Europe in the Family
The Polish landed gentry in the 20th century

Definitions of the Polish Landed Gentry
and the Manor House

“The term ‘Polish landed gentry’ is imprecise, ambiguous, and from the historical perspective, mutable.” [Janina Leskiewiczowa, 1985]

“One who owns an estate of land larger than 50 ha belongs to the Polish landed gentry.” [Irena Rychlikowa, 1983]

“The social class of landowners, called […] the Polish landed gentry, was not uniform in financial terms.[…] Sharp prestige-related divisions existed within it, ones caused not only by financial, but also by social and cultural differences. The barriers within this social environment were so strong that they seriously limited social contacts and hindered entering into marriages.” [Tadeusz Epsztein, 1998]

“[…] Most political groups (in interwar Poland), ranging from the communists to the socialists, and the Peasants Party to the National Democracy party, looked at great property with disfavour. The differences between them involved only the scope and method of solving this issue.” [Tadeusz Epsztein, 2005]

“In Poland […] people belonging to the landed gentry were Polish. In many cases, Polish patriots. It was conceded that they played a major part in fighting the partitioners. They immediately joined newly independent Poland’s political life, at all opportunities taking an active part in it, without ever forgoing their ambitions to gain leadership, and in the best-case scenario, showing no hesitation to use their influence to defend the interests of their social class.” [Paweł Zaremba, 1981]

“The culture, or rather the mythology of the Polish landed gentry as a social class or stratum, played an important part in interwar Poland as a symbol of importance, prestige, gentility, and social superiority.” [Janusz Żarnowski, 1988]

“There always existed a significant part of the Polish landed gentry which did not realize the urgency of social changes and which was afraid of them, fearing the ruin of their estates and having to face the necessity of turning to management methods it simply did not know.” [Marian Kukiel, 1981]

“For the Polish landed gentry real estate did not constitute merely agricultural holdings which satisfied their material needs. Such estates were also the site of their family homes — indeed, sometimes the abode of their lineage—as well as the basis of independence from the partitioner and the source of their social prestige whether on a small or great scale. An estate in land […] enabled the pursuit of a life sanctified by the tradition of generations.” [Janina Leskiewiczowa, 1985]

“History treated the Polish landed gentry in the 20th century rather harshly. First, it was eliminated as a social group. At the same time, and with a great deal of commitment, its material property was destroyed. Then for long decades it was forbidden to write about it, which fact consigned the landed gentry to oblivion and to being effaced from social awareness.” [Tadeusz Epsztein, 2005]

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