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Editors: John Merriman and Jay Winter
Date: 2006
Europe 1789-1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire
Publisher: Charles Scribner's Sons
Document Type: Country overview
Pages: 5
Content Level: (Level 4)

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Page 2369


The history of Ukraine begins with Kiev (Kyïv). In the Early Middle Ages, Kiev was the center of Kievan Rus, a trading domain that became an Orthodox Slavic state. Its civilizational base was the Old Church Slavonic language, written in Cyrillic characters, and a law code recorded in a modified form of that language. By the time the Mongols arrived in 1241, Kievan Rus had already been divided into competing principalities. In the fourteenth century the Grand Duchy of Lithuania absorbed most of the territories now known as Belarus and Ukraine. Lithuania became a largely Orthodox country, and Orthodox culture and law migrated from Kiev to Vilnius. Galicia, a western duchy of Rus, was annexed by Poland in the 1340s. Poland and Lithuania established a personal union in 1386. In 1569, when Poland and Lithuania established a Commonwealth, Ukrainian lands were transferred from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to the kingdom of Poland. This created a new boundary among the lands that had once been Rus, between Belarus (which remained in Lithuania) and Ukraine (now in Poland).


Between 1569 and 1648 Polish rule animated Ukrainian civilization, but also provoked Ukrainian opposition. Reacting to the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, Ukrainian clerics published books and established academies, most importantly in Kiev. Ukrainian and Belarusian bishops initially supported the Union of Brest of 1596, which was designed to preserve the Eastern Christian rite within the Catholic Church. The church thus established was known as Uniate, and later Greek Catholic. This transformation was incomprehensible to the peasantry, which was increasingly exploited by a "second serfdom." The Cossacks, a native Ukrainian group of free warriors and fighters, constituted an important segment of the Polish army. As they were not noble, they could not take part as equals in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, a republic of nobles. In 1648 one of their number, Bohdan Khmelnytsky organized a rebellion against Polish rule. Cossacks and peasants murdered Poles and Jews, and Ukrainian peasants were murdered in their turn by Polish landlords.

As the war turned against the Cossacks, Khmelnytsky solicited help from Muscovy at Pereyaslav in 1654. Ukrainian Cossacks then fought with Muscovite armies against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, beginning the period in Polish history known as the Deluge. The Commonwealth conceded to Muscovy left-bank Ukraine (east of the Dnieper [Dnipro] River) and the city of Kiev, in a peace accord of 1667. Whereas Kiev had shared its medieval Christian achievements with Vilnius, it now imparted its renaissance and baroque attainments to Moscow. Kievan churchmen provided the reservoir of learning and ambition for Tsar Peter's reform of the Orthodox Church and spread European learning in Muscovy. The Cossacks, having freed themselves from Polish rule, tried to assert Polish-style rights for themselves within the Russian Empire. They also wished to preserve theirPage 2370  |  Top of Article own administration, known as the hetmanate, in left-bank Ukraine. Their ideas of reform clashed with those of Catherine II (r. 1762–1796), who wished to create a uniform state. She abolished the hetmanate in 1764.

The Cossacks made their case in Catherine the Great's legislative commission (1767–1768), referring as ever to the traditional rights of nobles in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Yet Catherine had little need for groups of warriors living in an ill-defined relationship to central authorities. Military victories over the Ottoman Empire and the Russian annexation of the Crimea revealed that the Cossacks were of relatively little importance in war. The Zaporozhian Cossacks, free men living to the east of the old hetmanate, were eliminated by a Russian surprise attack in 1775. In 1781 Ukraine was divided, along with the rest of the empire, into provinces. In 1786 Ukrainian Orthodox dioceses were secularized, as were Russian dioceses before them. The Kiev Academy, which had taught a classical curriculum in Polish and Latin, was abruptly made into a theological school with Russian as the language of instruction. Conscription was introduced in 1789, ending any possibility for the creation of local fighting forces.

Catherine's state building, despite appearances, had much to offer the Cossack elite. Cossack officers became members of the Russian dvorianstvo (according to the 1785 Charter to the Nobility). As such they were able to press claims to own land and peasants. Ukrainian peasants became serfs, and the Jews were expelled from Kiev. With the creation of a state administration Cossack officers and their descendants found new opportunities for careers in the provincial capitals and indeed in St. Petersburg. In the last three decades of the eighteenth century, Ukrainian families filled the ranks of the Russian civil service and essentially dominated the (nonforeign) intellectual classes. They arrived in the Russian capital as Russia was partitioning Poland out of existence, in 1772, 1793, and 1795. The partitions brought right-bank Ukraine, west of the river Dnieper, into the Russian Empire. Of the old lands of Kievan Rus, only Galicia remained outside Russia, annexed in the partitions by Austria. As the nineteenth century began, almost the entirety of Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire.


As in Europe as a whole, so in Russia the extension of imperial rule coincided with the emergence of local patriotism. Kharkov University, founded in 1805, was intended to anchor Ukraine in Russia and transmit European scholarship throughout the empire. It served this purpose, but with the French Enlightenment it also brought German philosophy. Kharkov, perhaps the most important Ukrainian city at this time, was east of the old hetmanate, and can in no way be seen as directly transmitting Cossack traditions. Instead, scholars and students sought, like Romantics throughout Europe, to seize upon what was local and authentic, counterposing implicitly or explicitly tradition to progress. Taras Shevchenko (1814–1861), the greatest Ukrainian Romantic poet, drew from Polish and Russian models as he created a uniquely Ukrainian idiom. In 1846 the publication of the Istoriia Rusov (History of the Rus people) revealed the potential political implications of Romanticism. It treated the Cossacks, not Muscovy, as the true people of Rus, and the Russian Empire as an interloper in the heartland of the Slavs.

In the nineteenth century, left-bank and right-bank Ukraine were very different. In right-bank Ukraine, west of the Dnieper, Polish nobles remained the dominant class, despite the destruction of Poland itself. It was precisely in right-bank Ukraine that the early modern Polish system revealed itself in its most extreme form: a small number of Roman Catholic landlords owned vast estates and huge numbers of serfs. In some cases Polish families owned territories as large as small countries, and hundreds of thousands of serfs. In this system, Jews mediated between those who owned the land and those who worked it, between Polish lords and Ukrainian serfs. Although there were far more landless Polish nobles than there were great lords, and many more Polish peasants, those who stood atop the system were Poles. Precisely because this arrangement was so profitable, relatively few important Polish families joined in the Polish uprising of 1830 to 1831 against Russian rule.

Polish nobles in right-bank Ukraine nevertheless confronted a harsher Russian policy once the uprising had been defeated. The Commission on National Education, which had organized Polish-language schooling, was liquidated. The famousPage 2371  |  Top of Article lycée in Krzemieniec was closed, its priceless library of thirty-four thousand volumes (which included the collections of the Royal Palace in Warsaw) sent to Kiev. About two-thirds of the Roman Catholic monasteries in left-bank Ukraine were liquidated after 1831. In 1840 the Lithuanian Statute was annulled, on the grounds that it was alien to Russian traditions. Here was the great irony of modernization. The first Lithuanian Statute (1529) flowed from the traditions of Kievan Rus. In form and in content, in language and in law, it represented an unbroken tradition of the Eastern Slavs. The Russian Empire, which claimed to be the inheritor of such traditions, liquidated them instead.

In left-bank Ukraine, St. Petersburg had confronted for decades the problem of "surplus" Polish nobles, men without means who clung nevertheless to their noble status. In the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, some very high percentage of the population, perhaps 10 percent, had been noble. Noble status required neither the ownership of land nor service to the state. Like the Cossacks of the right bank a few decades before, the petty nobles of the left bank referred to ancient rights, with the distinction that they and their families had indeed enjoyed such rights under the Commonwealth. After 1831, Russia moved to eliminate this troublesome group, which so ill fit the Russian notion of nobility. In the two decades after 1831, some 340,000 nobles were "declassified," leaving a total of perhaps 70,000 Polish nobles in left-bank Ukraine. Of these, only about 7,000 possessed great estates. Russian policy thus distorted further an already extremely exploitative society. Polish landholders then used Russian property law to expel poorer brethren from land they had tilled for centuries.

In their own way, these few Polish landlords preserved Polishness in these terrains, although it was an image of Polishness that denied all modern democratic ideas and could only provoke the local peasantry. St. Petersburg occasionally tried to use the Ukrainian peasantry against Polish landlords. Peasants who were encouraged by imperial promises, however, then had to be quelled by imperial soldiers. The abolition of serfdom in 1861 was received differently by Ukrainian peasants than by those in Russia: the Ukrainian peasants wished to receive their own individual plots. They did not in any case receive enough land to truly prosper, and did not understand that land reform would also mean the loss of rights to traditional use of common land. Polish landlords held their own against this pressure and against others. They circumvented Russian legislation banning the sale of land to Poles by leasing it to Jews. They deterred Russians from settling by humiliating them socially. They began small-scale industrial projects such as sugar beet refineries.

Over the course of the nineteenth century Kiev became a center of Ukrainian national society and Ukrainian intellectual life. The annexation of the right bank placed Kiev squarely between Russia's eastern and western Ukrainian territories. Kiev was a provincial capital, and increasingly a port of call for traders. It was a city that spoke Russian, Polish, and Yiddish rather than Ukrainian, but it was the center of hopes for those who began to think of Ukraine as a future political home. Like other university towns in imperial Russia, it became the center of a populist movement. In Ukraine, however, populism took on a particularly national character. Populists of Polish and Russian origin, when they "went to the people," realized that Ukrainian culture could not be reduced to Polish or Russian models. Some Polish students felt that their families had subjected peasants to both social and national exploitation. Some of them, such as the populist historian Volodymyr Antonovych, took up a Ukrainian identity themselves.

Especially after the Polish uprising of 1863 to 1864, Russian authorities assimilated the Ukrainian national question to a Polish plot. When the publication of books in Ukrainian and the use of the Ukrainian language were banned in the 1860s, this was a response to a perceived Polish threat. Ukrainian intellectuals, obviously, bore the brunt of this repression. Important scholars chose immigration, thereby transferring the ideas of Kharkov and Kiev farther west. In this way, in the 1870s, Ukrainian populist scholars animated a Ukrainian national movement in Austria, in the eastern portion of Austria's province of Galicia. Antonovych's student Mykhailo Hrushevsky, for example, was hired by Austrian authorities to teach east European history at the university in Lemberg in 1894. In Austria, starting in 1898, he published his

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Ukrainian peasants at a market, Mukacheve, Ukraine, c. 19081914. SCHEUFLER COLLECTIONCORBIS Ukrainian peasants at a market, Mukacheve, Ukraine, c. 1908–1914. ©SCHEUFLER COLLECTION/CORBIS

ten-volume masterpiece, A History of Ukraine-Rus. This foundational work of Ukrainian history was based on ideas developed and research completed in the Russian Empire, but could be published only beyond its boundaries. At the end of the nineteenth century Austria became the center of the Ukrainian national movement.


The eastern half of Austrian Galicia was perhaps 65 percent Ukrainian in population, but such numbers mattered only when church and secular leaders began to attend to the peasantry. The most important institution of the Ukrainian national revival in Galicia, the Greek Catholic Church, was designed to serve entirely different purposes. The Greek Catholic Church was the old Uniate Church, created in 1596 at Brest by Orthodox bishops who wished to preserve their Eastern rite in an institutional union with Rome. Although the Uniate solution never supplanted traditional Orthodoxy, the Uniate Church survived (paradoxically) as a separate institution. The partitions of Poland left most Uniate believers in the Russian Empire, but a considerable number in Austrian Galicia. While St. Petersburg merged the Uniate Church with the Russian Orthodox Church, Vienna preserved the church but changed its name to the Greek Catholic Church. Austrian Empress Maria Theresa meant to underline thereby that the church was the equal of the Roman and Armenian Catholic Churches in Galicia, and emphasize the distinction from Orthodoxy.

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Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the Greek Catholic Church was loyal to the Habsburgs and faithful to traditions of Polish high culture. While a few of its priests experimented with Ukrainian lexicons and folklore, the church itself was hostile to such undertakings. In 1848 Austrian authorities called upon the Greek Catholic Church to help quell the revolution, in which Poles were taking part. Ukrainian peasants, dominant in numbers, were to frighten Polish nobles who requested home rule. This achieved, Vienna ignored the Greek Catholic hierarchy, which was disappointed to find the loyalty of its flock unrewarded. A fascination with Russia ensued, because Russia could present itself as an alternative to both Austria and Poland. After Polish nobles succeeded in gaining autonomy for themselves in Galicia in the late 1860s, the attraction of Russia as a counterweight increased. Greek Catholic Russophiles developed an ideology of themselves as a member of the family of Russian nations, writing in a mixture of Ukrainian, Old Church Slavonic, and Russian.

In the last decades of the nineteenth century, the reform of the Austrian electoral system rewarded those who could communicate directly with voters in their own language. The secular sons and daughters of priests realized that democracy required new kinds of political organization. Ukrainian populism imported from Russia played an important role in the articulation of a new secular politics. Ivan Franko, the most important of the new generation of activists, was greatly influenced by Mykhailo Drahomanov, a Ukrainian populist who had lost his professorship in Kiev. As in Russia, some of the important figures were converts from the Polish nation. Andrii Sheptytsky, the Ukrainian who turned the Greek Catholic Church into a popular national institution, was born a Pole and a Roman Catholic. He ascended to the metropolitan see of Galicia in 1900. In the early years of the twentieth century, Ukrainian national activists competed with Polish nationalists and socialists for political influence in a Galicia that was governed by the Polish nobility on behalf of the Habsburg dynasty.

The successive enlargement of the franchise and the freedom to publish in national languages favored the development of a Ukrainian-Polish national competition, one that sharpened skills and sensitivities on both sides in the early years of the twentieth century. Ukrainian parties that allied with Polish or Jewish rivals for tactical reasons displayed the experience gained from sophisticated national politics. Nothing similar could take place in the Russian Empire of the early twentieth century. During the Russian Revolution of 1905, Ukrainian demands were limited to autonomy. Before World War I, very few Ukrainians in the Russian Empire advocated national independence. Galician Ukrainian activists regarded "Great Ukraine," the lands to the east in Russia, as part of a future united state. The Russian census had revealed to them the vast domains of the Ukrainian population to their east. Their goal was national unity, as achieved earlier by the Italians and the Germans, as planned for also by the Poles. Galicia was seen as the first and crucial land of a general national revival.


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Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3446900850