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Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

The Father of Poland

Nationalists of any country can look to Jozef Pilsudski for inspiration.

Jozef Pilsudski
1920s: portrait of Jozef Pilsudski, Polish statesman, Chief of State and Marshal of Poland. (Photo by Laski Diffusion/Getty Images)

Jozef Pilsudski: Founding Father of Modern Poland, Joshua D. Zimmerman, Harvard University Press, 640 pages.

Jozef Pilsudski (1867–1935), Poland’s liberator, grew up in a country divided between Russia, Austria, and Prussia. Noblemen ran politics, dominated a congeries of peasants of various ethnicities, and uneasily collaborated with German and Jewish townsmen and rural functionaries to extract wealth from their estates. Pilsudski himself was a Polish noble from modern Lithuania. He dreamed of a Poland that included the eastern lands where Poles owned land and peopled the towns among non-Polish peasantries.