The story of the enigmatic Jozef Pilsudski, the founding father of modern Poland: a brilliant military leader and high-minded statesman who betrayed his own democratic vision by seizing power in a military coup. In the story of modern Poland, no one stands taller than Jozef Pilsudski. From the age of sixteen he devoted his life to reestablishing the Polish state that had ceased to exist in 1795. Ahead of World War I, he created a clandestine military corps to fight Russia, which held most Polish territory. After the war, his dream of an independent Poland realized, he took the helm of its newly democratic political order. When he died in 1935, he was buried alongside Polish kings. Yet Pilsudski was a complicated figure. Passionately devoted to the idea of democracy, he ceded power on constitutional terms, only to retake it a few years later in a coup when he believed his opponents aimed to dismantle the democratic system. Joshua Zimmerman' s authoritative biography examines a national hero in the thick of a changing Europe, and the legacy that still divides supporters and detractors. The Poland that Pilsudski envisioned was modern, democratic, and pluralistic. Domestically, he championed equality for Jews. Internationally, he positioned Poland as a bulwark against Bolshevism. But in 1926 he seized power violently, then ruled as a strongman for nearly a decade, imprisoning opponents and eroding legislative power. In Zimmerman' s telling, Pilsudski' s faith in the young democracy was shattered after its first elected president was assassinated. Unnerved by Poles brutally turning on one another, the father of the nation came to doubt his fellow citizens' democratic commitments and thereby betrayed his own. It is a legacy that dogs today' s Poland, caught on the tortured edge between self-government and authoritarianism.
The ultimate Pilsudski biography for our era. Deeply researched, authoritative, and very well written, it fearlessly faces the great mystery of the man. For how can the Father of Modern Poland, a soldier and statesman of genius and the savior of his country in 1920, be the same man who ruthlessly discarded democracy in a military coup only six years later? Zimmerman' s portrayal of Pilsudski in the courageous Polish Legions days will come alive for readers, but the complexity of the authoritarian period under the ' Napoleon of Poland' will give them pause for thought. -- Andrew Roberts, author of Churchill: Walking with Destiny Pilsudski had a profound influence on the politics of twentieth-century Europe, and his legacy is discernible to this day. Yet this extraordinary man-an idealistic political activist turned terrorist, military commander, statesman and finally virtual dictator-has been sorely neglected by historians outside Poland. This well-researched, balanced, and highly readable account of the truly Napoleonic trajectory of his life and complex political evolution is timely and very welcome. -- Adam Zamoyski, author of Napoleon: A Life Here is the ' founder of modern Poland' for twenty-first-century eyes. This fascinating portrait of Pilsudski, one of the most important political figures of twentieth-century Europe, is full of vivid details and incisive observations. Zimmerman has drawn from a huge body of material, much from newly available sources, and turned it into a critical yet brilliantly balanced analysis of a man and statesman. -- Andrzej Nowak, Jagiellonian University A thorough, nuanced biography of Pilsudski, whose extraordinary life sheds so much light on his era and the Poland of his dreams and of his making. Zimmerman highlights Pilsudski' s pluralist and federalist inclinations without downplaying his later authoritarianism. Pilsudski' s attitude toward Polish Jews in particular serves as a bellwether of his cultural pluralism and respect for minority rights. A much-needed, comprehensive account essential for readers seeking to understand this complex, important figure. -- Patrice M. Dabrowski, author of Poland: The First Thousand Years The personality and policies of Jozef Pilsudski have long been obscured by both ideological attacks and mindless adulation. This welcome new portrait places the marshal in his rightful position, not just as a military leader whose plans worked out and a would-be democrat whose plans went awry, but as a statesman with a broad, tolerant vision. Zimmerman' s emphasis on Pilsudski' s hopes for a multinational Poland, where all could live in harmony-including the country' s huge Jewish community-is spot on. -- Norman Davies, author of God' s Playground: A History of Poland Pilsudski was a central figure not only in the emergence and development of an independent Polish state but also in the larger history of interwar Europe. Zimmerman clearly portrays the complex, multifaceted nature of the man and his political legacy. While Pilsudski sought to create a multiethnic Poland in which all citizens would feel at home, his understanding of how a constitutional system should function was flawed, and he used brutal, extra-legal methods to suppress the opposition after he seized power in a coup. This welcome book will become the definitive treatment in English of Pilsudski, and I enthusiastically recommend it. -- Antony Polonsky, author of The Jews in Poland and Russia
Joshua D. Zimmerman is the author of several books, including The Polish Underground and the Jews, 1939-1945, and has written for Politico and the Times of Israel. He is Eli and Diana Zborowski Chair in Holocaust Studies and East European Jewish History and Professor of History at Yeshiva University.
|Published: ||24 Jun 2022|
|Published In: ||United States|
|Imprint: ||Harvard University Press|
|Publisher: ||Harvard University Press|
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