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Aleksander Kwaśniewski ( ; born November 15, 1954) is a post-communist Polishmarker socialist politician who served as the President of Poland from 1995 to 2005. He was born in Białogardmarker, and during the communist rule he was active in the communist controlled Socialist Union of Polish Students (Socjalistyczny Związek Studentów Polskich) and was sports minister in the communist government in 1980s. After the fall of communism he became a leader of the left-wing, post-communist Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland, successor to the former ruling communist Polish United Workers Party, and a cofounder of the Democratic Left Alliance

Kwaśniewski was democratically elected president in 1995, defeating the incumbent, Lech Wałęsa. He was re-elected to a second and final term as president in 2000 in a decisive first-round victory. His term ended on December 23, 2005, when he handed over power to his elected successor, conservative Lech Kaczyński.

In 1979 he married lawyer Jolanta Kwaśniewska (née Konty). Together they have one daughter, Aleksandra Kwaśniewska, who was born in 1981.

Kwaśniewski identifies himself as an atheist.

1973–1991: Early political career

In the years 1973 to 1977, Aleksander Kwaśniewski studied transport economics and foreign trade at the University of Gdańskmarker, though he never graduated.

He became politically active at this time, and joined the ruling communist Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR) in 1977, remaining a member until it was dissolved in 1990. An activist in the communist student movement until 1982, he held, among other positions, the chairmanship of the University Council of the Socialist Union of Polish Students (SZSP) from 1976 to 1977 and the vice-chairmanship of the Gdańsk Voivodship Union from 1977 to 1979. Kwaśniewski was a member of the SZSP supreme authorities from 1977 to 1982. From November 1981 to February 1984 he was the editor-in-chief of the communist controlled student weekly ITD, then editor-in-chief of the daily communist youth Sztandar Młodych from 1984 to 1985. He was a co-founder of the first computer-science periodical in Poland, Bajtek, in 1985.

From 1985 to 1987, Kwaśniewski was Minister for Youth Affairs in the Zbigniew Messner government, and then Chairman of the Committee for Youth and Physical Culture till June 1990. He joined the government of Mieczysław Rakowski, first as a cabinet minister and then as chairman of the government Social-Political Committee from October 1988 to September 1989. A participant in the Round-Table negotiations, he co-chaired the task group for trade-union pluralism with Tadeusz Mazowiecki and Romuald Sosnowski. As the PZPR was wound up, he became a founding member of the post-communist Social Democratic Party of the Republic of Poland (SdRP) from January to February 1990, and its first chairman until he assumed the presidency in December 1995. He was also one of the founding members of the coalition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) in 1991.

Kwaśniewski was an activist in the Student Sports Union from 1975 to 1979 and the Polish Olympic Committee (PKOL); he later served as PKOL president from 1988 to 1991.

1991–1995: Parliamentary terms

Running for the Sejm from the Warsawmarker constituency in 1991, he won the largest number of votes (148,533), although not an absolute majority. Kwaśniewski headed the parliamentary caucus of the Democratic Left Alliance in his first and second terms (1991-1995). He was a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of the Constitutional Committee of the National Assembly from November 1993 to November 1995.

1995–2005: Presidency

In an often bitter campaign, Aleksander Kwaśniewski won the presidential election in 1995, collecting 51.7 percent of votes in the run-off, against 48.3 percent for the incumbent, Lech Wałęsa, the former Solidarity leader. Kwaśniewski's campaign slogans were "Let's choose the future" (Wybierzmy przyszłość) and "A Poland for all" (Wspólna Polska). Political opponents disputed his victory, and produced evidence to show that he had lied about his education in registration documents and public presentations. There was also some mystery over his graduation from university. A law court confirmed that Kwaśniewski had lied about his record, but did not penalise him for it, judging the information irrelevant to the election result.
Kwaśniewski took the presidential oath of office on December 23, 1995. Later the same day, he was sworn in as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces at the Warszawa First Fighter Wing, in Mińsk Mazowieckimarker.

Despite the deep polarization brought about by his election, and opposition fears that a Kwaśniewski presidency would signal a return to communism, these fears proved groundless and he proved a reasonably popular and pro-Western leader. His political course resembled that of Wałęsa's in several key respects, such as the pursuit of closer ties to the European Union and NATOmarker. Kwaśniewski also continued the transition to a market economy and the privatization of state-owned enterprises, although with less energy than his predecessor. Hoping to be seen as "the president of all Poles", including his political opponents, he quit the Social Democratic Party after election. Later, he formed a coalition with the rightist government of Jerzy Buzek with few major conflicts and on several occasions he stood against movements of the Democratic Left Alliance government of Leszek Miller. At one moment, support for Kwaśniewski reached as high as 80% in popularity polls; most of the time it was over 50%.

In 1997 Polish newspaper Zycie reported that Kwaśniewski had met former KGB officer Vladimir Alganov at the Baltic sea resort Cetniewomarker in 1994. First Kwaśniewski denied ever meeting Alganov and filed a libel suit against the newspaper. Eventually Kwaśniewski admitted that he had met Alganov on official occasions, but denied meeting him in Cetniewo.

Kwaśniewski's greatest achievement was his ability to bring about a new Constitution of Poland to replace the modified Stalinist document then still in use. The failure to create a new document had been a criticism often leveled at Wałęsa. Kwaśniewski actively campaigned for its approval in the subsequent referendum, and he signed it into law on July 16, 1997.

Kwaśniewski took an active part in the efforts to secure Polish membership of NATOmarker. He headed Poland's delegation at the 1997 Madrid summit, where Poland, the Czech Republicmarker, and Hungarymarker were promised membership; and the Washington summit, where on February 26, 1999, during the Kosovo conflict, which he supported, he signed the instruments ratifying Poland's membership of NATO. He also took active part in promoting further enlargement of the alliance, speaking out in favor of membership for a further seven states (see Prague summit) and the open-door policy that leaves open the option of further members. He was an author of the 2002 Riga Initiative, a forum for cooperation between Central European states, aimed towards further enlargement of NATO and the European Union.

An advocate of regional cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe, Kwaśniewski hosted a summit of the region's leaders at Łańcutmarker in 1996. Speaking out against the danger organized crime posed to the region, he submitted a draft of a convention on fighting organised crime to the UN in 1996. He was an active participant at meetings of regional leaders in Portorožmarker in 1997, Levočamarker in 1998, and Lvivmarker and Yaltamarker in 1999. After a history of sometimes acrimonious relations with Lithuaniamarker, Kwaśniewski was a driving force behind the presidential summit in Vilniusmarker in 1997, at which the two countries' presidents signed a treaty of friendship. Poland subsequently became one of the strongest advocates of Lithuanian membership in NATOmarker and the European Union and the strongest advocate of Ukrainemarker in Europe.

In 2000 he was re-elected in the first round of voting, collecting 53.9 percent of the vote. His election campaign slogan was: "A home for all—Poland" (Dom wszystkich—Polska). On December 23, 2000 he took office for the second term.

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Kwaśniewski organized an international conference in Warsaw, with participation of leaders from Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe to strengthen regional activities in fighting international terrorism. Under Kwaśniewski's leadership, Poland became a strong ally of the United Statesmarker in the war on terror, and contributed troops in the Iraq war, a move that was highly controversial in Poland and Europe. Poland was in charge of a sector of Iraq after the removal of Saddam Hussein.

Polish membership of the European Union became a reality on May 1, 2004, during Kwaśniewski's second term. Both he and his wife Jolanta had campaigned for approval of the EU accession treaty in June 2003. He strongly supported including mention of Europe's Christian roots into the European Constitution.[23110][23111] Thanks to his close relations with Leonid Kuchma, in late 2004 he became a mediator in a political conflict in Ukraine - the Orange Revolution, and according to some commentators, he played the major role in its peaceful solution.


In his candidate for presidency statement Kwaśniewski declared that he has graduated university studies. Actually he has never written his master thesis, nor passed the university final exams and therefore has no master degree. This came to light after the election.

Controversial pardons

In December 2005 when his presidency was to end, he granted a clemency for a leftist politician Zbigniew Sobotka, who was sentenced for 3.5 year of prison for revealing a state secret (effectively, he warned gangsters about an operation against them). Kwaśniewski changed prison sentence to a probation.

Another case of Kwaśniewski's controversial grant of pardon was the Peter Vogel case. The story goes back to 1971 when Piotr Filipczyński, a.k.a. Peter Vogel was sentenced to 25 years of jail for a brutal murder (shortened to 15 years in 1979). Surprisingly enough, in 1983 (during the martial law in Poland) he was granted the passport and allowed to leave the country. He returned in 1990 earning soon the nickname of "the accountant of the Left" as a former Swiss banker who took care of more than thirty accounts of Polish Socialdemoctats. Despite an arrest warrant issued in 1987, Vogel was moving freely in Poland to be eventually arrested in 1998 in Switzerland. After Vogel's extradition to Poland, in 1999 Kwaśniewski initiated the procedure of granting him amnesty. In December 2005 (a few days before leaving his office) Kwaśniewski pardoned Vogel despite the negative opinion of the procurer.


Aleksander Kwasniewski also refused in 2003 to face a special parliamentary commission, which was set up to reveal all circumstances linked with Rywingate. Kwaśniewski argued, that the constitution did not allow parliamentary commissions to investigate the president, and there were no clear law opinions. The commission decided eventually not to summon Kwaśniewski. For a second time Kwaśniewski refused as a witness to face the commission investigating the privatizaton of Orlen petrol concern, in March 2005. He argued that the actions of commission members, being in opposition to the leftist government supported by him, were directed against him.

Member of secret police allegations

In 2007, IPN revealed that Kwaśniewski was registered during communist times as an agent "Alek" of the secret police, the Security Service (Służba Bezpieczeństwa - SB), from 1983-1989. Kwaśniewski himself denied having been an agent in a special statement, demanded from politicians by Polish law, and a court confirmed his statement.

2006 - present

On March 7, 2006, Kwaśniewski was appointed Distinguished Scholar in the Practice of Global Leadership at Georgetown Universitymarker, where, as a faculty member, he teaches students in the Edmund A.marker Walsh School of Foreign Servicemarker about contemporary European politics, the trans-Atlantic relationship, and democratization in Central and Eastern Europe. He also teaches a course on political leadership, convened by Professor Carol Lancaster, with former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Aznar. Additionally, Kwaśniewski belongs to the Board of Trustees of the Hertie School of Governance in Berlinmarker. He is also Chairman of the supervisory board of the International Centre for Policy Studies in Kiev, Ukraine.

In 2008 Aleksander Kwaśniewski became Chairman of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation, a not-for-profit organization established to monitor tolerance in Europe, prepare practical recommendations to governments and international organisations on improving interreligious and interethnic relations on the continent. The organization is co-chaired by EJC President Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor.


Aleksander Kwaśniewski was honored with the following decorations:

He was also awarded the highest distinction of the Polish Orthodox Church, the Order of Saint Magdalena, first degree with decorations (1998). He also received the television "Wiktor" prizes in 1993, 1995, and 2000.

See also

External links


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