Edward Rydz-Śmigły

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Edward Rydz-Śmigły, Edvards Ridzs-Smiglijs, Edward Rydz-Śmigły; Эд́вард Рыдз-Сми́глы;, Edward Śmigły-Rydz, Эд́вард Рыдз-Смиглы, Эд́вард Рыдз-Сми́глы,
Independece fighter, Legionary, Marshal, Military person, Minister, Order of Lacplesis, Related to Latvia, WWI participant, WWII participant
Warsaw, Old Powązki Cemetery

Marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły [ˈɛdvard ˈrɨdz ˈɕmiɡwɨ] ( listen), before 1922 Edward Rydz, from 1922 onward About this sound Edward Śmigły-Rydz (help·info) (11 March 1886 – 2 December 1941); nom de guerre Śmigły, Tarłowski, Adam Zawisza) was a Marshal of Poland, Polish political figure, Commander-in-Chief of Poland's armed forces, and a painter and poet. After many earlier successes as an army commander during the Polish-Soviet War, Rydz succeeded Marshal Józef Piłsudski as General Inspector of the Armed Forces in 1935, following Piłsudski's death. He served in that capacity during the Invasion of Poland, which marked the beginning of World War II.

Early life

Edward Rydz was born in the village of Łapszyn (now Lapshin in Ukraine) near Brzeżany, Galicia, Austria-Hungary. He was the son of a professional NCO in the Austro-Hungarian Army, Tomasz Rydz, and Maria Babiak. The family endured rather humble circumstances and he was orphaned at the age of 13 years. He was then raised by his maternal grandparents and, after their deaths, by the family of Dr. Uranowicz, the town physician at Brzeżany. After graduating with distinction at the local Gymnasium Rydz went to Kraków where he completed studies in philosophy and history of art at the Jagiellonian University. He then studied to be a painter at the arts academy in Kraków, and later in Vienna and Munich. In 1910–1911 he attended the reserve officers' academy in Vienna, and received military training at the famous Austrian 4th Infantry Regiment "Deutschmeister" (so called after Archduke Eugene, a cousin of Emperor Franz Joseph I, who was Grand Master of the Teutonic Order).

He finished his military education with distinction and was offered a commission in the Imperial Army, which he declined. In 1912 Rydz was one of the founders of the Polish paramilitary organisation Riflemen's Association (Związek Strzelecki). At the same time he completed his art studies. He was regarded as a very promising talent in landscape and portrait painting, and praised by his professors and critics, who foresaw a great future for him.

Drafted into the Austrian Army in July 1914, Rydz was transferred in August to the Polish Legions and fought in World War I in the famous Polish 1st Brigade of Piłsudski. He took part in many battles against the Russians in the region of Southern Vistula, and rose quickly in rank. By 1916, he was already a full colonel. However he did not forget his art and exhibited his work at a gallery in Kraków. In 1917, after refusing to swear an oath to the Austrian and German authorities, the Legions were disbanded, their soldiers interned and Piłsudski imprisoned in Magdeburg fortress. By Piłsudski's appointment, Rydz (who escaped prison on the grounds of bad health) became commander of Polish Military Organization (POW) and adopted the nom de guerre Śmigły (Fast or Agile), which he later added as an integral part to his surname.

In October 1918 Rydz entered the socialist government of Ignacy Daszyński in Lublin as Minister of War. Having been promoted to brigadier general (the equivalent one-star general in the Polish army), he emphasised that he had accepted the office as a deputee of Piłsudski. It was at this time he began using the double-barrelled name of Rydz-Śmigły. On 11 November 1918 the Government relinquished all power to Piłsudski, who became Provisional Head of State. After some hesitation, Piłsudski (who was displeased by Rydz-Śmigły's cooperation with the socialists – he himself "having left the streetcar of Socialism at the stop called Independence") confirmed him as a brigadier.

Military triumphs

Rydz-Śmigły with Marshal Józef Piłsudski during the Polish-Soviet War

During the Polish-Soviet War (1919–1921), Rydz commanded Polish armies in several offensives. Among the victorious engagements, he captured Wilno and Dünaburg. After that, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Latvian armed forces, and liberated Latgale from Red Army. Subsequently, he completely annihilated the Red Army's 12th Division and took Kiev. He then commanded the Central Front of Polish forces during the Battle of Warsaw, known as the Miracle on the Vistula. In this decisive battle, Polish commander Józef Piłsudski outwitted the Soviet commander Mikhail Tukhachevsky. Rydz-Śmigły's Central Front held against the Soviet attack, and later blocked the escape routes for the defeated 4th and 15th Armies and the 3rd Cavalry Corps of Soviet General Gayk Bzhishkyan, which had to flee ingloriously to East Prussia, where they were interned by the Germans.

Rydz-Śmigły receives Marshal's baton from President Ignacy Mościcki, Warsaw, 10 November 1936.

Second Man in the State

After the 1919–21 war he was appointed the Inspector-General of the Polish Army in the Vilna district and later in Warsaw. In 1926, during Piłsudski's coup d'état (the May Coup), he took the Marshal's side and sent troops from Wilno to reinforce anti-government troops in Warsaw. Piłsudski never forgot this fidelity and in 1929 Rydz was appointed as the Marshal's deputy on all matters concerning the East. On 13 May 1935, following Piłsudski's death, Rydz was nominated by the President and the Government of Poland to serve in the capacity of the Inspector-General of the Polish Armed Forces (the highest Polish military office). This was done in accordance with Piłsudski's wishes. Piłsudski's death saw his followers (the Sanacja), divide themselves into three main factions: those supporting President Ignacy Mościcki as Piłsudski's successor, those supporting Rydz, and those supporting prime minister Walery Sławek. With a view to eliminating Slawek from the game, Mościcki concluded a power-sharing agreement with Rydz-Śmigły, which saw Slawek marginalised as a serious political player by the end of the year. As a result of this agreement, Rydz-Śmigły was to become the de facto leader of Poland, until the outbreak of the war, whilst Mościcki remained influential through continuing in the highest office of president. From 1935, Rydz saw himself rapidly elevated in rank and position. On 15 July 1936 he was officially awarded the title of "Second Man in the State after the President", by the Polish prime minister. On 10 November, he was promoted to the rank of Marshal of Poland. Rydz's image as Piłsudski's anointed successor was popularized by the Obóz Zjednoczenia Narodowego movement, but alienated many of Piłsudski's supporters, offended by what they saw as Rydz's acts of self-promotion.

Marshal Rydz-Śmigły and King Carol II of the Romanians (1937) General Rydz-Śmigły and French General Maurice Gamelin (left), Warsaw, August 1936. Rydz-Śmigły and General Władysław Anders, 1937

The period of Rydz's rule, 1935–39, was often referred to as "a dictatorship without a dictator". Rydz lacked the moral authority of Piłsudski, and the piłsudskites were bitterly divided after 1935. The ruling regime was divided between the Mościski faction (known as the 'president's men' or the 'castle group'), made up mainly of civilians, and Rydz's group, known as the 'Marshal's Men', made up mostly of old comrades of Piłsudski and professional officers. Besides these two major groups, were the supporters of Slawek and other disgruntled piłsudskite groups, which were deprived of influence following the Rydz-Mościcki pact.

The regime became increasingly authoritarian and conservative. This was exemplified by the creation of the Obóz Zjednoczenia Narodowego (Ozon) movement. Ozon never achieved its goal of developing into a popular mass movement, and transforming Rydz into "Poland's second great leader" (after Piłsudski himself). Several of Poland's powerful politicians, including foreign minister, Józef Beck, and Mościcki himself, made a point of distancing themselves from this movement.


In March 1939, Hitler occupied Bohemia and Moravia and created the satellite client-state of Slovakia. This encircled Poland with an iron ring on all sides except the east. Rydz was the only member of the government who clearly saw the impending danger of a conflict with Germany. However, time remaining was too short for the creation of completely new Polish operation plans in the west. During negotiations in Moscow during August 1939, Rydz refused all attempts by the Western Powers to obtain Polish permission for the Red Army to march westward, stating: "there is no guarantee that the Soviets will really take active part in the war; furthermore, once having entered Polish territory, they will never leave it".

On 1 September 1939 when the Germans invaded Poland, Śmigły-Rydz was named Commander-in-Chief of Polish forces. On 7 September, along with most of the government, he evacuated Warsaw as it came under attack. Soon afterwards, Polish coordination began to suffer from communications problems, which impaired Rydz's ability to command the forces. In Brest (Brześć) on 11 September he ordered that the Polish capital be defended at all costs. In his plan, Warsaw and the nearby Modlin Fortress were to become two redoubt citadels in central Poland, fighting on for months, while the bulk of Polish forces were to defend the Romanian bridgehead and await the counterattack promised by Poland's French and British allies. Unknown to Śmigły-Rydz, the Western Allies had no such plans and expected Poland's fall. His plan was further crippled when Soviet forces attacked Poland from the east on 17 September. Realizing that defence against both neighbours was impossible, Śmigły-Rydz issued orders for Polish forces to retreat towards Romania and avoid fighting the Soviet aggressors.

After avoiding capture by Soviet and German troops, on 18 September 1939 Śmigły-Rydz, escaped to Romania and was interned. The Polish government's crossing into Romania prevented Poland from having to officially surrender, and allowed Polish soldiers to carry on fighting against Nazi Germany, though Rydz's flight sparked some controversy, considering his position as supreme commander of the armed forces. Large numbers of Polish soldiers and airmen escaped into southern Europe and regrouped in France, and after her surrender, in Britain.

The last years

Marshal Śmigły-Rydz, as the Commander-in-Chief of Polish Armed Forces, took complete responsibility for Poland's military defeat in September 1939. Rydz was an extremely able Commander on smaller fronts, but was not an experienced strategist in a great conflict. In 1922, in an evaluation of Polish generals, Piłsudski had written about him: "in operational work he displays healthy common sense and a lot of stubborn energy. I could recommend him to everybody as a commander of an army, I am however not sure if he possesses sufficient abilities to function as commander-in-chief in a war between two states."

During his internment in Romania, Śmigły-Rydz initiated the creation of the Polish underground. This was based on officers who were loyal to the memory of Piłsudski. Still in Romania, on 27 October, he relinquished his function as the Commander-in-Chief and Inspector-General of the Armed Forces. This role was assumed by Władysław Sikorski, who was serving in the new Polish government in exile in France (and after 1940 in the United Kingdom). Śmigły-Rydz was transferred from the internment camp to the villa of a former Romanian prime minister in Dragoslavele, from where he escaped on 10 December 1940 and crossed illegally into Hungary.

His flight to Hungary and rumours about his planned return to Poland were a source of considerable displeasure to his rival Sikorski, now Prime Minister. Sikorski had been in opposition to Śmigły-Rydz and Piłsudski from the time of the 1926 May Coup. Sikorski declared in a telegram to General Stefan Grot-Rowecki, leader of the Armia Krajowa (AK) underground resistance in Poland: "the Polish Government will regard a sojourn of the Marshal in Poland as a sabotage of its work in the country. The Marshal must as soon as possible move to some country of the British Empire". However Śmigły-Rydz left Hungary on 25 October 1941, and travelling through Slovakia reached Poland. On 30 October, in strict secrecy, Śmigły came back to Warsaw to participate in the resistance movement as a common underground soldier, thus voluntarily suspending his rank as Marshal of Poland. He managed to contact Grot-Rowecki, but remained incognito. He died suddenly of heart failure at the age of 55, on 2 December 1941, only five weeks after his arrival in Warsaw. He was buried in Warsaw under his alias "Adam Zawisza". His tombstone at the Powązki Cemetery bore that name until 1991. A new tombstone was erected by the people of Warsaw in 1994.

The Marshal's grave in Warsaw.

Rydz was married to Marta Zaleska, née Thomas, the couple was childless.

Awards and tributes

Polish Decorations

Order of the White Eagle, Commander and Knight of Virtuti Militari, Grand Cross, Grand Officer and Officer of Order of Polonia Restituta, four times Cross of Valour, Golden Cross of Merit (Złoty Krzyż Zasługi), and Cross of Independence with Swords.

Foreign decorations

Grand Cross of the Order of the Star of Romania, Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of Italy, Grand Cross, Grand Officer and Commander of the French Order of the Legion of Honour, Grand Officer of the Finnish Order of the White Rose, Grand Cross of the Order of the White Eagle (Yugoslavia) and Order of Saint Sava of Yugoslavia, Grand Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit, Grand Cross of the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun, Knight of Latvia's highest military award, Order of Lāčplēsis (the Order of the Bearslayer), 2nd class,[1] Pulaski Medal (USA) and Italian Cross of Military Merit.

Honorary Titles

Rydz was Honorary Doctor of the Universities of Warsaw and Vilnius (at that time in Poland) and Warsaw University of Technology and Honorary Citizen of various Polish cities.


Marshal Edward Śmigły-Rydz Park is a large tree-covered public park in Warsaw, established after World War II on the eastern side of the Polish parliament building.


Edward Rydz-Śmigły's reputation after World War II was mixed. In socialist Poland and the Soviet Union, he was decried for his participation in the Polish-Soviet War in 1920, and the political repression under his military government of the late 1930s. In the West, due to the influence of anti-Piłsudski circles with Władysław Sikorski as their foremost representative, he was seen as having fled from the battlefield in 1939, with little recognition given to the circumstances of Poland's defeat by the Germans and Soviets.


Edward Rydz, Old Church in Zakopane (oil painting, undated). On military tactics and theory
  • Walka na bagnety (Bayonet Fight), Lwów 1914;
  • W sprawie polskiej doktryny (Poland's Military Doctrine), Warsaw 1924;
  • Kawaleria w osłonie (Cavalry in protection of troops), Warsaw 1925;
  • Byście o sile nie zapomnieli -Rozkazy, Artykuły, Mowy (Do not forget the Might – Orders, Articles and Speeches), Warsaw 1936;
  • Wojna polsko-niemiecka (The Polish-German War), Budapest 1941.
  • Dążąc do końca swoich dróg (Toward My Path's End), Paris, 1947; London, 1989.
Paintings and Graphics
  • Illustrations to Piłsudski's book 22 January 1863, Lwów 1920;
  • Contributions to Art Exhibitions in Kraków (1916) and Warsaw (1917). Most of his paintings are irretrievably lost


Source: wikipedia.org, lkok.com

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        Relation nameRelation typeBirth DateDeath dateDescription

        17.11.1918 | Naczelnik Państwa Józef Piłsudski powołał rząd Jędrzeja Moraczewskiego

        Rząd Jędrzeja Moraczewskiego (formalna nazwa - Tymczasowy Rząd Ludowy Republiki Polskiej) – gabinet pod kierownictwem socjalistycznego premiera Jędrzeja Moraczewskiego, utworzony 17 listopada 1918 przez Józefa Piłsudskiego. Pod względem organizacyjnym i prawnym kontynuował prace powołanego przez Radę Regencyjną prowizorium rządowego Władysława Wróblewskiego. Politycznie był częściowo kontynuacją rządu lubelskiego Ignacego Daszyńskiego, który podporządkował się Józefowi Piłsudskiemu.

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        18.11.1918 | Zaprzysiężono rząd Jędrzeja Moraczewskiego

        Rząd Jędrzeja Moraczewskiego (formalna nazwa - Tymczasowy Rząd Ludowy Republiki Polskiej) – gabinet pod kierownictwem socjalistycznego premiera Jędrzeja Moraczewskiego, utworzony 17 listopada 1918 przez Józefa Piłsudskiego. Pod względem organizacyjnym i prawnym kontynuował prace powołanego przez Radę Regencyjną prowizorium rządowego Władysława Wróblewskiego. Politycznie był częściowo kontynuacją rządu lubelskiego Ignacego Daszyńskiego, który podporządkował się Józefowi Piłsudskiemu.

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        14.02.1919 | The Polish-Soviet war started

        The Polish–Soviet War (February 1919 – March 1921) was an armed conflict that pitted Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine against the Second Polish Republic and the Ukrainian People's Republic over the control of an area equivalent to today's Ukraine and parts of modern-day Belarus. Ultimately the Soviets, following on from their Westward Offensive of 1918–19, hoped to fully occupy Poland. Although united under communist leadership, Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine were theoretically two separate independent entities since the Soviet republics did not unite into the Soviet Union until 1922.

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        03.01.1920 | Brīvības cīņas: Latvieši un poļi atbrīvo Daugavpili no Krievijas iebrucējiem

        Sākas Latvijas un Polijas karaspēka ofensīva pret boļševikiem Latgalē. Latviešu un poļu vienotais karaspēks ieņem Daugavpili.

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        30.01.1920 | Brīvības cīņas: Latvijas armija atbrīvo Zilupi no Krievijas lielinieku iebrucējiem

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        07.05.1920 | Kiev Offensive (1920)

        The 1920 Kiev Offensive (or Kiev Operation), sometimes considered to have started the Soviet-Polish War, was an attempt by the newly re-emerged Poland, led by Józef Piłsudski, to seize former Polish lands, -central and eastern Ukraine, torn in the warring among various factions, both domestic and foreign, from Soviet control.

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        13.08.1920 | Wojna polsko-bolszewicka: Armia Czerwona pod wodzą marszałka Michaiła Tuchaczewskiego uderzyła na Warszawę

        Bitwa warszawska (pot. cud nad Wisłą) – bitwa stoczona w dniach 13-25 sierpnia 1920 w czasie wojny polsko-bolszewickiej. Zadecydowała o zachowaniu niepodległości przez Polskę i przekreśliła plany rozprzestrzenienia rewolucji na Europę Zachodnią. Zdaniem Edgara D'Abernon była to 18. z przełomowych bitew w historii świata.

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        15.08.1920 | Battle of Warsaw

        The Battle of Warsaw refers to the decisive Polish victory in 1920 at the apogee of the Polish–Soviet War. Poland, on the verge of total defeat, repulsed and defeated the invading Red Army. It was, and still is, celebrated as a great victory for the Polish people over Russia and communism. As Soviet forces invaded Poland in summer 1920, the Polish army retreated westward in disorder. The Polish forces seemed on the verge of disintegration and observers predicted a decisive Soviet victory. The battle of Warsaw was fought from August 12–25, 1920 as Red Army forces commanded by Mikhail Tukhachevsky approached the Polish capital of Warsaw and the nearby Modlin Fortress. On August 16, Polish forces commanded by Józef Piłsudski counterattacked from the south, disrupting the enemy's offensive, forcing the Russian forces into a disorganized withdrawal eastward and behind the Neman River. Estimated Russian losses were 10,000 killed, 500 missing, 30,000 wounded, and 66,000 taken prisoner, compared with Polish losses of some 4,500 killed, 10,000 missing, and 22,000 wounded. The defeat crippled the Red Army; Vladimir Lenin, the Bolshevik leader, called it "an enormous defeat" for his forces.[3] In the following months, several more Polish follow-up victories saved Poland's independence and led to a peace treaty with Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine later that year, securing the Polish state's eastern frontiers until 1939.

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        08.11.1923 | The Beer Hall Putsch

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        02.10.1938 | Wojska polskie wkroczyły na czechosłowackie Zaolzie

        Zaolzie zostało przyłączone do Rzeczypospolitej 2 października 1938 roku, gdy korzystając z dogodnej sytuacji międzynarodowej (brak sprzeciwu mocarstw zachodnich wobec zmian granicznych wymuszanych przez nazistowskie Niemcy, faszystowskie Włochy i militarystyczną Japonię) Polska wykorzystała okazję i w czasie nacisków Adolfa Hitlera na Czechosłowację (układ monachijski) przekazała Czechom ultimatum, w którym żądała oddania Zaolzia. Rząd czechosłowacki zgodził się spełnić polskie warunki i Czechosłowacja przekazała Polsce sporne tereny.

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        01.09.1939 | Invasion of Poland

        The Invasion of Poland, also known as the September Campaign or 1939 Defensive War (Polish: Kampania wrześniowa or Wojna obronna 1939 roku) in Poland and the Poland Campaign (German: Polenfeldzug) or Fall Weiß (Case White) in Germany, was an invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent that marked the beginning of World War II in Europe. The German invasion began on 1 September 1939, one week after the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, while the Soviet invasion commenced on 17 September following the Molotov-Tōgō agreement which terminated the Russian and Japanese hostilities (Nomonhan incident) in the east on 16 September. The campaign ended on 6 October with Germany and the Soviet Union dividing and annexing the whole of Poland.

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        17.09.1939 | Otrais Pasaules karš. Nepilnu mēnesi pēc nacionālsociālistu-komunistu līguma noslēgšanas Vācijas sabiedrotais- PSRS - iebrūk Polijā

        Otrais pasaules karš bija lielākais bruņotais konflikts cilvēces vēsturē, un tajā iesaistījās lielākā daļa pasaules valstu visos kontinentos. Karu uzsāka divu sabiedroto- Vācijas un PSRS saskaņots uzbrukums Polijai. Karš notika no 1939. gada 1. septembra līdz 1945. gada 14. septembrim un prasīja 70 miljonus civiliedzīvotāju un militārpersonu dzīvību. Kara rezultātā tika mainītas pasaules valstu robežas un okupētas daudzas teritorijas. Daļa no teritorijām, kā Prūsija, Kuriļu salas, Karēlija ir okupētas jorpojām.

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