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The deep 'ethnic base' determined the outcome. Polish-speaking peasants freed from serfdom found in the course of the first decades of the twentieth century a well-established and self-conscious place within the ancient Polish nation. The Lithuanians, Ukrainians and some of the Belorussians formed their own nations, led by intellectuals of peasant origin. The example of the Polish national movement played an important role in the formation of their consciousness, but at the same time it awakened the fear of Polonisation, as in the case of the nobles of the former Respublica. Thus a social factor (the great Polish lords were proprietors of half the land on these territories before 1914) also decided their choice of their own national consciousness.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, in the atmosphere of the strengthening and radicalisation of national movements, a strand of aggressive nationalism developed. In its programme, which soon became popular, a new peasant-based ethnic society of 'true Poles' invented a new Poland, by rejecting all the weaknesses of the former nobility. All the defects and disasters of Poland were attributed to the tolerance of the nobility, their utopian ideas of the brotherhood of peoples and their relations with the powerful and dangerous Jews.

Thus two deeply contradictory ideas of'Polishness' must be carefully distinguished in the nineteenth century, and they were bequeathed to the twentieth century. The case of the political Polish nation is comparable with that of Hungary, which not only had kept its traditional position up to the nineteenth century, but by the 1860s, after the accords with Vienna, had achieved the status of a virtual independent state, though some nations were now in revolt against its authority. The case of the Slovaks is comparable to that of the Lithuanians, while the Croats and Romanians of Transylvania were in an intermediate situation between the two types of nationalism in this area of Europe.

The Catholic Church faces three confessional absolutisms

In the Polish-Lithuanian federation, the Roman Catholic (Latin) Church enjoyed quite exceptional freedom in this period of almost omnipresent confessional absolutism, and of state control of ecclesiastical structures and their functioning. The bishops were members of the senate, with an important position in matters decisive for the state. Because of the monarchy's weakness relative to the aristocracy and the regional assemblies of nobles, all difficult problems had to be taken to the local or regional nobility and compromises sought. But the relations between the clergy and the nobility were in general

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