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Dictatorship and Civil War 1926-1939

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THE END OF World War I brought many changes of government in Europe, but in a number of countries the old aristocrats and landowners still had power and the new governments could not solve the problems that faced them. Among these countries was Poland. A democratic form of government had been established, but conflicts between various parties and their leaders kept it from being very effective. General Joseph Pilsudski had helped to set up the new government of Poland. He retired from public office in 1922, when Poland adopted a democratic constitution. Pilsudski wanted a bigger and stronger Poland and he was dissatisfied with what the government was doing. In 1926 he led his armed followers on Warsaw, the nation’s capital and the tramp of marching men sounded in Poland, as it did in Italy and Germany. Within a few days, Pilsudski was in control of the government. Although from time to time he held various offices in the government, Pilsudski was really the dictator of Poland until his death in 1935. Shortly before he died, Pilsudski put through a new constitution. While it called for certain democratic procedures, such as the election of a parliament, it merely made official Pilsudski’s military dictatorship. Pilsudski’s place was taken by General Edward Smigly-Rydz, the inspector-general of the army. He ruled with the aid of a group of military men known as the “colonels.” Although Poland’s political organization was looser than that of Germany or Italy, its form of government was very close to fascism. Much the same thing was true in the countries of the Balkans — in Greece, Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria and Rumania. During the 1920’s and early 1930’s Greece tried various forms of government. It was at times a monarchy, at times a dictatorship and at times a democratic republic. …

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