In the Ukrainian part of the lower Carpathians there are villages inhabited by gentry without estates who tilled their own land (zascianki szlacheckie), and whose origins can be traced to the 14th century. Members of these communities, who came to eastern frontiers of the Polish Commonwealth, became responsible for guarding them, and over time received landed properties and coats of arms. The later Austrian domination, however, changed the existing order. Emperor Joseph II's reforms reorganized the landed gentry so as to unify them with the rest of the Habsburg Empire. The next significant development in Eastern Galicia was the national movements which influenced the identity of Ruthenian-Ukrainians. The term 'gente Rutheni natione Poloni' describing members of the gentry thus began losing its meaning. The emerging elites of the Ukrainian nation wished to find specific traditions of, and historical identity for, the 'gente Rutheni'. At the same time, they sought to break away from 'natione Poloni' which was depriving them of their historical roots. The Polish side tried to hold on to the societal unity of pre-Partitioned Poland, and treated the Ukrainian movement as a social rather than a nationalistic problem. Very important for the status of the petty gentry was the foundation of The Society of Ruthenian Gentry in Galicia in 1907. Its members focused on defending their own interests and maintaining the national tradition of neutrality amongst those communities. However, in the aftermath of WWI their work weakened and was stopped with the creation of The Union of Farming Gentry (Zwiazek Szlachty Zagrodowej) in 1937. The lesser gentry thus fell under strong influence from the Polish government and lost much autonomy.
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