End of nobles’ democracy, partitions of Poland, capitalist economy – it all made nobility as a social group obsolete. Yet, nobility’s traditions survived. In the new social structure of the 19th c., nobility could be found mostly in the ranks of intelligentsia. This group formed the core of contemporary Polish culture: art, literature, historiography, science, customs, politics. That is why they are all influenced by the legacies of nobles’ democracy.
Lessons from the past (on the value of individual freedoms, but also on effectiveness of institutions of democracy and on their limitations) have often been present in the public debates.
Attempts of the partitioning monarchies (Russia, Prussia, Austria) to succumb the Poles and erase records of Poland’s past from their collective memory often resulted in glorifying nobles’ democracy, as opposed to the oppresive regimes. Similar situation could be observed under the communist regime after WWII.