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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.


References in periodicals archive ?
The first political treatises in the Polish languages were the works of Stanislaw Orzechowski (1564) and Marcin Kromer (1551); earlier, Latin was the language in which the Polish gentry (szlachta) expressed their political and sometimes private sentiments.
In the fifteenth century political self-consciousness of the Polish gentry had already inspired a description of the political organization of the state as "mixed rule.
This Polish gentry also dominated the agrarian economy and the East Slavic peasantry, which itself may not have identified as "Russian" (or Ukrainian, Belarusian, etc.
Staliunas and Komzolova find that officials considered numerous policies with the intention of reducing the dominant economic, cultural, and religious position of the Polish gentry and clergy.
Their tendency to absorb the manners of the Polish gentry won the displeasure in the early seventeenth century of the superior general, Claudio Acquaviva.
Saulevich, a member of the Polish gentry who joined the Red Army, was sent to Marshlevsk in 1925 to establish the Polish Autonomous Region.
Integrating anthropological and historical approaches, the papers discuss memories of violence and local identities in the Greek Civil War, Basque remembrance of resistance in popular theater, memory-making of property loss and victimization by the Polish gentry, and survival guilt in a small Italian village, to cite a few examples.
Apart from the first two portions of his delightful and engrossing diary, which many regard as the richest fruit of his Argentinean exile, the only other significant book by Gombrowicz from this period is his masterful novel Trans-Atlantyk (1953), a Rabelaisian account of his early years in Argentina, written in a parody of the old Polish gentry oral narrative.
The framers of the "woman question" (and all other "questions" of the era for that matter) had as least one thing in common--namely, they all came from the country's educated elite and particularly from the urban-based intelligentsia, which in turn derived its origins and outlook from the Polish gentry.
As Napoleon consolidates his empire across Europe and Africa and turns his eye toward Tsarist Russia, young Master Tadeusz Soplica (Michal Zebrowski) returns to Lithuania where his uncle (Andrzej Seweryn) and the remainder of the Soplica family live among the exiled Polish gentry.
They note that, in 1767, Catherine II was recognized by the Sejm as guarantor of Poles' "fundamental rights," and that, in 1768, Russian troops saved many members of the Polish gentry from slaughter by Cossacks.
As expected, Polish music accompanies the appearances of the Polish gentry and is presented as negative, "foreign" and anti-Russian music.

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