What is a nation? An answer from Austrian Galicia (1883)

Russia’s government justifies its aggression on Ukraine by insisting that Ukrainians are a branch of the Russian nation. Two nineteenth-century historians, one from Paris, the other from Lviv, help us to see through the intellectual poverty of Kremlin’s nationalist fantasy about domination over Ukrainians and Belarusians.

Celina Treter (later Dominikowska), Polish and Ruthenian banners on the Lviv town hall in June of 1848, probably the oldest surviving depiction of the Ukrainian national flag. Source: polona.pl.

On 11 March 1882, exactly 140 years ago, Ernest Renan, a renowned French oriental scholar, delivered a lecture at the Sorbonne which was to go down in history under the title Qu’est-ce qu’une nation? or What is a nation? in English. 1 This extraordinary text has aged surprisingly well and remains indispensable reading for anybody involved in the study of nationalisms and nation building. Renan’s most famous line from this talk has been repeated so many times that it is now a dreary platitude: a nation’s existence is a daily referendum (un plébiscite de tous les jours). Today, the Ukrainian society gives us an exceptionally dramatic example of how such a referendum works. Even though many Ukrainians are native speakers of Russian and often have relatives in Russia, they nevertheless fight fiercely to fend off the aggression of the Russian state. They choose to be Ukrainians and pay the highest price for this. Unfortunately, the Kremlin decision makers do not seem to be able to understand this simple truth. Today’s champions of Russian domination over Ukraine profess an essentialistic understanding of nationality. They construe nations as primordial and organic communities whose essence is enchanted in their language (unsurprisingly, they dismiss the Ukrainian language as a Souhern Russian dialect). From this perspective, Renan’s plébiscite de tous les jours is an absurd idea: contingent historical developments and choices of individual human beings are completely irrelevant, as the only thing that matters is the mystical community cemented by the unique national language and endowed with a lofty historical mission.

Ernest Renan. Source: National Library of France.

On 5 March 1883, almost exactly a year after Renan’s lecture in Paris, another intellectual gave a talk in Lviv, the capital of the Austrian Crownland of Galicia and Lodomeria (and today a regional centre in Western Ukraine). The Lviv speaker addressed the same problem in his presentation: What is a nation? Which groups can legitimately claim to be nations? What criteria need to be fulfilled? Which national characteristics are merely accidental and can be dispensed with?

The speaker in question was Walerian Kalinka, one of the most independent voices present in the Polish-language public sphere in the nineteenth century. An ultramontane conservative, Kalinka was perhaps the first Polish intellectual to systematically assault what he considered to be the excesses of the Polish-Lithuanian nobiliary republicanism of the period before 1795 and the armed struggle for independence after the collapse of the early modern Commonwealth. As such, he is credited as one of the founders of the so-called Cracow historical school.

Walerian Kalinka. Source: Austrian National Library.

This is no place to recount Kalinka’s colourful life and enumerate his diverse activities. What matters here is that at the beginning of the 1880s he was the most prominent member of the Resurrectionist Congregation resident in Galicia; in this capacity he was responsible for the establishment and management of the new boarding house (internat in Polish) for Ruthenian Greek Catholic schoolboys that opened in Lviv in September 1881. It was located in the former monastery of Franciscan Sisters on the Pekars’ka Street in the neighbourhood of Lychakiv (the building still exists and houses a Pentecostal church). The goal of this institution, as formulated by Pope Leo XIII and supported by Emperor Francis Joseph, was to provide its pupils with a quality education that would solidify their Catholic faith without undermining their Ruthenian (Galician Ukrainian) nationality. Lviv Resurrectionists housed, fed, and supervised their boarders, but it was not their intention to school them in isolation from the outside world. All but the youngest pupils attended the Ruthenian-language Gymnasium run by the Austrian government.

The Resurrectionists were a predominantly Latin Catholic congregation established in the late 1830s by Polish political exiles in Rome. Half a century later, Poles still formed the bulk of its membership, so it could seem quite unusual that they started an institution in Lviv to support the education of Greek Catholic youths qua Ruthenians and not for the purpose of imbuing them with the Polish national allegiance as gente Rutheni natione Poloni. 2 Many members of Galicia’s Polish elite denounced this initiative as squandering limited national resources for the sake of Poland’s avowed enemies. Kalinka’s speech of March 1883 offered a compte rendu of the boarding house’s short existence and attempted to answer such accusations, in order to soothe its Polish benefactors. This explains the resolutely Polish vantage point of Kalinka’s speech. His collective „we” usually referred to the Polish nation.

As is well known, Hans Kohn, one of the most influential twentieth-century theorists of nationalism, distinguished between civic and ethnic nationalisms. He claimed that the former emerged in Western European societies living in relatively uniform nation states, whereas the latter flourished in outdated polyethnic empires of Eastern Europe.   3    There are many problems with this dichotomy, but there is no need to explore them in detail here. Even if Kohn’s opposition is mostly wrong on the empirical level (especially its East-West dynamic), it can still serve as a handy point of reference.

Contrary to Kohn’s expectations, Walerian Kalinka resolutely rejects the identification of nations with language groups. At the same time, he testifies that many in the nineteenth-century Polish-speaking society think in that way. We have no reason to suspect that Kalinka knew Ernest Renan’s 1882 lecture on nations (although he criticised Renan in another context, so he was aware of his work).   4    Kalinka, however, did not need Renan to understand that nations were not always uniform ethno-linguistic units. In fact, the non-ethnic understanding of nationhood was quite common in the Polish-language public sphere in the nineteenth century, although not necessarily dominant. Many adherents of the Polish national cause insisted that the independent Poland of the future would have a valid claim to all the territories of the pre-1772 Commonwealth, because the Polish nation, as they imagined it, could not be reduced to the Polish-speaking Latin Catholics. They believed that millions of German-, Lithuanian- and Ruthenian-speakers, to name only the most prominent groups, were Poles, even if not always aware of this crucial fact. As a result, the Polish state would necessarily encompass vast swathes of land inhabited by them. What makes Kalinka truly original is the fact that he has the intellectual courage to turn this way of arguing on its head and use it to defend the Ruthenians’ right to national self-determination. True, the Ruthenian elite in Galicia remains predominantly Polish-speaking. But if there are Ruthenian-speaking Poles and English-speaking Irish, why not Polish-speaking Ruthenians?

I have chosen to translate only some more general reflections on the problem of nationality, leaving out Kalinka’s immediately political arguments, even though they are of utmost interest. Almost a century ahead of Giedroyc and Mieroszewski, Kalinka concludes that the independent Ruthenian nationality could debilitate the Russian imperial project and thus contribute to Poland’s security.   5    As if anticipating Dmowski’s Darwinistic demand that Polish elites be tough on the Ruthenian national activists, as the latter could only prove the long-term viability of their national aspirations by resisting external oppression, Kalinka notes that any Polish dreams of subjugating or assimilating Ruthenians are completely unrealistic: if the Polish elites had not managed to absorb this community for several centuries in much more favourable circumstances, how could they fantasise about stifling its independent development in the late nineteenth century when the situation was so much more complicated? 6 These are only two striking examples of the perspicacity of this most unusual mind.

Kalinka’s thoughts might not be as original and universally applicable as those of Ernest Renan. In stark contrast to the Frenchman’s voluntarism, his understanding of nation remains essentialistic. He just does not identify national essence with language or race, as many people still do, but with the historically shaped national character and argues that Ukrainians (whom he calls Ruthenians) differ in this respect from both Poles and Russians. Yet, compared with Hans Kohn, Roman Dmowski, or Vladimir Putin for that matter, Kalinka’s reflections on the nature of modern nationality prove astonishingly sober and refreshing.


»’But why do you send your pupils to the Ruthenian Gymnasium?’ The answer is simple: because we want them to remain Ruthenians, we want them to learn, to speak, and to think in Ruthenian, although at the same time, they all learn Polish and they all need to master this language. And here we encounter another accusation: ‘Ruthenian language in your boarding house scandalises many people.’ ‘Ruthenia does not exist,’ they tell us. ‘Today’s Ruthenian pariotism is a symptom of the debilitation of the Polish spirit, it is an apostasy from Polishness. Sowed by Stadion, it grows thanks to the Russian treachery.   7    Can Polish priests support such work? The simple folk may remain Ruthenian, as it has always been, but anybody willing to join the upper spheres must become either a Pole or a Russian: there can be no middle way here. Hence, it is an inescapable conclusion that if you refuse to bring your pupils up as Poles and you teach in them in Ruthenian, then you must end up producing Muscovites and you will see that you have used the Polish effort and resources to rear the enemies of the Fatherland and of the Church, especially dangerous ones thanks to their thorough education.’

Before we answer this accusation, let us first address some ideas and prejudices regarding the language question. They are very widespread and they cause a lot of confusion. Do not people ascribe too much and too exclusive importance to language divisions? Nobody would suspect us of not loving our mother tongue, of not wanting it to be respected, developed, and widespread. Nobody can suppose that we are indifferent to whether the Poles care about their language, whether they know it, whether they protect it not only in public but also in their private lives (which can still prove even more difficult in some social spheres), in their everyday interactions. Having made this disclaimer, we affirm that it would be a grave and pernicious error to take language as the exclusive characteristic and basis of nationality, as many opinion makers, politicians, and scholars do nowadays. Such a shallow and one-sided approach allows us to overlook many other elements and factors that characterise nations. It accepts as the complete expression of nationality what is only one of its traits, not the most relevant one and in fact dispensable in some nations. For we all know that there is in Europe a nation that proved its attachment to the fatherland on several occasions: it defended it bravely and is still ready to do so. I am speaking about the Swiss who do not have their own language and speak in three foreign ones: in Italian, in German, and in French.   8    And although there is no Swiss language, nobody would claim that the Swiss do not exist, nobody will deny that they are a separate, distinguished, and unyielding nation. A Swiss differs from a German, a Frenchman, and an Italian as much as each of the three does from the remaining two.

We know also that the Jews forgot their language over twenty centuries ago and that they use all the languages of the world; and yet it would be difficult to say that they are not a separate nationality that immediately stands out in every country and that is so stubborn and vivid in every Jew that, except for the religious conversion, nothing can change it or break it. On the contrary, we see three populations: English, Irish, and that of the United States, all of them using the same English language. Despite this language uniformity, nobody will dare to claim that they are one and the same nation. Everyone will admit that these nations differ from each other, both in their internal disposition and in their external situation, even though all three speak English. These examples, and we could give you more of them, they prove clearly that the language alone does not constitute nationality, that you need for it other conditions. Nationality is shaped by history, it is shaped by centuries and by centuries-old common traditions, mores, appropriate character, and stable interests. Neither will language divisions shatter a national unity shaped by the past, nor will language unity remove national differences where they already exist and separate people from each other. A Samogitian does not speak Polish and yet he loves Poland and considers himself a Pole; an Irishman knows only the English language and still he hates England and would never call himself an Englishman.   9    It is not just the language but other higher powers that determine the case. Similarly, a Ruthenian may love or hate Poles, no matter what language he speaks, Polish or Ruthenian. A dozen years ago, Polish was the dominant language among educated Ruthenians. Did they all love us because of this? If you know the works of Harasiewicz, Zubrzycki, and others, which were written at the time when the Ruthenian priests spoke Polish and yet teem with hatred of all things Polish, you must agree that the Polish language will not guarantee us the friendship of the Ruthenians.   10    This means that the Ruthenian language will not be an obstacle to that friendship either. In other words, this or that tongue, as a separate factor, does not determine anything in our relationship with the Ruthenians.«   11   


1 Ernest Renan, Qu’est-ce qu’une nation? (Paris, 1882).

2 Gente Rutheni natione Poloni (people of Ruthenian stock but Polish by nationality) was an idea, according to which the Ruthenians of Galicia could preserve their specificity as an ethnic variety of the Polish nation. It did actually work for several individuals active in the nineteenth-century Polish politics, including Piotr Semenenko, the leader of the Resurrectionists, but most Galician Ruthenians deemed it unsatisfactory, as they strove for a recognition as a separate nation on par with the Poles. See Adam Świątek, Gente Rutheni, natione Poloni: z dziejów Rusinów narodowości polskiej w Galicji (Cracow, 2014).

3 Hans Kohn, The Idea of Nationalism: A Study in Its Origins and Background (New York, 1945).

4 Walerian Kalinka, Przegrana Francyi i przyszłość Europy (Cracow, 1871), 7.

5 Jerzy Giedroyc and Juliusz Mieroszewski were Polish émigré intellectuals active in the second half of the twentieth century. They formulated the so-called ULB doctrine, according to which strong and independent Belarus, Lithuania, and Ukraine would form a bulwark against the Russian expansion and thus contribute to Poland’s security.  

6 Roman Dmowski (1864-1939) was a Polish intellectual and one of the founders of the right-wing political current known as the endecja (ND or National Democracy).  For his Darwinistic treatment of Ruthenians see his Myśli nowoczesnego Polaka (Lviv, 1904), 100-101.

7 Count Franz Stadion was an Austrian statesman who served as governor of Galicia in 1848. Many Polish politicians accused him of having “invented” the Ruthenian nationality, in order to weaken the Polish revolutionary movement during the Springtime of Peoples. 

8 Nowadays, there are four national languages in Switzerland: French, German, Italian, and Rumantsch.

9 Samogitia (Žemaitija in Lithuanian or Żmudź in Polish) is a region in Western Lithuania. During the January Uprising of 1863 the Lithuanian-speaking peasants of that area actively supported Polish insurrectionists in their struggle against the Russian authorities, but Kalinka’s assessment of Samogitians’ national choices is not necessarily accurate for the 1880s.   

10 Mykhailo Harasevych and Denys Zubryts’kyi were Galician Ruthenian historians active in the first half of the nineteenth century. They published their works in German, Latin, or Polish. Towards the end of his life, Zubryts’kyi switched to Russian and iazychiie.

11 Walerian Kalinka, Pisma pomniejsze. Część IV (Cracow, 1902), 42-44. I would like to thank Jared Warren for his useful comments.


This is not an academic text sensu stricto. Its goal is to disseminate knowledge and to stimulate public interest in our field. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of either PAN or NCN.

Making sense of the French Revolution in Habsburg Eastern Europe

We post here an allegorical article on the French Revolution published in September 1792 in a Polish-language political journal from Lviv.

The Dziennik Patriotycznych Polityków issue with the allegorical text on anarchy. Source: Biblioteka Jagiellońska.

In the 1790s Mykhailo Harasevych, the patron saint of this research project, was involved in the publication of Galicia’s first political daily, the Dziennik Patriotycznych Polityków (Journal of Patriotic Politicians, henceforth DPP), allegedly a mouthpiece of the eponymous Towarzystwo Patriotycznych Polityków (Society of Patriotic Politicians). 1 Of the latter we know close to nothing (were they really a group of people or just a literary device?). The exact scope and nature of Harasevych’s contribution is yet to be ascertained, but it seems justifiable to assume that the ideological positions presented by the anonymous author(s) of this paper could not be very far from his own at that time. In any case, articles in the DPP show us what Galician elites knew about and understood from the European politics of the Age of Revolution and how they positioned themselves in regard to them as both the Austrian subjects and the former citizens of the still existing Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. 2 I have resolved to translate some interesting excerpts from the DPP as an illustration of the ideological horizon of Galician elites, be they Greek or Latin Catholic.

In the second issue of the DPP, released on September 13, 1792, we find an allegorical essay on anarchy, introduced as a discussion that allegedly took place at a meeting of the Society of Patriotic Politicians. The subject of anarchy was especially relevant in the early 1790s, as many enlightened Europeans observed the violent breakdown of the French monarchy with horror. Indeed, the very first issue of the DPP related in detail la journée du 10 août, when the republican fédérés stormed the Tuileries Palace, effectively ending the royal power. 3 However, the author of the DPP essay on anarchy chooses to articulate his reflection in a bipolar field. Along the rather obvious French context, the other crucial point of reference is the political scene of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth: the conflict over the May Constitution of 1791 ending with Russian intervention and the creation of a reactionary government dominated by the so-called Targowica Confederation. 4

The text contains several interesting moments, but I would only like to draw readers’ attention to three points here. First of all, the participants in the discussion related in the essay do not hesitate to identify the inhabitants of Poland-Lithuania as their compatriots (Polish współziomkowie), yet they do not reveal any sense of special solidarity resulting from this fact. Although the Patriotic Politicians are visibly concerned about the fate of the Commonwealth, one can also sense a sort of satisfaction at Galicia’s splendid isolation from the chaotic Polish-Lithuanian factionalism. Secondly, the critique of the violence and instability allegedly inherent in republican politics, be it French or Polish-Lithuanian, is completely divorced from Catholic orthodoxy. 5 Some images seem to be inspired by the apocalyptic visions of the Francophone Counter-Enlightenment, but others come from the Masonic repertoire. As a whole, the argumentation in the essay is purely pragmatic and secular (or deistic, to be precise). The authors of the DPP do not align themselves with the radical enemies of the Revolution, but rather assume the position of a moderate conservative Enlightenment, not unlike the luminaries of the Austrian legalistic monarchism such as Leopold II himself, Joseph von Sonnenfels, or Karl Anton von Martini. 6 Lastly, it is striking that the authors’ political concerns are so much in line with those of their contemporaries from other parts of Europe. If not for the explicit references to Poland-Lithuania, one might not guess that this text was written and published in a country located to the east of the river Elbe. There is nothing fundamentally East European about its form and content.

Galician Patriotic Politicians prove to be keen observers of the European politics. They successfully synthesise their knowledge of Western and Eastern European developments into a coherent, if not very original, diagnosis of contemporary ideological conflicts. English civil wars, the French Revolution, May Constitution, and the Targowica Confederation are presented as items of the same series that could be captioned ‘republican disorders’. In this way, the Patriotic Politicians define their own location in a Lviv suspended between Paris, Vienna, and Warsaw. One cannot resist noticing that they seem to be quite satisfied that the House of Austria potects their Galician patria from the vicissitudes of republican factionalism. Here, we can see how a section of the Enlightened Polish-speaking elite of that Habsburg crownland, a country just twenty-years old at the moment, comes to terms with the dynamic realities of their time and thus contributes to the collective effort of inventing Galicia, a process analysed among others by Larry Wolff and Miloš Řezník. 7



A quarrel over the meaning of this word in the Society of Patriotic Politicians

Monstrum horendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen ademtum.

Virg. 8

As is widely known, in accordance with the regulations adopted once and for all in our society, each member cum voce activa is responsible for one kingdom and has to faithfully gather news from that state, add his remarks, and pronounce his opinion during sessions in pleno, after which everybody is allowed to reveal their thoughts and say whatever they like. 9

When the reading of news at our last session was over, Mr. Zawieruchowski, 10 rapporteur of tidings from Poland, rose and spoke from the depths of his heart:

‘Thank God that peace has been restored in Poland. The way in which the unrest was quelled was onerous indeed, but as there was no other, they had to resort to this one. It is enough that the country is peaceful, that the war is over.’ 11

‘I am happy for you, sir,’ responded Mr. Mędrski, the serious president of our society, 12 ‘but I am still concerned about the future.’

‘But why?’ said Mr. Zawieruchowski. ‘Do you, sir, want the war to last longer?’

‘I despise the spilling of innocent blood, but…’

‘What are you afraid then? And what is the cause of your fear?’

‘Knowing how restless the minds of our compatriots are, do not I have legitimate reasons for concern about the future?’

‘It has always been this way: dilemmas, dissensions, hatreds often prove beneficial for a free country. Otherwise, would the Englishmen have brought their affairs to the present state?’

‘English history is full of dreadful periods. Moreover, do you deem, gentlemen, that Poles are Englishmen?’ 13

‘Why not? But this is a topic for another occasion. Now, sir, please tell us why you fear about the future.’

‘This is why: the sympathisers of the May 3 Constitution have not abandoned their hopes. Gentlemen, you heard recently that the number of the discontented is substantial and that the Friends of the Constitution will find supporters and backing for their endeavours.’ 14

‘So what?’

‘The General Confederation and its Protectress will not make any concessions.’ 15

‘What then?’

‘A civil war.’

‘And the outcome?’

‘The lot of Poland is pretty similar to that of France: anarchy! Oh, my beloved gentlemen, this word is dreadful, but its consequences are even worse: disgusting devastations!’

‘Please instruct me what this anarchy means. I hear this word a lot, but each person explains it in a different way.’

‘Sir, think about France and you will have a vivid representation of anarchy. All civic bonds are torn, government – toppled, laws – disrespected. Superiors are powerless, courts of law – deprived of authority, virtuous citizens – either murdered or moaning in dungeons, government – in the hands of the dissolute populace. A couple of days ago, after having read a lot about the current revolution in France, I fell soundly asleep and just before the dawn I had the following dream, as if I had been awake:


I was near Paris, on Montmartre hill. 16 The land was covered in thick darkness and there was no light except for the moon beams. Suddenly, I noticed some divine figure approaching me from the east. It was adorned with brightness and the whole world was depicted on its vestments. From its pleasant face I recognised that this was Oromazdes (principium boni) floating on clouds above the unfortunate France. 17 When he came closer, I heard these words come out from his mouth: “The French nation is numerous, manly, industrious, and valiant, but lest it waste these rare gifts, I shall create a powerful genius to watch over its prosperity.” Then, he said: “Let it be so!” and immediately a female figure of such beauty appeared that I had never before seen an equal. Then, he took from the mass of farmers, artisans, and merchants and used this material to mould this woman’s breasts, which produced ambrosia instead of milk. Next, he took from the mass of learned men, statesmen, lawyers, and sages and having created a brain out of it he put it in her head, after which her eyes started to radiate with bright rays. Eventually, he took from the mass of kings and put it right in the middle of her brain saying: “This will be the centre where all the powers animating the limbs meet.” Immediately, the goddess began to move and act as a protectress of France. Oromazdes flew towards the west and I prostrated myself, piously adoring the omnipotence of gods.

Then, having heard the murmur of thunders in the distant north, I bounced to my feet. Again, there was a thick darkness interrupted by occasional lightnings. Trembling with fear I recognised the approach of Ahriman (principium mali), thunderbolts still in his hand. 18 “Hah,” he shouted in a tremendous voice. “The destroyer of my projects, that friend of good order, was here. I can see the traces of his actions. You, woman, are a work of his hands. True, you are powerful, but you will not be stronger than I am. Become what I want you to be!” Having said that, he threw a thunderbolt with his right hand and hit her right in her head: her eyes dimmed, her brain leaked, her breasts dried, and her limbs fell off. The whole body melted into an amorphous lump, which, too feeble to stand on its own, fell upon France. Her breasts teemed with worms and vipers; spears, swords, and daggers punctured her belly; and terrifying flames gushed from her intestines as if from a bottomless abyss. Having concluded this terrible work, Ahriman roared in the air: “Anarchy!” and flew back towards the north, whereas the terror woke me up.’

The whole society agreed to publish this dream in our journal. 19


1 See Maurycy Dzieduszycki, “Przeszłowieczny dziennik lwowski,” Przewodnik Naukowy i Literacki, Year 3 (1875), 33-51 and Halina Kozłowska, “Lwowski »Dziennik Patriotycznych Polityków« (1792-1798),” Zeszyty Naukowe Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego. Prace Historyczne, No 55 (1976), 79-111.

2 Galicia was created as a result of the first partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1772. The latter survived as a separate polity until the third partition in 1795. For 23 years the Commonwealth was Galicia’s northern neighbour and many noble landowners would have their land estates on both sides of the border as the so called sujets mixtes with the right to vote in the diets of both countries.

3 On August 2, 1792, radical republican militants, mostly the federés volunteers, stormed the Tuileries Palace, the Parisian residence of the royal family. This event resulted in the de facto end of constitutional monarchy in France (although the Republic was not officially proclaimed until the second half of September). In the following month French political scene became especially brutal and volatile, which is sometimes characterised as the First Terror. These events were widely publicised all over Europe, usually in a negative light.

4 In the eighteenth century the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth languished under Russian protectorate, as St Petersburg blocked any attempts at substantial political reform. The situation changed in 1787, when the Ottoman Empire declared war against Russia. Forced to focus on the military actions in the Black Sea region, Empress Catherine II was no longer able to control the Polish-Lithuanian politics so closely. As a result, years 1788-1792 saw intense political reforms in Poland-Lithuania, culminating with the Enlightened Constitution of May 3, 1791. However, many conservative republicans were unhappy with the new form of government: they deemed that it deprived them of their liberties for the sake of orderly administration. These malcontents formed in 1792 an oppositional union which went down in history as the Confederation of Targowica, named so after the town of Torhovytsia in central Ukraine, where its manifesto was allegedly penned and published. At the same time, Catherine signed a satisfactory peace treaty with the Ottomans and directed her gaze towards the Commonwealth. Thus, the Targowica leaders obtained the Russian military support necessary to overthrow the reformist government in Warsaw. The Russian invasion in the summer of 1792 brought an abrupt end to the period of Enlightened reform in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and accelerated the eventual collapse of this polity. The name of Targowica remains a byword for high treason in contemporary Polish.

5 For the Counter-Enlightenment see Darrin McMahon, Enemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity (Oxford, 2001) and Martyna Deszczyńska, Polskie kontroświecenie (Warsaw, 2011).

6 See Teodora Shek Bernardić, “Modalities Of Enlightened Monarchical Patriotism In The Mid-Eighteenth Century Habsburg Monarchy,” in Balazs Trencsenyi and Márton Zászkaliczky, eds, Whose Love of Which Country? Composite States, National Histories and Patriotic Discourses in Early Modern East Central Europe (Leiden, 2010), 629-661.

7 Miloš Řezník, Neuorientierung einer Elite: Aristokratie, Ständewesen und Loyalität in Galizien (1772-1795) (Frankfurt am Main, 2016) and Larry Wolff, The Idea of Galicia: History and Fantasy in Habsburg Political Culture (Stanford, 2010).

8 A corrupted quote from Virgil’s Æneid. The correct version is Monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen ademptum, meaning: “A monster frightful, formless, immense, with sight removed.” It is a description of cyclops who were presented as quintessentially irrational and cruel brutes in the Greco-Roman poetry. Here, it serves as a metaphor of mob rule.

9 Cum voce activa literally means “with active suffrage,” but here it is probably intended to describe full suffrage. Sessions in pleno are general meetings, which all the members of the society are encouraged or even required to attend.

10 Mr. Zawieruchowski is a meaningful name derived from the Polish noun zawierucha, meaning storm, turmoil, chaos.

11 At the end of July 1792, in the face of overwhelming Russian might, Poland-Lithuania’s pro-reform king chose to surrender and accept the repeal of the 1791 Constitution. Targowica leaders took up the reins of government and started to persecute their enemies. In 1793, they had to swallow the second partition of the Commonwealth by Prussia and Russia, but until the outbreak of the Kościuszko Uprising in 1794 one could also credit them with providing a modicum of stability.

12 Mr. Mędrski is another meaningful name, this time derived from the Polish adjective mądry, meaning wise.

13 The authors mean here the British Civil Wars of 1638-1652 and the Glorious Revolution of 1688-1691.

14 By Friends of the Constitution the author may mean the members of the Assembly of Friends of the Government Constitution “Let there be Light” (in Polish Zgromadzenie Przyjaciół Konstytucji Rządowej “Fiat Lux”), sometimes credited as the first modern political party in Poland-Lithuania. More broadly, the author can describe in this way any supporters of the 1791 Constitution or in fact any enemies of the Targowica regime established thanks to the Russian invasion of 1792.

15 The General Confederation stands here for Targowica. Obviously, its protectress was the Empress Catherine II of Russia.

16 The hill of Montmartre remained outside the city limits until 1860.

17 In the Zoroastrian tradition Oromazdes (or Ahura Mazda) is the benevolent creator god, lord of wisdom and order, the hypostasis of good, rendered here in Latin as principium boni. Zoroastrian-inspired symbols were present in the Masonic rituals and, as a result, in the wider cultural sphere of the eighteenth-century Europe: see for example Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opera Zoroastre (1756) about the struggle of good and evil spirits and their human followers.

18 In the Zoroastrian tradition Ahriman (or Angra Mainyu) is the hypostasis of evil, rendered here in Latin as principium mali, the destructive and chaos-sowing opponent of Oromazdes.

19 I would like to thank Jared Warren for his careful reading of the first draft of this translation and his useful editing suggestions.


This is not an academic text sensu stricto. Its goal is to disseminate knowledge and to stimulate public interest in our field. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of either PAN or NCN.

When Warsaw was a town on the Austrian border

Everybody heard of Berlin halved by the Cold War and Rome which is still divided between Italy and the Vatican. But do you know that there are two other European capitals with historical state borders cutting through their urban territory? One of them is Warsaw.

Warsaw and its surroundings in 1794, just before the last partition of the Commonwealth. Source: polona.pl.

Our project is based in Warsaw. Our topic lies within the field of Habsburg history. This is somewhat atypical, as in our part of Europe the Austrian Monarchy is usually studied by scholars affiliated with institutions located within its old borders. In Ukraine, you will find most Habsburg historians in Lviv, not in Kyiv. In Italy, they will work in Triest rather than in Rome. In Poland, the bulk of them resides in Kraków, Rzeszów, and Wrocław (the latter has inherited the academic traditions of Polish Lviv). Of course, this rule is not waterproof, but it is the general tendency.

Austrian monarchs have never managed to extend their dominions to Warsaw. But at one point they came very close. In 1795 the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was eventually partitioned and erased from the political map of Europe. Warsaw ended up under Prussian rule, becoming a Kammerdepartment centre in the province named Südpreußen (South Prussia). Its location was quite awkward for administrative purposes, as it lay on the very margins of its territorial jurisdiction. Less than thirty kilometres to the north, on the right bank of the river Bug (Zakhidnyi Buh in Ukrainian), started another Prussian province, Neuostpreußen (New East Prussia). Even more unusually, just a couple of kilometres to the east ran a state border separating the Prussian acquisitions from the Austrian ones, the so-called Westgalizien (West Galicia, sometimes called also Neugalizien). 1 This means, among others, that the first version of the famed Austrian Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch was tested in the God-forsaken villages on the eastern outskirts of Warsaw long before it eventually came into force in Vienna. 2

An 1800 map of West- and Ostgalizien. Source: polona.pl.

This arrangement did not last long: in 1807 Napoleon defeated Prussia and took the Süd- and Neuostpreußen from it, creating there his puppet Duchy of Warsaw (with the subservient king of Saxony as its duke). But the Austrian border stayed in place, so the newly independent duchy had its eponymous capital just a short walk from the dominions of a hostile power. Two years later, in 1809, Napoleon defeated Austria in the war of the fifth coalition and awarded Westgalizien to his Polish satellite, thus ending Warsaw’s stint as a border town and Austria’s neighbour. After Napoleon’s defeat Westgalizien was never restored to the Monarchy. Instead, the Congress of Vienna chose to transform the Duchy of Warsaw into a non-sovereign Kingdom of Poland, conjoined with the Russian Empire. Pushed back some two hundred kilometres to the south of the Polish capital by Napoleon, Austrian borders remained there for over a century.

An 1803 Austrian map of the northernmost districts of Westgalizien. Warsaw lies just a couple of kilometres to the west of the Austrian Stanisławów district (yellow outline). Source: polona.pl.

At the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Warsaw was a few kilometres away from the borderline, but since then the city limits have been gradually expanding (last changes took place only in the twenty-first century) and now a large section of the Austro-Prussian border cuts through the urban territory. Apart from Warsaw, there is only one other capital in Europe with a historical state border of the Austrian Monarchy running through it: it is Belgrade whose north-western district of Zemun (Semlin in German) used to be an Austrian border town, separated from the Serbian city by the river Sava. 3

A detail from an 1808 British map of Hungary. The Austro-Ottoman border separates Zemun (Semlin) from Belgrade. Source: polona.pl.

Nowadays, on the eastern outskirts of Warsaw there are no easily discernible vestiges of the eighteenth-century Austrian presence. You will not find border stones with imperial eagles or anything like that: this boundary has been erased and forgotten. In the neighbourhood of Zielona, district of Wesoła, there used to be a neoclassicist building of the Austrian customs house, but it was demolished in 1944 by the German military (a paradox of sorts or perhaps not at all). 4

Although it is just a fifteen-minute ride by urban train from downtown Warsaw, tourists never visit this part of the city, devastated by the post-1989 urbanistic laissez-faire. It is, however, dotted with nice patches of woods, remnants of the forests that surrounded Warsaw at the time of the Austrian presence. Today, they attract young families seeking destinations for undemanding weekend walks. In one of such woods you may find the Wawerska street, an unassuming forest road.

A contemporary satellite view of the Wawerska street in the district of Wesoła. Source: Google Maps.

As it happens, this dirt road sets the boundary between two districts of Warsaw: Wawer and Wesoła. The district border in this area takes the shape of an acute bend.

A contemporary map showing the boundaries of the district of Wesoła. Note the acute bend to the northwest of the neighbourhood of Stara Miłosna. Source: Google Maps.

The district of Wesoła is composed of several neighbourhoods that used to be separate villages: the eponymous Wesoła, Zielona (the one where the customs house stood until 1944), Wola Grzybowska, and Miłosna, the oldest of all. They all lay on the Austrian side of the border. To the northwest of Miłosna the Austro-Prussian border made an acute bend, just like the one we know from today’s boundary between Wawer and Wesoła.

A detail from an 1803 Prussian map showing the exact borderline between Südpreußen and Westgalizien in the vicinity of Warsaw. Note the acute bend to the northwest of the village of Miłosna. Source: polona.pl.

Now, I am not a land surveyor and I have not combed the archives for the Austro-Prussian delimitation protocols, but the two borders match each other closely and the present-day neighbourhoods should have inherited their boundaries from previous periods. Miłosna was the last locality on the Austrian side, so the western border of its grounds would have coincided with that of the Monarchy. It seems reasonable to assume that today’s western limit of the neighbourhood of Stara Miłosna, the unpaved Wawerska street, is the continuation of the eighteenth-century Austrian border. If you happen to be in Warsaw and you love Austrian history, you should not miss this place. Especially, when it is covered in snow. 5

Wawerska street in the district of Wesoła on 31 January 2021. Source: Katarzyna Hen-Konarska’s collection.


1 See also this useful blog post in Polish: http://fenomenwarszawy.blogspot.com/2012/09/warszawa-miasto-nadgraniczne-cz-1.html (last retrieved 14 February 2021).

2 Austrian Allgemeines Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch was published in 1811. Its draft version was enacted in Neugalizien in 1797 as Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch von Westgalizien (published also in Polish as Ustawy cywilne dla Galicji Zachodniej) and extended to Altgalizien the following year.

3 I translate here the Austrian term Kreis, denoting a relatively small territorial unit, as district. I also use this English word for the Serbian gradska opština and the Polish dzielnica, a larger administrative division within the city, nowadays managed by locally elected officials (similar to the German Stadtbezirk and the French arrodissement). Neighbourhood stands for the Polish osiedle, a smaller area within the dzielnica.

4 The Austrian customs house is mentioned on the official website of the Wesoła district authorities: http://www.wesola.waw.pl/strona/historia (last retrieved 14 February 2021).

5 Avid early modernists may remember yet another episode when the Habsburgs came close to ruling over Warsaw. In 1587 a large part of the Polish-Lithuanian nobility elected Archduke Maximilian III of Austria as king. The other party, led by Chancellor Jan Zamoyski, supported Prince Stephen Báthory of Transylvania. The two sides fought a brief civil war which ended with the victory of the Zamoyski’s faction. Had Maximilian been more successful, he would have become an elective king for life, but even then the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth would have remained a separate polity, not a part of the Habsburg inheritance.


This is not an academic text sensu stricto. Its goal is to disseminate knowledge and to stimulate public interest in our field. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of either PAN or NCN.

An obituary of Mykhailo Harasevych, Baron von Neustern

We post here an English translation of Harasevych’s obituary published first in Polish in the Gazeta Lwowska and then reprinted in German in the Wiener Zeitung. You can learn from it about the patron saint of our project.

The Wiener Zeitung issue with Harasevych’s obituary. Source: Austrian National Library.

We post this tentative translation of Harasevych’s obituary, not only because it offers a relatively comprehensive narrative of his life, but also because it allows you to see how the account of his career could be interpreted and instrumentalised for political purposes. According to Amvrozii Androkhovych, the author of the text was Hryhorii Iakhymovych, who might have been Baron von Neustern’s relative (Iakhymovych’s mother was de domo Harasevych, but this surname is quite common). In any case, his career resembled that of Harasevych himself in many ways: after studying in Vienna he became a lecturer at the University of Lviv and a canon at the Greek Catholic cathedral chapter there. During the revolution of 1848 he was the unquestioned leader of the conservative wing of the Ruthenian national movement. The crowning moment of his  career came in 1860, when after a longer spell in Przemyśl he became the metropolitan of Galicia. 1

The text of this obituary suggests that as early as 1836 a conservative career priest of the kind of Iakhymovych could consistently appeal to the notion of a separate Ruthenian nation to legitimise the politics of his milieu. Whether this was sincere or not is of secondary importance. What remains sadly overlooked in the historiography is the fact that the liberal populists bent on the cultivation of the Ruthenian vernacular, people like Mykola Ustyianovych, Markiian Shashkevych, or Iakiv Holovatsʹkyi, were not the only claimants to introduce the talk of the ancient Ruthenian nation to the Austrian public sphere.


»A Polish-language supplement to the Lemberger Zeitung of 12 July contains the following: 2

On 29 April 1836, in the seventy-third year of his life Herr Michael Harasiewicz, Baron von Neustern, commander of the Austrian Imperial-Royal Order of Leopold, doctor of theology, archpriest at the metropolitan church of the Greek Catholic rite in Lemberg and provost of the cathedral chapter crossed the threshold of eternity; he was a man of high intellectual gifts, extensive knowledge, and remarkable services to the state and Church, an edifying priest, an eager teacher, the pride and the glory of the Ruthenian Galician nation. 3

We shall attempt a brief sketch of his life and fame, in order to pay due homage to the noble shadows of so celebrated a man, but also to provide our compatriots with a model of how highly one can elevate himself to achieve dignities through virtue, learning, and service under the just sceptre of the Sublime Monarch of the Austrian Empire.

The most reverend Herr Michael Harasiewicz was born on 23 May 1763 in Jachtorow of the Zloczow district: his father Gregor was a parish priest there of the Greek Catholic rite. The fortune of the Ruthenian parish priests was in no way enviable before the return of Galicia to the Imperial House of Austria. 4 Reduced to rely on the yields from a piece of arable land, which they were forced to work by the sweat of their brow, and on the meagre support of their poor parishioners, struggling incessantly with want of every sort, they were not able to either give their children an appropriate upbringing or to support them on their further career path. However, with the help of a patriarchal way of living, piety, and domestic virtues, they succeeded in inculcating in their children the fear of God, industriousness, and devotion to the legitimate authority ordained by God. Their motto was: Ora et labora.

Having received his first instruction in the Ruthenian language and church services while still a child in his father’s house, the young Michael was sent to the venerable Piarist fathers in Zloczow. Fully convinced that only persistent diligence and self-sacrifice would allow him to advance, he displayed so much talent there that already in the eighteenth year of his life he was deemed fit to enter the Viennese seminary at the church of Saint Barbara, where the government, with its fatherly preoccupation to secure excellent pastoral ministry, offered funding to educate youths inclined to that vocation. In Vienna, and later in Lemberg, where a general seminary was established, he dedicated all the prowess of his youth to the study of philosophy and theology; this he did with so strong an enthusiasm and such a blessed success that after five years the authorities in question felt compelled to issue him a certificate of his deep learning, manly gravity, and admirable prudence. 5

The government, able to appreciate every talent properly, entrusted him on 1 September 1787, a youth of twenty-four years, who had not yet achieved the priestly dignity, the chair of pastoral theology at the University of Lemberg. Not only the secular authority, but also the spiritual one noticed his outstanding skills, because in the very same year, in recognition of his above-mentioned characteristics, the Lemberg General Consistory appointed him the diocesan examiner with the decree of 30 October 1787. For thirteen years, until 1800, he fulfilled the duties of a full professor. At the same time, as a consequence of an aulic decree of 14 September 1792, he occupied the chair of the Ruthenian-language exegesis to the full satisfaction of the government, of the higher clergy, of the faculty of theology, and of his numerous students.

In the year 1789, on 5 August, after the prescribed examinations, he achieved the title of doctor of theology. In the year 1795 and 1796 he served as dean and representative of the faculty of theology; subsequently as chairman of the college of professors; as associate member, rapporteur, and director of the then existing Galician consessus studiorum, whose dignity he also continued to hold later in his capacity as the vicar general of the archdiocese until the dissolution of that body. 6 Next, as prorector he chaired the academic senate of the Lemberg University in the year 1805, but eventually nominated in the year 1813 as the imperial-royal commissioner for the public examinations, he occupied this distinguished post till the end of his life. This is a short outline of the deceased within the sphere of his public academic activity; his services in his pursuits as priest, citizen, and scholar are no less brilliant and significant.

In the year 1793 he conjoined himself in the sacred union of marriage with Therese of the noble house of Jablonski. And then, having chosen, after a mature reflection, the priestly career, he received the holy orders from the hands of the most reverend Herr Peter Bielanski, Ruthenian bishop of Lemberg and Halicz and imperial-royal privy councillor. Not even two years had passed from his consecration, when he became an honorary canon at the Przemysl cathedral chapter. And three years later with the support of the most reverend Herr Nicolaus Skorodynski, bishop of Lemberg and Halicz, the decree of His Imperial-Royal Apostolic Majesty of 14 August 1800 named him episcopal official and vicar general as well as the first councillor of the consistory. He occupied this post both under that shepherd and under his successor, his excellency the Most Reverend Metropolitan Angellowicz, until the year 1814.

In the year 1803 the clergy of the Lemberg diocese held a synod presided over by the Most Reverend Herr Bishop Skorodynski: among other topics, its participants deliberated upon the improvement of the clergy’s situation and the revival of the metropolitanate of Halicz, which had been abolished centuries ago. For this purpose they needed to submit their supplications at the throne of the Best among the Monarchs and they needed a man to whose diligence and prudence so important an affair could be entrusted. The assembled clergy found no man worthier and better suited for this mission than the Most Reverend Herr Michael Harasiewicz: they elected him by acclamation and on 2 May 1803 invested him with full powers. The bishops present then in Lemberg, Ważynski of Chelm, Angellowicz of Przemysl, and Skorodynski of Lemberg, corroborated this synodal election with a letter of 12 May 1803, empowering him as the envoy of the whole Galician Ruthenian clergy, and sent him to Vienna to submit a supplication.

His tireless zeal and manifold efforts were crowned with the desired success. The Gracious Monarch received the supplications from the clergy of the Ruthenian nation with a fatherly pity. Three years later the old metropolitanate of Halicz was established and obtained a celebrated head. It is well known to the clergy and to the whole Ruthenian nation how much the late Most Reverend Herr Michael Harasiewicz contributed with his efforts and counsels to the achievement of this lofty goal. 7

When eventually the Most Serene Lord, with the diploma of 25 February 1813, had mercifully ordered the erection of the lapsed chapter at the Lemberg cathedral, this meritorious man, twice a diocesan administrator in spiritualibus and temporalibus (first after the death of the Most Reverend Herr Bishop Skorodynski and later after the passing away of His Excellency the Metropolitan Angellowicz), was nominated with an aulic decree of 3 June 1813 to serve as archpriest or provost, that is the first prelate of the chapter. The deceased remained in this post with an unshakable enthusiasm to the last moment of his eventful life. 8

By no means did this blessed prelate limit himself to perfecting only those fields of knowledge that his vocation required of him; he spent all his life studying, devoted wholly  to learning. Already a full professor of pastoral theology, he attended the lectures on law at the Lemberg University and subjected himself to the prescribed examination, in order to achieve a doctorate also in that faculty. In the years 1794, 1795, 1796, and 1797 he was the chief editor of the first periodical in Lemberg under the title Dziennik Patriotycznych Polityków (Journal of Patriotic Politicians). 9 Along with the duties resulting from his elevated position, he spent his old age researching the history of his fatherland and he wrote down a rich hoard of news and events for the history of Galicia. It was he who, upon the request of the Apostolic Nunciature, provided a comprehensive description of the Ruthenian hierarchy of the Greek Catholic rite. He enriched German magazines with valuable studies and his literary efforts always stood out for their deep learning, intellectual fertility, and mature wisdom. 10

So many manifold services in the sphere of learning and priesthood as well as the proofs shown in 1809 of an impeccable loyalty, of an unshakable constancy, and of an unlimited devotion to the legitimate throne and the Most Serene Ruler — all this could not escape the notice of the just government that knows how to appreciate and reward every merit. 11 On 13 December 1810 the Most Serene Emperor Francis I distinguished him with the honourable award of the commander cross of the Imperial Order of Leopold, to which a personal annual allowance of 800 florins was attached; and on 11 April 1811 he ennobled him together with his legitimate progeny as a baron of the Empire with the title “von Neustern. As a result of this sublime grace in the year 1817 he was immatriculated in the estates of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria and he repeatedly sat on the diets as deputy of the metropolitan chapter.

This is a concise biographical sketch of a man of unusually virtuous conduct and rare learning. Rather than a hired quill it is the genuine admiration that draws it, to which one is irresistibly forced by true services and outstanding merits. A bright and alert mind; a mature judgment, trained through dignified knowledge and a deep experience; religion allied with philosophy: these are the flowers with which he plaited himself a wreath of immortal glory among his compatriots. His glory and recollection will fly through centuries.

The sheer number of people of different social standings, including all the illustrious men, gathered at his funeral service, has clearly demonstrated this all-pervasive admiration for him. The clergy expressed its love in a Ruthenian elegy, both emotionally touching and genuine in its popular spirit. The students of the Lemberg Ruthenian Seminary had it printed by the Stauropegion Press and distributed it at his burial. 12 An echo of the mourning caused by so painful a loss reverberated also on the banks of the Danube, where the young clerics of the Ruthenian nation at the Viennese Imperial-Royal City College immortalised the memory of the celebrated Sage in yet another dirge printed by the Mekhitarist fathers. 13

Incensed altars of the flatterers fume only for the living. The serious funeral music can convey but a fully deserved praise: the praise for an honest man. This was the Most Reverend Herr Michael Harasiewicz, baron von Neustern! Peace to his ashes! Eternal glory to his name!«


1 For a summary of Mykhailo Harasevych’s life see Amvrozii Androkhovych, “Lʹvivsʹke »Studium Ruthenum«,” Zapysky Naukovoho Tovarystva imeni Shevchenka, Vol. 146 (1927), 68-75. That the maiden name of Hryhorii Iakhymovych’s mother was Harasevych is mentioned in V. Haiuk et al., Halytsʹki mytropolyty (Lviv, 1992), 37.

2 This translation is based on the German-language version published in the Wiener Zeitung. I have not been able to consult the Polish-language original. I tried to follow the text with its characteristic syntax as closely as possible, but had to take some liberties, in order to render it understandable in English. Here I want to thank Jared Warren for language assistance.

3 On this website we tend to render the names of individuals in present-day standard Ukrainian (simplified LoC romanisation). However, in this translation I leave the forms as they stand in the primary source, hence Michael Harasiewicz instead of Mykhailo Harasevych, Angellowicz instead of Anhelovych, and so on. Likewise, although we usually give place names in accordance with their current administrative status, here I give the toponyms as printed in the obituary, hence Lemberg instead of Lviv, Jachtorow instead of Iaktoriv, Zloczow instead of Zolochiv, and so on. Characteristic inconsistencies in the use of diacritics have been preserved.

4 In 1772.

5 The so-called Barbareum was an elite Greek Catholic seminary established in Vienna by the government of Maria Theresa in 1774 and closed down after ten years, when Joseph II replaced it with the Greek Catholic General Seminary in Lviv. In 1803 a college for the Greek Catholic clerics at the University of Vienna was reopened on the premises of the old Barabareum. See Amvrozii Androkhovych’s “Vidensʹke Barbareum. Istoriia korolivsʹkoi Generalʹnoi hreko-katolytsʹkoi Semynarii pry tserkvi sv. Varvary u Vidni z pershoho periodu ii isnuvannia (1775-1784),” in Iosyf Slipyi, ed., Pratsi Hreko-Katolytsʹkoi Bohoslovsʹkoi Akademii u Lʹvovi. T. I-II (Lviv, 1935), 42-113.

6 In the autumn of 1790 the government of Leopold II decreed the so-called consessus studiorum (ławica akademicka in Polish, Studien-Consess in German), an intermediary entity responsible for the management of education in Galicia. Consessus studiorum was designed as a sort of representative assembly composed of the deputies of university faculties and secondary schools. The first consessus gathered only in 1792. After ten years the government of Francis II terminated this experiment in educational self-government. See Ludwik Finkel and Stanisław Starzyński, Historya Uniwersytetu Lwowskiego (Lviv, 1894), 145-152.

7 For the most up-to-date account of the establishment of the Galician Metropolitanate see Vadym Adadurov’s introductory articles to his two collections of primary sources: Fundatsiia Halytsʹkoi Mytropolii u svitli dyplomatychnoho lystuvannia Avstrii ta Sviatoho Prestolu 1807-1808 rokiv: zbirnyk dokumentiv (Lviv, 2011) and Podil Kyivsʹkoi ta pidnesennia Halytsʹkoi uniinykh metropolii: Dokumenty ta materiialy vatykansʹkykh arkhiviv (1802-1808 roky). Uporiadkuvannia, vstup i komentari Vadyma Adadurova (Lviv, 2019).

8 The establishment of the Lviv cathedral chapter was one of the main concerns of the Greek Catholic secular clergy in the first four decades of the Austrian rule over Galicia. For this topic see Antoni Korczok, Die griechisch-katholische Kirche in Galizien (Leipzig, 1921), 56-66 and Iuliian Pelesh, Geschichte der Union der ruthenischen Kirche mit Rom von den ältesten Zeiten bis auf die Gegenwart. Bd. 2, Von der Wiederstellung der Union mit Rom bis auf die Gegenwart (1598-1879) (Vienna, 1880), 612-634.

9 Dziennik Patriotycznych Polityków was not the first periodical in Galicia but the first Polish-language daily of the Crownland. Most of its content was political news. The authors tried to balance their sympathy for the Polish-Lithuanian Enlightenment with the loyalty to the Austrian government. Mykhailo Harasevych was the responsible editor of the daily, but the extent of his actual involvement remains unclear. See Maurycy Dzieduszycki, “Przeszłowieczny dziennik lwowski,” Przewodnik Naukowy i Literacki, Year 3 (1875), 33-51 and Halina Kozłowska, “Lwowski »Dziennik Patriotycznych Polityków« (1792-1798),” Zeszyty Naukowe Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego. Prace Historyczne, No 55 (1976), 79-111.

10 See for example his “Berichtigung der Umrisse zu einer Geschichte des religiösen und hierarchischen Zustandes der Ruthener, in den Nrn. 52, 53, 54, 56, 57 und 58. Von einem griech. kathol. Domkapitularen,” serialised in 1835 in the Ergänzungsblätter zur Oesterreichischen Zeitschrift für Geschichts- und Staatskunde. This was a critical response to an article by Mykhailo Malynovsʹkyi.

11 In 1809, in the course of the war of the fifth coalition, the army of the Napoleonic Duchy of Warsaw occupied Galicia. The interim military government sequestrated the property of the Greek Catholic church leaders and pressured them to actively support France against Austria. Unwilling to comply, Anhelovych and Harasevych attempted to flee across the Carpathians, but they were intercepted in the village of Senechiv near the Hungarian border. Ultimately, this part of Galicia remained under Austrian rule and the whole episode worked to the advantage of the Greek Catholic leadership, as it testified to their loyalty to the Habsburg emperor. See Mykhailo Harasevych, Annales Ecclesiae Ruthenae, 919- 934 and Pelesh, Geschichte der Union. Bd. 2, 875-881.

12 The Ruthenian elegy, “eben so volksthümlich als rührend”, must be Mykola Ustyianovych’s Sleza na grobe Ego Vysokoprepodobie i Vsechestniishago Gospodina Mikhaila Barona ot Neustern Garasevicha (for this particular title, heavily saturated with old Cyrillic characters, I use the simplified LoC romanisation of Church Slavonic). Written in Galician Ruthenian vernacular, it was printed by the press of the Stauropegion Institute, created by Joseph II on the basis of the early modern Lviv Dormition Brotherhood.

13 I have not been able to identify the other piece mentioned in this paragraph. The printing house responsible for its release belongs the Mekhitarists, a congregation of Armenian Catholic monks. They have two principal houses: one on the island of San Lazzaro in Venice, the other in Vienna.


This is not an academic text sensu stricto. Its goal is to disseminate knowledge and to stimulate public interest in our field. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of either PAN or NCN.

A vizioso miscuglio? 300 years since the Synod of Zamość

Three hundred years ago, on 17 September 1720, the last session of a Uniate synod concluded in St Nicholas Church in Zamość. This ecclesiastical body enacted statutes that continue to shape the Greek Catholic community and, as a consequence, our whole region until this very day.

Zamość in the seventeenth century: you can see the Uniate St Nicholas Church near the upper left bastion (which is actually southeast). Source: polona.pl

The Synod of Zamość, as it came down in history, crowned a long evolution of Poland-Lithuania’s Uniates (the name given to the Greek Catholics at that time) as an independent ecclesiastical community. This process started in the second half of the sixteenth century with attempts to reform and elevate the Ruthenian Orthodox Church, weakened by the competition from both Protestants and Catholics, the latter recently reinvigorated by the reforms of Trent. In 1596, hoping for a breakthrough, Poland-Lithuania’s Orthodox bishops accepted the terms of the 1439 Union of Florence and pledged allegiance to the pope in Rome, retaining their Byzantine-Slavonic rite and hierarchy. Many Orthodox Ruthenians saw this move as a betrayal of their faith and rejected the reforms. The fathers of the 1596 Union of Brest meant to provide a stimulus to Poland-Lithuania’s Eastern Christians as a whole and to enable them to flourish, but it instead led to internal strife and the eventual emergence of two competing denominations: the Uniates and the Orthodox.

Paradoxically, the calamities of seventeenth-century wars and the violent separation of the predominantly Orthodox Left-bank Ukraine allowed the Uniates to gain the upper hand in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Without the backing of the Orthodox Cossacks and nobles from across the Dnipro, Poland-Lithuania’s Eastern Christian churchmen drifted towards Uniate Catholicism; by the beginning of the eighteenth century the last Orthodox bishoprics had accepted the Union. Orthodox Christians survived in the Commonwealth only as a minority scattered in small pockets.

The Synod of Zamość convened in 1720 to regulate the situation of this newly victorious Uniate Church. A brainchild of the Kyiv Metropolitan Lev Kyshka, the assembly was presided by the Papal Nuncio Girolamo Grimaldi. Its significance for the Uniates is comparable to that of the Council of Trent for the Catholic Church as a whole. Just like the Milanese synods convened by Carlo Borromeo in the 1560s and 1570s, the Zamość Fathers created a sort of constitution that translated Trent’s general principles into local practice. In this way it stabilised the liturgical and institutional framework within which the Uniate Ruthenians functioned. Without entering here into the niceties of scholarly discussions, confessional polemics, and administrative scuffles that surround specific stipulations of the Synod, it cannot be denied that for better or worse, eighteenth-century Uniate Catholicism provided its adherents with a strong identity contrasting with those of its Orthodox and Latin Catholic competitors. 1

In 1787 Iraklii Lisovsʹkyi, a Uniate archbishop, who for political reasons looked down upon many traditions of his own Church, characterised the liturgical practices that had emerged in the aftermath of the Synod of Zamość as a vizioso miscuglio, or a corrupt mishmash (in Larry Wolff’s translation). Precisely this miscuglio, this organic blend of heterogeneous elements, constituted the differentia specifica of the Uniate community and endowed it with a viable identity of its own. In this way, the Uniate Church contributed decisively to the development of Poland-Lithuania’s Ruthenians as a separate group and, consequently, to shaping robust national identities among Ukrainians and Belarusians. This, as we can all see now, has been a matter of no small consequence.

Yet, despite its evident weight, the Synod of Zamość remains a curiosity remembered only by professional historians and church buffs. The wider public in both Poland and Ukraine, not to mention Belarus, virtually ignored the Synod’s three-hundredth anniversary. For example, during his state visit to Ukraine in October 2020, Poland’s president focused exclusively on the commemoration of twentieth-century events. The Covid pandemic cannot be blamed for the neglect of the Synod of Zamość, because the 1920 Polish victory over the invading Bolsheviks was nevertheless debated and celebrated in sundry ways. The same is true for the short-lived Ukrainian People’s Republic (UNR) of 1917-1920. Both these events are undeniably important, but it is hard to overlook the fact that they bore only very fleeting fruits. The peace treaty of Riga of 1921 was an eighteen-year truce, whereas the short-lived UNR is more of a symbol than anything else. In a contrast, the Synod of Zamość proved a victory with long-lasting political and cultural ramifications.

The nightmarish experience of the twentieth century has obscured our vision and deprived our societies of the sense of proportion. We have become, and not only in Eastern Europe, suffering junkies: we are addicted to savouring the violence and destruction inflicted upon our communities. Anything prior to 1914 seems to be a myth, good only for the youngest of pupils, while right-wing politicians and scholars of memory outdo each other in brandishing collective traumas of the past one hundred years.

17 September, the day on which the Synod of Zamość concluded its proceedings, is in fact one of the most recognisable anniversaries in Poland and Western Ukraine. On this day in 1939 Hitler’s Soviet allies dealt a death blow to the struggling Republic of Poland, opening Eastern Europe’s darkest hour. This is what we choose to remember. The Synod of Zamość, in turn, reinforced religious and national identities that no imperial power managed to erase or fully control. This we choose to forget.

Goodbye to all that. Here’s a toast to the Synod Fathers!


1 It is not possible to summarise here all the regulations of 1720, but I will mention some of the most characteristic ones to substantiate my claim about the Synod’s importance. According to the Orthodox critics, the Zamość resolutions sullied the Eastern Christian tradition with illicit grafts from the Latin Catholic Church. The general tenor of Zamość was to bring the Uniate Church more into line with Catholic doctrine and uses, but at the same time to maintain it as an autonomous body, as it was expressly stated that “it is certain that everyone has the duty to stick in this regard to their custom and to preserve the rite of their Church”. In some respects, the Synod actually pushed back the creeping grassroots Latinisation of Uniate practice, for example when it emphatically prohibited Uniate priests from using unleavened bread in the Eucharist.
The Synod reiterated the indispensability of filioque in the public profession of faith and demanded that popes be mentioned in church prayers. Under the influence of the Latin Catholic sensitivity, it provided for the strict treatment of all matters related to the Eucharist. Several Ruthenian traditions that endangered the purity of the Blessed Sacrament were abolished. For example, in accordance with one especially colourful custom, a newly baptised infant would dip its tongue in the Blood of Christ. The Synod Fathers resolved that this and similar uses had to be abandoned. In the same vein, they introduced to the Uniate calendar the feast of Corpus Christi, which celebrates the miracle of Eucharist. Pope Urban IV established this important holiday only in the second half of the thirteenth century, a couple of years after the expulsion of Latin Crusaders from Constantinople, the point of no return in the Catholic-Orthodox split. Even today Corpus Christi is one of the most prominent features setting Catholics apart from other Christian confessions. The Synod confirmed also the cult of the Blessed Josaphat Kuntsevych, while forbidding to venerate the medieval Orthodox mystic Gregory Palamas.
Despite the fact that such practices went against an older Eastern Christian tradition, the Fathers gathered in Zamość obliquely accepted the presence of side-altars and the possibility of celebrating more than one mass a day in Uniate churches. In the course of the seventeenth century Uniate clergy, following the example of Latin Catholics and motivated by several practical reasons, gradually introduced these innovations at the grassroots.
In accordance with the requirements of the Council of Trent, the Synod ordered that Uniate bishops establish diocesan seminaries, but they barely implemented this before the partitions of the Commonwealth. As a consequence, there was always a painful dearth of competent secular clergymen, which allowed the Basilian monks to virtually monopolise all the lucrative positions in the Uniate hierarchy. Instead of trying to remedy this awkward situation, the Fathers of Zamość resigned themselves to institutionalising the exclusive right of the Basilians to become bishops (this stipulation was highhandedly disregarded by the Austrian government after 1772). As for the Basilian monasteries of the Commonwealth, the Synod envisaged their unification into one congregation, which was indeed established in the early 1740s.
Finally, the Synod Fathers reinforced the importance of the Zamość statutes by demanding their publication in the vernacular and requiring every parish priest to get a copy. The latter stipulation was completely unrealistic in the circumstances of Poland-Lithuania’s Eastern Christian provinces; the former one was carried out in 1743 by the Metropolitan Atanasii Sheptyts’kyi who had the statutes published in Ruthenian. This edition soon became a rarity and only eighteen copies are known to have survived until today, but in the 1780s a Polish-language version appeared. The relative inaccessibilty of the Ruthenian translation of the statutes was alleviated to some extent by the immediate release of a popular catechism-style compendium in that language. [Note: An earlier version of this footnote mistakenly claimed that there was no Ruthenian translation of the synod statutes in the eighteenth century.]
To learn more about the Synod of Zamość and its consequences see the following works: Ludomir Bieńkowski, “Organizacja Kościoła Wschodniego w Polsce,” in Jerzy Kłoczowski, ed., Kościół w Polsce. II: Wieki XVI–XVIII (Cracow, 1969), 781-1049; Andrzej Gil & Ihor Skoczylas, Kościoły wschodnie w państwie polsko-litewskim w procesie przemian i adaptacji: metropolia kijowska w latach 1458-1795 (Lublin, 2014); Edward Likowski, Dzieje Kościoła unickiego na Litwie i Rusi w XVIII i XIX wieku: uważane głównie ze względu na przyczyny jego upadku. Cz. 1 (Warsaw, 1906); Przemysław Nowakowski CM, ed., Statuty synodu zamojskiego 1720 roku: Nowe tłumaczenie z komentarzami (Cracow, 2020); Przemysław Nowakowski CM, ed., Dziedzictwo synodu zamojskiego 1720-2020: Wyzwania i perspektywy (Cracow, 2021); Iuliian Pelesh, Geschichte der Union der ruthenischen Kirche mit Rom von den ältesten Zeiten bis auf die Gegenwart. Bd. 2, Von der Wiederstellung der Union mit Rom bis auf die Gegenwart (1598-1879) (Vienna, 1880); Ernst Christoph Suttner, “Die Synoden von Zamošč (1720) und Wien (1773) als prägende Ereignisse für die Unierten Polens und der Donaumonarchie,” Ostkirchliche Studien, Vol. 44 (1995), Issue 4, 273-291; Larry Wolff, Disunion within the Union: The Uniate Church and the Partitions of Poland (Cambridge, MA, 2020).


This is not an academic text sensu stricto. Its goal is to disseminate knowledge and to stimulate public interest in our field. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of either PAN or NCN.

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