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Born June 28, 1883, in Châteldon; died Oct. 15, 1945, in Paris. French statesman. A lawyer by profession.
Laval was a parliamentary deputy from 1914 to 1919 and from 1924 to 1927. From 1927 to 1940 he was a senator. He was a member of the government for several terms. From January 1931 to January 1932 and from June 1935 to January 1936 he was prime minister; from October 1934 to June 1935 he was minister of foreign affairs. In 1935 he concluded agreements with Italy (the Rome Pact) and Great Britain (the Hoare-Laval Agreement of 1935), which facilitated aggression by fascist Italy. He bowed to the pressure of public opinion and on May 2, 1935, signed the Franco-Soviet mutual aid pact prepared by L. Barthou; however, he stubbornly avoided ratifying and implementing the agreement. From the beginning of World War II he held a defeatist position, seeking the conclusion of a separate peace with fascist Germany. On June 23, 1940, after France signed the armistice, Laval assumed the post of state minister in the Pétain government. From July 12 to Dec. 13, 1940, he was vice-premier. He acted as an outright accomplice of the Hitlerites. From April 1942 to August 1944 he was prime minister of the collaborationist Vichy government. The moment France was liberated (1944), he fled the country. He was arrested in the American occupation zone of Austria and in August 1945 turned over to the French authorities. At a court trial he was sentenced to death as a traitor and was subsequently shot.
Z. S. BELOUSOVA