The History of the Destruction of Russian Galicia

NEW – April 30, 2022

The Austrian authorities suspected Galicians and Rusyns-Russians of sympathising with Russia, and with the beginning of the First World War, they attacked “Russian spies and agents of influence”, although the Russians simply wanted to remain Russian. The fight against the “Russian threat” led to the genocide of Russians and the creation of the first concentration camp in Europe.

Russian Galicia

Galician-Volhynian Rus’ was divided between Poland and Lithuania. From the lands of the former Russian principality in Poland, the Russian Voivodeship was formed with the centre in Lvov, which was part of Lesser Poland. The Russian Voivodeship included the Lvov, Przemyśl, Galician, Kholm and Sanok regions. Also the Russian and Belz voivodeships in historical documents of the XV-XVIII centuries were often united under the conditional name Chervonnaya (Red) Rus’. Russian people lived on these lands. The population of Galicia, Bukovina, Transcarpathia called themselves the adjective “Rusky” or the noun “Rusiny”. No mythical “Ukrov-Ukrainians”.

During the First Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1772, Galicia was ceded to Austria. The capital of the new Austrian province, called the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, was appointed the city of Lvov. Under the third partition of Poland in 1795, Austria got the northern part of Galicia up to the Western Bug River, called Western Galicia. In Austria, there was religious tolerance, so Galician Russians were equal in rights with Catholics. During the Napoleonic Wars, Galicia temporarily became part of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, a satellite of France. When Napoleon was defeated, the Duchy of Warsaw was divided between Russia, Prussia, and Austria. Western Galicia was transferred to the Kingdom of Poland, which became part of the Russian Empire. The rest of Galician Russia remained part of Austria.


Foreign Rus’. Ethnographic map compiled by D. N. Vergun. 1915

The fight against Russianness in Galicia

As part of Austria and Austria-Hungary, Russian Galicia was subjected to Polonisation and Ukrainisation processes (through the Uniate Church). The Western Russian nobility largely became Polified and adopted Catholicism. To achieve a position in society, it was necessary to convert to Catholicism, to get Polified. But in general, the population remained Russian. Thus, at the congress of Galician-Russian scientists in 1848, the question was raised about studying the history of Galicia as part of the general history of Russia on the basis of the national unity of the Russian nation. The existence of a single literary language for the whole of Russia (from the Carpathians to Kamchatka) was confirmed. Rusyn leaders rejected the existence of a separate Ukrainian nation and considered the Malorossiyans, as well as the Galicians, to be one Russian nation.

Russophiles or “Moscowphiles” – public and political figures sympathetic to Russia, as well as ordinary people, pro-Russian organisations – were a significant force in Galician social life in the 1860s and 1880s. Rusyns looked to Russia as a possible liberator, which became especially noticeable after the success of the Russians in the fight against Turkey. The Galicians called their land “Rus under yoke” and secretly hoped that the Russian tsar would unite all of Russia.

It is clear that the Austrian government did not like this. The “patchwork empire” of the Habsburgs was afraid of Russia’s success in the Balkan direction, which led to the liberation of the Slavic peoples from Turkish power, and potentially from Austrian power. At first, the Austrian authorities in Galicia supported either the Poles or the Rusyns in order to maintain the balance of power. Then the Austrians developed Ukrainianism, mainly through uniatism. In fact, the Austrians continued the project “Ukraine”, created in Catholic Poland. The Galician governor, Count von Warthausen, informed the Rusyns in 1848 that they should renounce national unity with the Russians in Russia and develop their culture as an independent one. The Austrian authorities began to support the “Ukrainians”, those who broke with their Russian past. Ukrainians (they are also “true Galicians”) became a counterweight for the remaining Rusyns and Poles.

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On the one hand, Russian schools and Galician-Russian organisations were closed, and it was forbidden to study Russian. Instead of closed societies, others were opened, in particular, “Ukrainian” ones. The fight against the Russian literary language, Russian books, magazines and newspapers intensified, and their distribution was equated with high treason. Many Russian Galicians were arrested and thrown into prison. On the other hand, support for the Ukrainian movement increased. Under the auspices of the Austrians, a Ukrainian Party was created.

“Ukrainian Piedmont” – “AntiRussia”

After the Russian Empire realised the danger of Ukrainian ideology and began to restrict the Ukrainian language in the press (1860-1870s), the publication of Ukrainian literature began to move from Russia to Austria-Hungary, which turned into a kind of refuge for the Ukrainian intelligentsia. It is worth remembering that “Ukrainism” was then spread only among an extremely small, marginal, Ukrainian intelligentsia that had practically no influence on the people. This situation persisted until 1917. Among the nations, in Galicia, Poles and Rusyns-Russians predominated, and in Malorossiya-Ukraine – Russians-Malorossiyans. In Galicia itself, the majority were Poles and Jews in the western regions, while the majority were Rusyns in the eastern regions.

Therefore, by the end of the 19th century, Galicia began to be called the “Ukrainian Piedmont“, comparing it with the Kingdom of Sardinia (Piedmont), which played a leading role in the unification of Italy. Thus, the historian and one of the leaders of the Ukrainian movement M. S. Grushevsky, who in 1894 moved from Kiev to Lvov, noted that Galicia was “an advanced part of the Ukrainian nation, which has long overtaken poor Russian Ukraine.”

Russophobia became the ideology of the “Ukrainian Piedmont”.

“If we are talking about Ukraine,” wrote the Galician Ukrainians, “then we must use one word – hatred of its enemies… The rebirth of Ukraine is synonymous with hatred for his Moscow wife, for his Katsap children, for his Katsap brothers and sisters, for his Katsap father and mother. To love Ukraine means to sacrifice Katsap relatives.”

Ulyanov N. I. The origin of Ukrainian separatism.

Ukrainisers denied the unity of Malorossiyans (Ukrainians) with Velikorossiyans and promoted hatred of Russia. This suited the Viennese court. To spread this anti-Russian, misanthropic ideology, the authorities tried to appoint “Ukrainians” as teachers in schools and priests in Galician parishes. The Austrian authorities also contributed to the formation of an artificial language from local Russian dialects, later called “Ukrainian”. In addition, “Ukrainians” began to play the role of Austrian informers, policemen who fought against the Russophilism of the Galicians. This is how the “Ukraine – Anti-Russia” project began to take shape.

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However, in general, pro-Russian sentiments prevailed among the common people. Only the intelligentsia was infected with Ukrainism. Even about half of the Greek Catholic clergy and parishioners also identified themselves as Russophiles, despite aggressive pressure from the Catholic Church. In the run-up to World War II, the Austrian authorities increased pressure on the Russian population of Galicia, fearing that they would support the Russian army. In 1910, the Austrian authorities closed all pro-Russian organisations in Bukovina: “Society of Russian Women”, “Karpat”, “Russian Orthodox People’s House”, “Russian Orthodox Children’s Shelter”, “Russian Orthodox Reading Room”, “Russian Squad”. The fight against the “Russian threat” and espionage mania began.

In addition, during this period, the German Empire also showed interest in the “Ukrainian question”. The Second Reich planned to actively support the processes of separatism in Russia. In particular, there was a plan to create a “Ukrainian kingdom” under the Austro-German protectorate. Thus, the Germans wanted to dismember Russia and the Russian nation, to pit Russians against Russians. Austrian and German intelligence agencies began to finance and direct the activities of Ukrainian organisations. During the First World War, this activity was significantly intensified.

In the modern world, instead of Austria and Germany, the “Ukraine” project is supported by London, Washington and Brussels (with the participation of Paris and Berlin). But the ideology, plans and goals are still the same. The split of Russian civilisation (Rus-Russia), the Russian superethnos, the bleeding of Russians, their maximum exsanguination, and as a result – the complete solution of the “Russian question”.

Extermination of Russians in Galicia

The First World War was unsuccessful for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Russian army defeated the Austro-Hungarians and occupied Eastern Galicia and part of Bukovina. In the future, the Austro-Hungarian army was able to hold the front only with the help of German divisions. In Vienna, they panicked, espionage mania began, and they were looking for Russian agents of influence. They were blamed for the defeat at the front. Austrian intelligence and military field courts began a “hunt” for Russians in the remaining part of Galicia under their control. The authorities promised from 50 to 500 kronor to anyone who denounced a suspicious Russophile Rusyn.

The first to be hit were those who did not hide their positions and sympathies for Russia. Orthodox priests, activists of already banned pro-Russian organisations. People were grabbed simply because they used to read Russian newspapers and attend Orthodox services. The courts did not even examine the defendants’ cases. It was a time of war: they simply read out the charges of espionage, high treason, and pronounced a sentence. Extrajudicial killings, kidnappings and torture became commonplace. Poles and “Ukry” denounced the Rusyns, who were grabbed on suspicion of sympathising with Russia. Nothing is new under the moon. We see the same thing now in post-Soviet, pro-Western and nazi Ukraine.

In September 1914, Maksim Sandovich (Gorlitsky), an Orthodox priest, was executed in Gorlitsa. The priest was arrested in 1912, allegedly passing intelligence to the Russians. Sandovich and his associates were accused of Russophilism, teaching everyone the Russian language and promoting Orthodoxy. The trial is a Lvov process that lasted for two years. No evidence was found, and the defendants were acquitted. But soon the war and a new wave of repression began. Some were able to escape to Russia, others were sent to prisons and concentration camps, and Maksim Sandovich was executed. An Austrian soldier tore off his cross and chalked a target on the priest’s chest. As the members of the priest’s family who were present at the execution recalled, as his last words he said:

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“Long live the Russian nation! Long live the holy Orthodox faith!”

Maksim Gorlitsky

The first prisoners were brought to Thalerhof in September 1914, and the barracks were put up only in the winter of 1915. At first, it was just a patch of field in the foothills of the Alps, surrounded by barbed wire. People survived for six months in the open air, in rain and snow. Prisoners died en masse from disease and starvation. Torture was also practiced. The guards amused themselves by killing people. Prisoners were crucified on poles.

Vasily Vavrik, a former prisoner of Thalerhof, recalled:

“It was the cruelest dungeon of all the Austrian prisons in the Habsburg Empire… Death in Thalerhof was rarely natural: there it was inoculated with the poison of contagious diseases. Violent death strolled triumphantly through Thalerhof. There was no question of any treatment for the victims. Even doctors had a hostile attitude towards internees. There was no need to think about healthy food: tart bread, often raw and sticky, made from a mixture of the most vile flour, horse chestnuts and grated straw, red, hard, stale horse meat twice a week for a small piece, black-painted water, the most vile slop of rotten potatoes and beets, dirt, insect nests were everywhere. the cause of the unquenchable infection, the victims of which were thousands of young, still quite healthy people from among the peasantry and intelligentsia.”

Thus, the Austrian authorities organised genocide based on national and religious grounds. Russians and Orthodox Christians were killed, maimed, tortured and expelled in Galicia. The first to come under attack were representatives of the Russian intelligentsia, more or less educated people-priests, teachers, doctors, social activists, people who had influence in society. Galician Rus lost only tens of thousands of people killed. Tens, hundreds of thousands became refugees. The Russian movement in Galicia was almost completely defeated. Its remnants were finished off after the disaster of 1917, after the large-scale Austro-German occupation of Malorossiya-Ukraine, when the bacchanal of Ukrainism began, and then the Polish occupation. The terror was so devastating that today “Rusyns” in Ukraine remain only in Transcarpathia.

Since then, Galicia has become a stronghold of Ukrainian nationalism. The first poisonous fruits sprang up during the Second World War – the Galician SS, the Ukrainian punitive police, the occupation administration of the “eternal Reich”. The Red Army crushed the “black-brown plague”, but the roots remained. The “Ukraine-AntiRus” project was not liquidated. It went underground, “repainted”. Ukrainian nazism was fully revived and flourished in the years of independence. And now the Ukrainian “battering ram” has been pushed against Russia in order to destroy it, to definitively destroy Russians.

Mangled, sick, Russophobic and nazi Galicia, and now most of Malorossiya, is a great example of the future that the West has in store for us.


Aleksander Samsonov

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