Pilsudski Józef (1867–1935), a Polish soldier and statesman. He helped win Polish independence in World War I and was virtual dictator, 1926–35. Pilsudski was born of aristocratic parentage in Russian Poland. As a young man he was accused of taking part in an anti-czarist plot, and was imprisoned in Siberia, 1887–92. On his return he founded the Polish Socialist party and a secret army.

At the beginning of World War I, Pilsudski contributed the army to Austria-Hungary for use against Russia. In 1916, however, Pilsudski resigned his military command because he realized that neither Austria nor Germany intended to grant Poland independence as a reward for fighting Russia. He made a final break with the Central Powers in 1917, and was imprisoned by them, 1917–18. After the war Pilsudski was provisional president of the new republic, 1919–22. As commander in chief and marshal of the army, he defeated Russian Bolshevik forces in 1920, enlarging Poland in the east. In 1926 Pilsudski overthrew the government. He assumed dictatorial powers and ruled the country from his position as war minister until his death.