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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
"That was very fortunate," Deputy Chief Eric Schlachta said, recalling the chase he and two other officers gave.
Pacifist Denominations in Nazi Germany (New York: Peter Lang, 2008); Astrid von Schlachta, "'in unbedingter Treue'.
Paralelamente, as mudancas ambientais de negocios decorrentes do crescimento dos mercados globalizados, com os paradoxos estabelecidos por uma politica agricola, que na visao de Schlachta (2008) e inconsistente, delineiam uma serie de barreiras que oprimem o crescimento e o desenvolvimento do pequeno produtor rural, em especial os oriundos da agricultura campesina.
(16) Astrid von Schlachta's Hutterische Konfession Und Tradition (1578-1619): Etabliertes Leben Zwischen Ordnung Und Ambivalenz (Mainz: Von Zabern, 2003) is of particular note with respect to the institutionalization of Hutterite Anabaptism.
SCHLACHTA is associate professor of surgery and oncology at the University of Western Ontario in London.
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Astrid von Schlachta, Hutterische Konfession und Tradition (1578-1619).