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Galicia, Revolution

Galicia, Revolution was directly influenced by the outbreak of the revolution in Vienna on March 13, 1848. On March 15 groups of urban proletariat, artisans and students in Cracow began to gather at the gates of local prisons demanding freedom for political prisoners; representatives of the aristocracy and bourgeoisie persuaded the commissioner Maurycy Deym to release the prisoners in order to avoid an outbreak of the revolution; releasing of the prisoners was accompanied by the general enthusiasm of the society. On March 18 a national committee [Komitet Narodowy] was established in Cracow, headed by Józef Krzyzanowski; on March 18 demonstrations also took place in the capital of Galicia, Lviv; in both cities national guards were formed, as well as academic legions; the national guard in Cracow was headed by Piotr Moszynski a landowner from Volhynia, who represented the interests of the local nobility; in Lviv by two journalists: Jan Dobrznski and Jozef Dzierzkowski. Similar to the events of 1846, the society was divided into those representing the interests of the aristocracy, nobility and rich bourgeoisie; and those representing workers, artisans and the urban proletariat. While the first group considered the national guard as a military force able to prevent attacks against noble manors, the other considered it as a Polish military cadre that would support Polish troops in the kingdom in case of an all-Polish uprising. The peasants treated national manifestations with distrust, since the nobility participated, but they supported abolition of the corvée. Following the Czech example, on March 18-19 an address to the emperor was prepared by two lawyers, Franciszek Smolka and Florian Ziemialkowski, demanding a far reaching Polish national authority, civil liberties, Polish language in schools and offices, freedom of the press, abolition of the corvee, and an amnesty; in Lviv alone (70,000 inhabitants), about twelve thousand people signed the address, including Poles, Ruthenians and Jews. On March 19 the address was presented to the governor of Galicia, Count Franz Stadion; the next day prisoners were released. On March 26, without waiting for the governor's response, a deputation led by Prince Jerzy Lubomirski, left for Vienna to deliver the address to the emperor. Under the influence of the revolutionary atmosphere and of the representatives of the national committee from Poznań, the Galician deputation modified the address: instead of a claim for political autonomy for Galicia, it appealed to the emperor to cancel the treaties of the partitions of Poland, to restore an independent Polish state, and to begin a war against Russia, which would be supported by all Poles. On April 6 the address was presented to Emperor Ferdinand I; at an audience he received only Prince Lubomirski with a small group of delegates and fobbed them off with declarations of his friendliness to the Poles and with promises to give his response to the address through his ministers. This promise, however, was never kept and the members of the Polish deputation one by one came back to Galicia without ministerial declarations; several members who remained in Vienna tried to carry on negotiations with the Austrian government; finally the response to the Polish address came on May 29 from the minister of internal affairs, Franz von Pillersdorf; referring to the constitution of April 25, 1848 which, according to him, satisfied most of the Polish demands, he refused his consent to create national committees and Polish military forces in Galicia.

The revolutionary events of 1848 mobilized not only Polish, but also Ruthenian patriots in Galicia. The Polish address of March 19 did not mention the existence of the Ruthenian nationality in Galicia; consequently, on April 19, at the initiative of Governor Stadion, a group of Uniate dignitaries announced an adulatory address to the emperor asking him for protection against Polish suppression; their requests were limited to language rights and made no reference to the peasant question. On May 2 the Supreme Ruthenian Council [Holovna Ru'ska Rada] was established with the approval of Stadion and under the leadership of bishop Hryhorii Iakhymovych; soon affiliated Ruthenian councils were established throughout Galicia. Their program was included in a manifesto of May 10 and contradicted claims of the Polish National Council to treat Galicia as a whole; in a memorandum of July 17 (and later of October 28) the Ruthenians demanded the division of Galicia into an eastern (Ruthenian) and a western (Polish) part. The National Council in Lviv attempted to counterbalance the Supreme Ruthenian Council with a Ruthenian Assembly [Rus'kyy Sobor], established on May 23 and consisting of Poles of Ruthenian origin, ready to cooperate with the Poles; the attempt proved unsuccessful; the "awakening" of the Ruthenian nation in Galicia was an accomplished fact. In the meantime, on April 13 a National Council [Rada Narodowa] was founded in Lviv in order to hamper Stadion's reactivation of the Galician Sejm; provincial civic councils were also established all over Galicia in support of the National Council in Lviv. The Austrian administration on the one hand, and the Cracow Committee and the Lviv Council on the other, struggled to gain the support among the peasantry. To hamper a voluntary renouncement of the corvée among the Polish landowners, on April 5 governor Station issued a disposition in which he requested that the landowners who renounce the corvée should have their estates free of debts, the renouncement of the corvée should be unconditional and approved by the district; this made legal abolition of the corvée practically impossible since almost all Galician manors had mortgaged titles; moreover, unconditional abolition of the corvée meant that the landlords would lose their right to the ownership of woods and pastures, and to compensations.

On the night of April 5-6 a group of representatives of the Polish Democratic Society arrived in Cracow and issued an appeal to Polish landowners to abolish the corvée on Easter Sunday ( April 23); it warned that otherwise the Austrian government would take over an initiative which might cause a "bloody reaction of the people"; a similar appeal was issued by the Lviv national council. As a result, before April 22 in 5-10% of the villages the corvée was abolished by the landowners. Without waiting for Easter Sunday, on April 22 Stadion announced the abolition of the corvée in Galicia in the name of the Austrian government, although without its approval; the patent for Galicia outmarched an analogous act for other provinces of the monarchy, which was announced on September 7, 1848. By issuing the patent Stadion made the Galician peasants believe that their real benefactor was the Austrian emperor, rather than the Polish democrats; on the other hand, he made the nobility dependent on himself in their efforts to obtain the most favorable conditions of the abolition of the corvée in order to secure their interests, the nobility founded a Landowners' Society [Stowarzyszenie Ziemianskie] and a Privy Council [Beirat] at the Governor.

In the meantime in Cracow the activists from the Polish Democratic Society made preparations for an all-Polish uprising. In order to hamper this action, subprefect of Cracow, Krieg, introduced an embargo on the production of arms, and prohibited emigrants (considered the main cadre of the future uprising) to enter Galicia. As a result, the Cracow mob moved on to the building of the subprefecture, demolished its offices, and forced Krieg to withdraw his decisions; consequently, on April 26 the Austrian troops began to de-militarize the inhabitants of Cracow; during a confiscation of the arms prepared for the national guard in Cracow, it came to riots with many dead and wounded; the Austrian general Castiglioni ordered his troops to retreat to the castle on the Wawel hill and began a bombardment of the city. Under the pressure of the city notables, both national committee and national guard were dissolved, and the emigrants expelled.

After the collapse of the revolution in Cracow, Lviv remained the center of the revolutionary movement in Galicia. The political right was struggling with the radicals over the leadership of the national council: while the first advocated a compromise with the Austrian authorities; the others did not want to give up the idea of independence. The news of the collapse of the October uprising in Vienna made the suppression of the revolution in Galicia only a question of time. An outbreak of street fighting, possibly a provocation, made the Austrian troops bomb Lviv on November 2; the city capitulated; the national guard and all Polish organizations were dissolved and a state of siege of Galicia was announced.

After the collapse of the revolution there still existed an underground revolutionary movement in Cracow led by Julian Goslar as a part of a broad, mid-European revolutionary concept assuming the participation of urban plebs and the military. The conspiracy was discovered by the Austrian authorities and Goslar was arrested and executed in 1852.

The suppression of the revolution in Galicia contributed to the collapse of the idea of an all-Polish national uprising and to the reluctance to trust a leading role to the Polish politicians on emigration; further, it caused an outflow of Polish youth abroad and was the main reason for the passivity of the Polish society during the Crimean War.

Jolanta T. Pekacz


S. Kieniewicz, Pomiedzy Stadionem a Goslarem. Sprawa wloscianska w Galicji w 1848 r. Ossolineum, 1980.

M. Tyrowicz, Galicja od pierwszego rozbioru do Wiosny Ludow Ossolineum, 1956.

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