Szlachta


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Szlachta

 

in several Central European countries, especially Poland and Lithuania, the principal segment of the ruling class in the feudal period. Originally the szlachta was a knighthood that constituted the lowest group of secular feudal lords. As it became consolidated into an estate between the 14th and 16th centuries, the lowest stratum of secular feudal lords, or nonheraldic szlachta (the wlodycy in Poland and the pantsirnye boiare, or armored boyars, in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania), was excluded from it (seeKOSZYCE PRIVILEGE OF 1374, NIESZAWA STATUTES OF 1454, RADOM CONSTITUTION OF 1505, and LITHUANIAN STATUTES).

As the szlachta gained political strength, the highest group of secular feudal lords, the magnates, was legally incorporated into it. Between the 16th and 18th centuries the state structure of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth became that of a szlachta republic. The Polish szlachta, which included the categories of “land-starved” and “landless” szlachta, was relatively large in size: in the 16th century it made up 8 percent of the population as a whole and more than 20 percent of the population in Mazovia and Podlasie. The estate enjoyed a privileged and dominant status and was by tradition forbidden to engage in certain occupations, such as handicrafts and trade.

After the partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 18th century, the szlachta was, as a rule, granted equal status with the nobility of Russia, Austria, and Prussia. Among the measures implemented by the tsarist government after the suppression of the Polish Uprising of 1830–31 was the “sorting out” of the szlachta, by which the members of the petty szlachta became odnodvortsy (single-homesteaders). The term szlachta (šlechta) is sometimes applied in historical literature to an estate of feudal lords in the Czech lands, in which the highest level was made up of the páne and the lowest consisted of the zemane.

I. S. MILLER

References in periodicals archive ?
However, given that Poland's literary culture was descended from that of szlachta privilege and inteligencja independence, the PZPR felt it could not entirely trust its writers not to stab it in the back.
Bogdan Szlachta, visited the Faculty of Social Sciences University of Karachi alongside the Registrar Prof.
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There are only the most ill and spiritually spoiled elements of our nation, such was szlachta (gentry) in recent times, and in our days those intelligentsias that have lost their touch with their people, with their Belarusian roots and have left the people by themselves.
The authors of the book succeed in overcoming the methodological nationalism and offer a distinctive and alternative reader of Ukrainian history--be it the chapter about the etymological process of Ukraine's self-definition in its various social and historical contexts, the presentation of the different versions of Ukrainian history with its short Cossack history and the long Kyivan one that evolved within diverse networks of the local szlachta, or the ideological significant discourse about Latin and Cyrillic Alphabets on the two stages of Galicja and Dnipro Ukraine.
The Union of Lublin was established against the will of the Lithuanian magnates, who were faced with the fact, plain and simple; whereas Ukrainian areas, by the will of their szlachta (lesser nobility), voluntarily swapped the "aristocratic" Lithuanian rule for more "democratic" Polish.