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Encyclopedia > Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria

Galicia (Ukrainian: Галичина (Halychyna), Polish: Galicja, German: Galizien, Slovak: Halič, Romanian: Galiţia, Hungarian: Gįcsorszįg) is the name of a region of Central Europe. The region takes its name from the earliest regional capital, the city of Halicz in Ukraine (Ukrainian Галич (Halych)). Since around the early 19th century, Galicia consists of the area just north of the Carpathians to the east of Little Poland and north and northwest of Transylvania/Moldavia (Romania).



Territorial changes of Galicia, 1772-1918

The ancient but long-disused name "Galicia" was revived by the Austro-Hungarian monarchy to recall its former inhabitants, the eastern Gauls, who also have left their names imprinted on the landscape in Anatolian Galatia and in the Romanian county Galaţi. Resentment of Habsburg hegemony has died slowly in the area, and modern Slavic national historians assert that the name refers to the local crows, or rooks, seen in the area around the capital city. According to historians, the local name was extended to the Romanian/Moldavian city of Galaţi in the 13th or 14th century, when the state of Halych-Volynia extended from the region of Halychyna proper, over Moldavia, up to the Black Sea.

The region of Galicia appears to have been incorporated, in large part, into the Empire of Great Moravia. It appears in an historical reference 981, when the ruler of Kievan Rus' took over the Red Ruthenia (Cherven' Rus') cities in his military campaign on the border with Poland. In the following century, the area shifted briefly to Poland (1018-1031) and then back to Ruthenia. As the successor state to Kievan-Rus', Galicia comprised an autonomous principality from 1087 to 1253 (united to Volynia in the state of Halych-Volynia from around 1200), which became a vassal kingdom of the Mongol Golden Horde from 1253 to 1340. During this time, the princes of Galicia moved the capital from Halych to L'viv. They also attempted to gain papal and broader support in Europe for an alliance against the Mongols. Their efforts were rewarded by papal acclamation of the prince of Halich-Volynia as the "King of Rus'", an era which came to an end around 1340-1349, when King Casimir III of Poland conquered Galicia. Between 1372 and 1387, the area belonged to Hungary. The sister state of Volynia, together with Kyiv, then fell under Lithuanian control and the mantle of Rus' was transferred from Halych-Volynia to Lithuania.

Thereafter, Galicia comprised a Polish possession called the Ruthenian Voivodship. This began an era of heavy Polish settlement among the Ruthenian population. Armenian and Jewish emigration to the region also occurred in large numbers. Numerous castles were built during this time and some new cities were founded: Stanislawow ("Ivano-Frankivsk" today) and Krystynopol ("Chervonohrad" today).

Map of Galicia in 1836

In 1772, Galicia became the largest part of the area annexed by Austria in the First Partition. As such, the Austrian region of Poland and Ukraine was known as the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria to underline the Hungarian claims to the country. However, a large portion of Little Poland was also added to the province, which changed the geographical reference of the term, Galicia. L'viv -- Lemberg served as the capital of Austrian Galicia, which was dominated by the Polish aristocracy, despite the fact that the population of the eastern half of the province was in the majority Ruthenian or Ukrainian with large minorities of Jews and Poles. The Poles were also overwhelmingly more numerous in the newly-added western half of Galicia. In 1846, the former Polish capital city of Cracow became part of the province following the Austrian suppression of that independent republic. From 1868 Galicia was an autonomous province of Austria-Hungary with Polish as an official language. It was subject to the Austrian part of the Dual Monarchy.

Parliament of Galicia in Lvov

During the First World War Galicia saw heavy fighting between the forces of Russia and the Central Powers. The Russian forces overran most of the region in 1914 after defeating the Austro-Hungarian army in a chaotic frontier battle in the opening months of the war. They were in turn pushed out in the spring and summer of 1915 by a combined German and Austro-Hungarian offensive.

In 1918, Western Galicia became a part of the restored Republic of Poland, while the local Ukrainian population briefly declared the independence of Eastern Galicia as the "Western Ukrainian Republic". Eventually, the whole of the province was recaptured by Poles. Poland's annexation of Eastern Galicia was internationally recognized in 1923. After the Nazi-Soviet pact, Stalin annexed Eastern Galicia to the Soviet Republic of Ukraine. The border was later recognized by Allies in 1945, and the region was ethnically cleansed by Soviets and a communist Polish government (Wisla Action). The old province, as modified by Austria around 1800, remains divided today, with the western part Polish, and the original eastern part, Ukrainian.


Despite being one of the most populous regions in Europe, Galicia was also one of the least developed economically. The first detailed description of the economical situation of the region was prepared by Stanislaw Szczepanowski (1846-1900), a Polish lawyer, economist and chemician who in 1973 published the first version of his report titled Nędza galicyjska w cyfrach (The Galician Poverty in Numbers). Based on his own experience as a worker in the India Office, as well as his work on development of the oil industry in the region of Borysław and the official census data published by the Austro-Hungarian government, he described Galicia as one of the poorest regions in Europe.

In 1888 Galicia had 785 500 km² of area and was populated by ca. 6,4 million of people, including 4,8 million peasants (75% of the whole population). The population density was 81 people per square kilometre and was higher than in France (71 inhabitants/km²) or Germany.

The average life expectantcy was 27 years for men and 28,5 years for women, as compared to 33 and 37 in Bohemia, 39 and 41 in France and 40 and 42 in England. Also the quality of life was much lower. The yearly consumption of meat did not exceed 10 kilograms per capita, as compared to 24 kg in Hungary and 33 in Germany. This was mostly due to much lower average income.

The average income per capita did not exceed 53 Rhine guilders, as compared to 91 RG in the Kingdom of Poland, 100 in Hungary and more than 450 RG in England at that time. Also the taxes were relatively high and equalled to 9 Rhine guilders a year (ca. 17% of yearly income), as compared to 5% in Prussia and 10% in England. Also the percentage of people with higher income was much lower than in other parts of the Monarchy and Europe: the luxury tax, paid by people whose yearly income exceeded 600 RG, was paid by 8 people in every 1000 inhabitants, as compared to 28 in Bohemia and 99 in Lower Austria. Despite high taxation, the national debt of the Galician government exceeded 300 million RG at all times, that is approximately 60 RG per capita.

All in all, the region was used by the Austro-Hungarian government mostly as a reservoir of cheap workforce and recruits for the army, as well as a buffer zone against Russia. It was not until early 20th century that heavy industry started to be developed, and even then it was mostly connected to war production. The biggest state investments in the region were the railways and the fortresses in Przemyśl, Kraków and other cities. Industrial development was mostly connected to private oil industry started by Ignacy Łukasiewicz and to the Wieliczka salt mines, operational since at least the Middle Ages.

Principal cities

  • L'viv (Львів, formerly Lwów, Lvov, Lemberg, Leopolis)
  • Kraków
  • Przemyśl (Перемишль (Peremysh'l) in Ukrainian)
  • Ivano-Frankivs'k (Івано-Франківськ, formerly Stanisławów)

See also



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