Piłsudski Seizes Power in Poland

łsudski on Warsaw's Poniatowski Bridge during the May 1926 Coup d'État

On October 2, 1926, Jozef Pilsudski became Prime Minister of Poland after seizing power by force. He remained the effective leader of Poland until he died in 1935.

Jozef Piłsudski had been an early fighter for Polish Independence. He had led Polish forces during World War I, and with the defeat of Germany and the weakening of Russia, he had been instrumental in gaining Independence for Poland. He had led Polish forces in their fight with Russians in the Polish Russain War, successfully defending Warsaw and leading the counterattack that defeated the Russians. In 1923 Pilsudski retired from politics.

After leaving the government, he became increasingly unhappy with the direction of the government. Pilsudski commandeered several Army regiments and marched on Warsaw. His army entered the city on May 12, 1926th. He had expected the government to cave. However, the government, led by the newly elected Prime Minister Wincenty Witos of the Peasant Party, refused to give in and fought back. In a day of street fighting, 300 Poles died. Pilsudski's forces besieged Witos's home and that of the President of Poland, who resigned.

Pilsudski entered the Parliament and is reported to have said, "I shit on all of you. The time has come to treat you like children because you behave as children." Pilsudski made himself Defense Minister and called on the Parliament to elect a new President. When he was overwhelmingly elected, he refused the office, saying that the president did not have enough powers under the Polish constitution. Instead, five months later, he had himself appointed Polish Prime Minister, a job he held until his death in 1935.