Rule of the Polish Gentry

The nobility had always enjoyed considerable political clout since the times of King Alexander (1501-06). In 1505, there took place a shift of power from the royalty to the Parliament or "Sejm". This was a momentous shift, which saw the emergence of a Polish Commonwealth, where the supreme authority was the noble class (szlachta).

However, this watershed in Polish political history did not do much to improve the conditions of the farming community. They were reduced to penury and slavery and status quo was maintained for many years to come.

Power struggles among the nobility weakened the state and led to turbulent times in the 18th century. Poland's vulnerability once again lay exposed to the world and rivals and particularly, the neighboring nations of Russia, Prussia and Austria, were quick to capitalize on it.

The years 1772, 1793 and 1795 were the gloomiest in Polish history. These were the years of partition, divides so terrible that Poland ceased to exist henceforth.

Those were the times when war was raging all throughout Europe and new nation-states were emerging. So in its dark days too, the possibility of the revival of the Polish state lingered.