Also found in: Wikipedia.
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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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 ?
The king was elected by the szlachta (nobles) as part of so-called free elections, with the rule of law prevailing over the will of the rulers.
This is especially puzzling in the case of the CEE states, in which economic growth has often been accompanied by a deepening of income and socio-economic inequalities (Szlachta and Zaleski, 2010; Domonkos, Ostrihon and Janosova, 2013).
"I will take your word for it," she told him when he said the picture was of his client's great-grandfather, one of the szlachta, the nobility practically eliminated by the Nazis.
As far as it was concerned, young Alfred, a descendent of the old szlachta (Polish nobility), (4) was simply a Russian citizen, a subject of the Tsar.
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.
Indeed, in their eagerness to prove their loyalty to Russia, the Ukrainian chroniclers of that time, such as Petro Symonovsky (1717-1809), whose 1765 work was only published in the 1840s, and Vasyl Ruban (1742-1795), whose work was published in Saint Petersburg in 1777, even exaggerated Mazepa's Polish connections, and, somewhat like Voltaire before them, claimed he was not really Ukrainian at all but really of Polish gentry (szlachta) origin.
The szlachta dueling and revenge conventions were Conrad's frames of reference encoded throughout his oeuvre.
It could be argued that both politicians relied on the ideal of the Polish szlachta (nobility).
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.
During the 19th century, imperial officials were engaged in a fierce struggle against the Polish-Catholic nobility (szlachta), which had ruled right-bank Ukraine (the lands west of the Dnieper) during the early modern period, remained the dominant social group in the region, and rose up twice (1830-31 and 1863) in failed attempts to resurrect the Polish state.