in 1965
Chairman of the Polish Council of State

10 April 1968 - 23 December 1970
Józef Cyrankiewicz
W?adys?aw Gomu?ka
Edward Gierek
Edward Ochab
Józef Cyrankiewicz
Personal details
Born(1906-12-06)6 December 1906
?ód?, Piotrków Governorate, Congress Poland
Died7 June 1980(1980-06-07) (aged 73)
Warsaw, Poland
Political partyPPR (1942-8)
PZPR (1948-80)
AwardsOrder Budowniczych Polski Ludowej
Military service
Nickname(s)Marek, Orka
Allegiance Poland
Years of service1944-1949
RankMarshal of Poland
CommandsGwardia Ludowa
Defence Minister
Battles/warsWorld War II

Marian "Marek" Spychalski pronounced ['marjan sp?'xalsk?i] (6 December 1906 - 7 June 1980) was a Polish architect in pre-war Poland, and later, military commander and communist politician. During World War II he belonged to the communist underground forces operating within Poland and was one of the leaders of the resistance movement Gwardia Ludowa (People's Guard), then Armia Ludowa (People's Army).[1]

Early Career

Spychalski (centre)
with ?wierczewski (right) and Rola-?ymierski, 1945

Born to a working-class family in ?ód?, Spychalski graduated from the Faculty of Architecture of the Warsaw University of Technology (Politechnika Warszawska) in 1931. That same year he joined the Communist Party of Poland (KPP),[2] and kept his membership after the Nazi-Soviet invasion, when in 1942 KPP became the Polish Workers' Party, renamed in 1948 as the Polish United Workers' Party.[1] Before World War II, he practised architecture and won several national and international competitions and awards.[3]

World War Two

In 1943 as part of the subversive Soviet effort to destroy the independent Polish resistance movement associated with the Polish government-in-exile, he denounced to the Gestapo various members of those resistance organizations.[4]

Polish People's Republic

After World War II, he held a number of offices in the government of Poland, one of his first being mayor of Warsaw (18 September 1944 - March 1945), with the war still in progress. Among other posts, he was a long-time member of the Sejm (parliament), a close friend of W?adys?aw Gomu?ka, and from 1945 to 1948 was both Deputy Minister of Defense and a member of the Politburo of the Polish United Workers' Party.[5]

He was removed from his remaining political posts in 1949 and then in 1950 imprisoned as part of the Stalinist purges of social-democrats in 1949-1953,[6] where he was accused of anti-Soviet tendencies akin to Titoism.[2] In 1951 he appeared in a show trial where he was instructed to deliver official (and false) testimony against Gomu?ka.[2] He was only released in the mass release of political prisoners in April 1956, and subsequently reinstated in the Polish United Workers' Party.[2][5]

With Gomu?ka's rehabilitation and return to power in 1956, Spychalski became the Polish Minister of Defence.[7] In 1959 he again became a member of the Politburo, and in 1963 he was promoted to Field Marshal.[5]

In 1968 during the antisemitic purge of the army, at Gomu?ka's request he left the Polish Army and his job as Minister of Defense,[2][5] to assume civilian posts as President of the Front of National Unity,[5] and from 10 April 1968 to 23 December 1970 as Chairman of the Council of State - the de facto head of state of Poland - the Council being the de jure executive authority in the People's Republic,[1] although some considered the post to be mostly symbolic.[8]

Descent from power

As head of state, Spychalski was nearly assassinated at Karachi airport in Pakistan on 1 November 1970 during the welcoming ceremonies. The Gettysburg Times informed that an anti-communist Islamic fundamentalist Feroze Abdullah drove a lorry at high speed into the Polish delegation, narrowly missing his intended target but killing the Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Zygfryd Wolniak (48) and three Pakistani representatives including the Deputy Director of the Intelligence Bureau, Chaudhri Mohammed Nazir, and two photographers.[9]

Spychalski lost his posts as close associate of Gomu?ka, when Edward Gierek replaced Gomu?ka as First Secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party during the 1970 Polish protests throughout December.[8] Spychalski retired and wrote a four volume memoir which is now in the archives of the Hoover Institution in California.[3] He died on 7 June 1980, survived by his wife Barbara who also wrote about him.[3]

Honours and awards

Political offices
Preceded by
Edward Ochab
Chairman of the Polish Council of State
10 April 1968 - 23 December 1970
Succeeded by
Józef Cyrankiewicz
Preceded by
Konstantin Rokossovsky
Polish Minister of Defence
1956 - 1968
Succeeded by
Wojciech Jaruzelski


  1. ^ a b c Noga?, Micha? & W?odarczykki, Wojciech (17 June 2011). "Marsza?ek Polski Marian Spychalski". Polskie Radio (in Polish).
  2. ^ a b c d e Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich (2007). "Biographies". In Khrushchev, Serge? (ed.). Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev, Volume 3, Statesman, 1953-1964. University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press. p. 969. ISBN 978-0-271-02935-1., translated by George Shriver and Stephen Shenfield.
  3. ^ a b c "Marian Spychalski Papers Received by the Hoover Institution Archives". Hoover Institution, Stanford University. 20 April 2010. Archived from the original on 28 November 2016.
  4. ^ Bu?hak, W?adys?aw (5 May 2007). "Komunistyczny donos do gestapo". Rzeczpospolita (in Polish). Archived from the original on 1 May 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e Wróbel, Piotr (1998). "Spychalski, Marian". Historical Dictionary of Poland, 1945-1996. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 286-287. ISBN 978-0-313-29772-4.
  6. ^ Kaplan, Karel (1990). "The Witch Hunt". Report on the Murder of the General Secretary. London: I.B. Tauris. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-85043-211-1., translated by Karel Kovanda.
  7. ^ Khrushchev, Serge? N. (2000). Nikita Khrushchev and the Creation of a Superpower. University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press. pp. 213-214. ISBN 978-0-271-02170-6., translated by Shirley Benson.
  8. ^ a b Lepak, Keith John (1988). "Political System I, 1971-1976: Edward Gierek, the party-state, and Polish society". Prelude to Solidarity: Poland and the Politics of the Gierek Regime. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-231-06608-2.
  9. ^ "Four Killed When Man Drives Truck Into Airport Reception Shouting "Down With Reds"". The Gettysburg Times. Associated Press. 2 November 1970.

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