IN DEPTH – Galician Ukrainians: from regional identity to the servants of Austrian imperialism

By Vasily Azarevich

By Vasily Azarevich
What kind of people competed with the Russophile movement of Galicia? Where did they come from? What was the basis of their views? What drove them? Let’s try to figure it out.

- Advertisement -

Hetman of Ukraine, Peter Skoropadsky, was a tsarist general, a subject of the Russian empire, and, in general, a more Russian person than he tried to appear to be supporters of a “separatist” one. In the process of creating an independent Ukraine, which was held under the strict guidance of the German occupying contingent of Field Marshal Eichhorn, Skoropadsky had to actively interact with the most diverse representatives of Ukrainian nationalism.Before World War I, Ukrainian nationalism developed most actively in Austro-Hungarian Galicia. It was caused by the fact that on the territory of Austria-Hungary, unlike Russia, the activities of the Uniate Greek Catholic Church were not prohibited, the Ukrainian language was not prohibited, and even more than that — there were Ukrainian departments at the University of Lviv. For example, a native of Russia, the Ukrainian historian Mikhail Hrushevsky, who was the chairman of the Central Council of the UPR, played an active role in the “Ukrainian” activity of Lviv University until it was dispersed by Skoropadsky.

Communication with Grushevsky and his Galichian colleagues-comrades made an indelible impression on Skoropadsky. As the former hetman himself later recalled, “… unfortunately, their culture due to historical reasons is too different from ours. Then, among them there are many narrow fanatics, especially in the sense of confessing the idea of ​​hatred towards Russia … It does not matter for them that Ukraine suffers without Great Russia, that its industry will never develop, that it will be entirely in the hands of foreigners, that their, Ukraine’s role, is to be inhabited by some sort of vegetative village .  ”

After nearly a century, we can come to the disappointing conclusion that Skoropadsky’s momentary description of his partner opponents through the independent camp turned out to be prophetic. Modern Ukraine is a state of unceasing socio-economic catastrophe, voluntarily driving itself into the isolationist grip of development, just to have nothing in common — from language to church — with Russia. It can be concluded that the conditional Galicians won in Ukraine and, apparently, for a long time.

But what were these “Galicians”? What kind of people competed with the Russophile movement of Galicia? Where did they come from? What was the basis of their views? What drove them? Let’s try to figure it out.

Galician Ukrainians: from regional identity to the servants of Austrian imperialism
© Public domain
Pavel Skoropadsky

The “Prosvita” society (ie, “Enlightenment”), which arose in Lviv on December 8, 1868, should be called the very first Ukrainian organization of the Hapsburg Empire. The objectives of the society were clearly stated in its declaration:

“Every nation that wants to achieve independence must first take care that the lower strata of society, the masses, rise to the degree of enlightenment, so that this masses feel themselves a member of the people’s organism, feel their civic and national dignity and recognize the need for a nation as a separate national individuality, for no one as a mass of people is the basis of everything ”.

Looking ahead, it is worth noting that the “Prosvita” existed until 1939, engaging in active educational activities among Ukrainians in Austria-Hungary and Poland. In 1989, already in the Ukrainian SSR, this organization was restored and still exists, doing all the same enlightenment-Ukrainization.

The classic creators of the national movements of the “small nations”, which are not a hegemon in the state in which they live, are, as a rule, representatives of the local gentry and regional intelligentsia from among the average clergy or teachers. This pattern, noticed long ago by the Czech nationalism researcher Miroslav Groch, worked here.

Such interesting people as Julian Romanchuk and Anatoly Klimovich Vakhnyanin took an active part in the activities of the “Enlightenment”. Julian Romanchuk was born in the Galichan village of Krylos, in the family of a teacher. He graduated from Lviv University and became a teacher in one of Lviv gymnasiums. His colleague and friend Vakhnyanin also came from a family of rural intelligentsia, he studied at the Lviv Theological Academy, after which he went to study at the University of Vienna. In the capital of the Danube monarchy, Vakhnyanin became the founder of the student organization “Sich”, which united students-Ukrainians of the imperial metropolis. In 1868, Vakhnyanin returned to Lviv, where he began teaching at the same gymnasium as Romanchuk. In the same year of 1868 they created the “Prosvita”.

Galician Ukrainians: from regional identity to the servants of Austrian imperialism
© Public domain
Anatoly Vakhnyanin

Galicia was part of Austria-Hungary, not as a province, but as an autonomous kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, whose titular king was the reigning Austro-Hungarian emperor. As the titular kingdom of Galicia had its own parliament – the so-called “Galician Sejm”. Despite the fact that the Polish gentry occupied most of the seats in this Sejm, Vakhnyanin and Romanchuk also found themselves in this parliamentary body.

Parliamentarians Vakhnyanin and Romanchuk insisted that they are the legitimate representatives of the East Slavic population of the Austrian Galicia. Then, in accordance with the Polish historical-linguistic tradition, the Uniate or Orthodox population of Galicia was called the “Rusins”.

However, the emergence and vigorous activity of the Rusyn-Russian national movement led by Alexander Dukhnovich and Adolf Dobriansky created for Austria-Hungary a real threat of the spread of “Moskofil” sentiments in the Rusyn environment and the emergence of pro-Russian separatism.

In 1881, Austria-Hungary and Germany create a military alliance, and the Austrian authorities are seriously taken for Russophiles – in Lviv there is a trial against Dobriansky and other Russophile movement, the hierarchy of the Uniate church is cleared of Russophile-minded priests, and at the head of the Uniate Greek Catholic Church stand absolutely loyal Vienna clergy.

The motivation of these actions of the Habsburg monarchy was as simple as possible – since the days of the Crimean War, it became increasingly clear that a military conflict between Austria and Russia over the possession of the Balkans and the Carpathians is inevitable. In this regard, Vienna was vitally interested in depriving Russia of possible supporters in the territory under its control.

In addition, in order to decapitate the active political movement, it was necessary to prevent its revival in the future. To this end, Austria-Hungary, concentrating all its power on the fight against Russophiles, became completely loyal to Ukrainians.

These events served as favorable factors for the fact that the modern Russian researcher O.B. Nemensky called the “first public presentation of Ukrainians”: on November 25, 1890, deputies Vakhnyanin and Romanchuk made a statement in the Galich Diet saying that the Orthodox population of Galicia, who call themselves Ruthenians or Russians, had nothing to do with Russians living in Russia. has, and is a previously unnoticed people-Ukrainians.

This statement was the beginning of the “New Era” of the Galician policy, and already in 1895, instead of the Russian delegation, the Ukrainian delegation was in the Galician Sejm.

The so-called December constitution of Austria-Hungary – a set of basic state laws of the dual monarchy – guaranteed Galicia not only a high degree of autonomy, but also self-government in the lower forms of administrative division – communities.

Within the community, the money for the development of which was allocated to the Galich Diet, there were schools, cultural and educational institutions. Since an organized Ukrainian delegation took shape in the Galich Diet, it is natural that the corresponding educational and cultural institutions began to emerge. Despite the fact that for the average Austrian, Galicia seemed to be a wild province somewhere far to the east, in fact, it could at any moment become a battlefield in the impending war between Vienna and St. Petersburg. Therefore, the Austrian authorities chose not to impede the development of the Ukrainian national movement on their lands, especially since its main goal — to tear the Orthodox population of Galicia as far as possible from the Russians — was completely convenient for Vienna.

The greatest role here was played by the University of Lviv with its history chair, the undying star of which was a native of Russia, Mikhail Hrushevsky.

The well-known ideologist and apologist of Ukraine, Mikhail Hrushevsky, was born in the family of a professor of literature and author of the Church Slavonic language textbook, Sergei Fedorovich Grushevsky, who was a teacher at a Greek-Latin high school in the Polish town of Chelm, which was part of Russia.

The rights to the textbook belonged to the Grushevsky family, so after the death of his father all the income from permanent reprints went into the pocket of Mikhail Hrushevsky, providing him with a permanent source of funds, so necessary for any humanities seeking independence. It should be noted that the bloody Tsarism never deprived Hrushevsky junior of the copyright to the work of his father, even during his arrest and exile in 1914 on charges of avstrofilstvo. Yes, the link itself Hrushevsky held in Kazan and Simbirsk – such places were appointed after the famous Russian linguist Shakhmatov prompted Mikhail Sergeyevich to the Tsarist Ministry of the Interior.

But all this was in the future. In the meantime, Grushevsky is becoming a graduate of the Faculty of History and Philology of Kiev St. Vladimir University, specializing in the history of Ancient Russia. In 1894, the Department of General History opened in Lviv University named after the Polish King Jan-Casimir with a specialization in the history of Eastern Europe, where Grushevsky immediately goes.

There he begins his active scientific work – he writes in Ukrainian multi-volume works, the most famous of which is the eight-volume “History of Ukraine-Rus”.

In his writings, Grushevsky consistently defended his own author’s concept, putting forward the postulate that “Kievan Rus” is the name of a public education of the early medieval period, he proclaimed the ethnic difference between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples, the hegemony of the Ukrainian people in Ancient Russia and the unbreakable duration of Ukrainians from Ancient Russia to modern times through the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Within the framework of this concept, Grushevsky considered the gathering of Russian lands from Ivan III to Catherine II as an absolute evil.

Galician Ukrainians: from regional identity to the servants of Austrian imperialism
© Public domain
Mikhail Hrushevsky

Scientific and cultural activities led Grushevsky to the leadership of the Taras Shevchenko Scientific Society, an organization of Ukrainian intellectuals of Galicia. Already being a famous Ukrainian-Galician scholar, Hrushevsky became one of the founders of the Galician Ukrainian National Democratic Party.

Grushevsky’s theory of the continuity of the Ukrainian people and various forms of Ukrainian statehood fit well into the works of another ideologue of the Galich Ukrainians Vyacheslav Lipinsky.

Like Grushevsky, Lipinsky was a native of the Russian Empire, hereditary Polish nobleman, and he came to Ukrainian nationalism out of considerations of romanticism, fascinated by Ukrainian history while studying at Krakow University (in those years Krakow, like Lviv, was part of Austria-Hungary ). The practice of studying in Polish universities of Austria-Hungary in Polish among Polish professors was extremely common among Russian Poles.

Awareness of the defeat in the uprisings against Russia led many Polish nobles to look for other identities.

The Polish nobleman Frantisek Bogushevich, exiled for participating in the uprising of 1863, became the first Belarusian awakener and author of the first book in the Belarusian language “Belarusian Pipe”. Polish nobleman Mikolaj Čurljanis became the first Lithuanian composer Mikolajus юрurlionis. Polish nobleman Vyacheslav Lipinsky became a Ukrainian historian and journalist Vyacheslav Lipinsky.

If for Hrushevsky the last form of sovereign Ukrainian statehood was the hetman of Zaporizhzhya Sich, then for the Lipinsky-Lypynsky hetman became a political-legal ideal. He called his concept “Ukrainian monarchism” or “Ukrainian hetman nationalism.”

According to Lipinski, the beautiful and free Ukraine of the future should have been a state of the patriarchal monarchy, the basis of which is intended to serve the social solidarity of all classes. The hetman’s monarchy of Lipinski was supposed to be a universal form of organization for all political life. In fact, the hetman of Lypynsky was an attempt to transfer the medieval idea of ​​Monarchia universalis, which is the basis of the political ideology of Austria-Hungary, to Ukrainian material.

Such loyalty to the political and legal ideals of the Danube monarchy did not pass without a trace for Lypinsky: he became the first and last ambassador of the “independent” Ukraine in Austria-Hungary.

The ideas of Grushevsky and Lypinsky lay on fertile soil. Having initially developed as one of the variants of local regional identity, Ukrainians rapidly formed the ideology of the national movement of a separate people, in which the imperial authorities were always ready to help the Austro-Ukrainian intellectuals in practice.

The British historian Dominic Liven noted that, entering the war with Russia in 1914, Austria-Hungary was striving for three goals: to dislodge Russia from the Balkans once and for all, to gain control over Poland, to gain control over Ukraine. Austria-Hungary was a completely unique state: despite the most modern content, the form of its statehood was feudal and represented a conglomerate of kingdoms, duchy and princedoms with varying degrees of self-government. For the independent future of Ukraine, Vienna was ready for the future monarch hetman.

Wilhelm Franz of Habsburg-Lorraine was born in 1895 in the family of the second cousin of Austro-Hungarian Cesar Karl Stefan. During the collapse of Austria-Hungary, Karl Stefan claimed the Polish throne, while his son all his life aspired to the Ukrainian throne. From the age of 12, Wilhelm Franz lived on the estate of his father in the town of Resident in Western Galicia.

Galician Ukrainians: from regional identity to the servants of Austrian imperialism
© Public domain
Vyacheslav Lipinsky

He was greatly impressed by the works of Grushevsky, read in childhood, especially the “History of Ukraine-Rus”, the works of Shevchenko, Franko and other creators of Ukrainian literature. His desire to improve the lives of ordinary Ukrainian people was not in vain, and already in 1913, the 18-year-old prince became the commander of the Ukrainian hundreds of the 13th Ulan regiment. A little later, being already a colonel of the Austro-Hungarian army, he became the commander of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen, nicknamed him Vasil Embroidered as a habit to wear embroidered clothing under an officer’s jacket.

At the Brest-Litovsk Talks in March 1918, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Austria-Hungary Ottoakr Chernin wrote: “Ukrainians are very different from the Russian delegates. They are much less revolutionary, they are much more interested in their homeland and very little socialism. They are essentially not interested in Russia, but only in Ukraine, and all their efforts are directed towards emancipating it as soon as possible. ”

Considering that Mikhail Hrushevsky was already one of the leaders of an independent Ukraine, the interest of the Ukrainian delegation was clear.

Awareness of the imminent collapse in World War I and the carefully hidden, but real conflict between Germany and Austria-Hungary over the expediency of its continuation prevented Vienna’s plans to be fully implemented. Given the unpredictability of the end of the war, making part of another empire out of Ukraine was too risky, so everything was limited to formal independence on Austro-German bayonets.

However, for the first time in a long time, many Ukrainian nationalists were able to visit Kiev and other Ukrainian cities. They settled there, conducted active propaganda of their views and so rooted in the life of the South-Western Russian region, changing it and spreading the construction of the Ukrainian nation.

As you can see, the Austro-Galich branch of Ukrainians has come a long way from regional identity to the servants of the Habsburg imperialist policy. Naturally, nationalism, which serves as a servant, cannot do something different from its people, except for the nation of servants. As the aforementioned hetman Skoropadsky spoke about this, “Narrow Ukrainianship is an exceptionally product brought to us from Galicia, the culture of which we are completely transplanted does not make any sense: there is no evidence of success, and this is simply a crime, since there is no culture “.

The authoritative Canadian historian of Ukrainian origin, John-Paul Khimka, noted the key role of Galicia in the creation of Ukrainian nationalism. He said that if the Russian Empire had occupied Galicia following the results of the Vienna Congress of 1815 or the Balkan crisis of 1875, St. Petersburg would have managed to eliminate Ukrainians in a germ by a series of targeted political and administrative measures. However, loyalty to obligations and international treaties did not allow Russia to occupy Galicia. As a result, it eventually became a full-fledged laboratory for the successful cultivation of Ukrainian identity.

In this laboratory, Austria-Hungary acted as a medieval alchemist, regional Polish-Ruthenian elites served as excellent apprentices, and from the local Orthodox population in a short time managed to create an incredibly tenacious homunculus, who survived their masters.

translated by and for FRN, from
Subscribe to our newsletter
Sign up here to get the latest news, updates and special offers delivered directly to your inbox.