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Born Dec. 5, 1867, in Zułowo, Wilno (Vilnius) Province; died May 12, 1935, in Warsaw. Polish political figure. Son of a nobleman.
Piłsudski studied in the faculty of medicine at the University of Kharkov but was expelled in 1885 for participating in student disturbances. Arrested in 1887 and charged with plotting the assassination of Alexander III, he was exiled from 1888 to 1892. He joined the Polish Socialist Party (PPS) in 1892. In 1904, after the Russo-Japanese War broke out, he went to Tokyo to arrange a cooperative effort with Japanese intelligence, which was interested in weakening the Russian rear. From 1905 to 1907, in opposition to the joint struggle of the Polish and Russian proletariat, he created terrorist combat groups. In 1906, Piłsudski helped found the nationalistic Revolutionary Faction of the PPS. Hoping for the restoration of Poland’s independence if Austria-Hungary and Germany won a military victory over Russia, he cooperated with the Austro-Hungarian general staff, with whose support he organized intelligence work and created a diversionary terrorist organization in Galicia called the Shooters.
During World War I (1914-18), Piłsudski commanded a Polish legion that fought on the side of Austria-Hungary. At the end of 1916 he was appointed chief of the war department in the “government” of the “independent Polish state” created by the Austrian and German occupation forces. Piłsudski was arrested in July 1917 as a result of a conflict with occupation authorities, but after the November Revolution of 1918 in Germany he was freed. He traveled to Warsaw, where he took part in combating the revolutionary movement.
Piłsudski was proclaimed “chief of state” (dictator) in 1918, a position he held until the end of 1922. He was named chief of state with the support of right-wing leaders of the PPS; the Polish Military Organization, which had been established by Piłsudski’s supporters; legionnaires; and like-minded persons in other parties. He dealt ruthlessly with the revolutionary movement, drew Poland into anti-Soviet intervention, and played an important role in organizing Poland’s attack on Soviet Russia in 1920. In May 1926, Piłsudski carried out a military coup; he established a sanacja regime in Poland “to restore the republic to health” and remained the de facto dictator of Poland until his death. In 1926 he became minister of war and inspector general of the armed forces; from 1926 to 1928 and again in 1930 he was also prime minister. Piłsudski concluded the Polish-German Agreement of 1934.
F. G. ZUEV