Josef Pilsudski

Josef Pilsudski

Jozef Pilsudski was born in Zulowa, Russia, in 1867. While studying in the University of Kharkov he became a socialist and joined the People's Will organization. He was arrested in 1887 and sent to Siberia.

On his release in 1892 he founded the Polish Socialist Party (PPS) and edited the underground and left-wing newspaper, Robotnik where he promoted socialism and Polish nationalism. The paper was suppressed in 1900 and Pilsudski was once again arrested.

Pilsudski escaped and formed a PPS Military Unit that carried out bank raids and killed members of the Tsarist police. On 26th September, 1908, his gang stole 200,000 rubles from a mail train in Bezdany. Pilsudski used this money to build up a new revolutionary army.

Roman Dmowski, the main leader of the Polish nationalist movement, believed the best way to achieve a unified and independent Poland, was to support the Triple Entente against the Triple Alliance. Pilsudski disagreed and saw Russia as the main enemy. Pilsudski began building a private army that he hoped would enable Poland to fight for its independence from Russia. In 1914 Pilsudski and his 10,000 men fought with the Austrians against the Russian Army but after the Russian Revolution his loyalty was questioned and he was arrested and imprisoned in July 1917.

On his release in 1918 Pilsudski became provisional head of state and leader of all Polish troops. Pilsudski represented Poland at the Versailles Treaty and his army successfully defended Poland against the Red Army (1919-20).

During the Russian Civil War Pilsudki's army made considerable gains and the Soviet-Polish Treaty of Riga (1921) left Poland in control of substantial areas of Lithuania, Belorussia and the Ukraine. Pilsudski remained in charge of the army until 1923. After three years retirement, Pilsudski staged a military coup in May 1926. For the next nine years Pilsudski was the virtual dictator of Poland.

Jozef Pilsudski died in 1935.