Poles have a long political tradition of aristocratic democracy. The Polish nobility ( szlachta ), one of the most numerous and diversified in Europe, developed from a warrior caste rather than from a landed nobility. The szlachta valued their military role as well as the democratic nature of the Polish state. These are Polish political values that have endured to the present.
Since the dissolution of the Polish autonomous regions, Soviet Poles have had no formal ethnic political representation. The focus of Polish independent political organization is the Catholic church. From the 1950s, political conflict with Soviet authorities centered on freedom to practice the Catholic religion as the epitome of Polish cultural expression. The struggle was for cultural autonomy within the confines of the Soviet Union.