The Polish-West Ukrainian Conflict Over East Galicia in 1918−1919

Yves here. Europeans, and arguably even more so eastern Europeans, are acutely aware of their national and ethnic histories. This short Polish-Ukrainian conflict in east Galacia played a key role in souring relations between the people in the two areas.

By Dr. Vladislav B. Sotirovic, Ex-University Professor, Research Fellow at the Centre for Geostrategic Studies, Belgrade, Serbia (

The Eastern Portion of Europe and the End of WWI

The end of WWI resulted in significant changes to the political boundaries of Central, East, and South-East Europe. Due to the extent of these changes and the newly born regional wars over the land distribution that erupted in several mini-regions in the eastern portion of Europe, it was to take around five to six years before new borders between the states were finally established and stabilized at least up to 1938.

The political transformation of the eastern portion of Europe after 1918 was a direct result of the collapsing both the German Second Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire during the last months of 1918, as well as the unsettled western borders of the ex-Russian Empire (collapsed in 1917) which still was involved into the revolution and civil war.

Most of the boundary changes in this half of Europe after WWI were direct result of decisions reached by the Entente powers (Allied and Associated Powers during WWI) at the Paris Peace Conference that began in early 1919 resulting in five peace treaties, named after the castles outside Paris where they have been finally signed. Each of these peace treaties was dealing in part, but in some cases entirely, with states in Central Europe. That was the case, for instance, with Poland which was in the post-WWI military-political conflict with the West Ukrainian nationalists over the land of East Galicia.

The state borders of post-WWI Poland were decided by the Paris Peace Conference by three means: 1) Through decisions of the Council of Ambassadors; 2) Plebiscites held under Entente direction; and 3) By the result of the war with West Ukraine and Bolshevik Russia.

For Poland, the final settlement of its eastern borders became the most complex. In fact, the first boundary problem became Galicia or more precisely East Galicia where Poles went to open war with Ukrainians.

On November 1st, 1918, when the rule of Austria-Hungary finally collapsed in the region, local Ukrainian nationalistic leaders proclaimed the independence of the West Ukrainian National (People’s) Republic. This new state claimed the whole of East Galicia (eastward from the San River with Lwów) to be Ukrainian followed by North Bukowina and Carpathian Rus’.

However, these territorial claims became immediately challenged by local Poles who fought all over Galicia to be united with the post-WWI Poland. Consequently, the result was a Polish-Ukrainian War that lasted from November 1918 until the summer of 1919, when the Galician-West Ukrainian military detachments were expelled from East Galicia which finally became a part of the interwar Poland.

East Galicia and Central Powers

The land of East Galicia was before WWI included in Austria-Hungary (Austrian part) having mixed ethnic composition (as a majority of the provinces of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy at the time). East Galician population before WWI was almost 5 million: a majority of it was “Ukrainians” (3,1 million), Poles (1,1 million), and Jews (620,000) followed by several other small ethnolinguistic communities. The Ukrainians (whatever this ethnic term meant at that time) had population domination in the countryside (villages), but the towns and cities were inhabited by the Polish and Jewish majorities.

It was in general tolerant policy by Vienna toward national minorities which resulted in Ukrainian, Polish, and Jewish political and national organizations existing side by side in peace.

Ukrainian national organizations had been struggling to defend their own ethnic-regional autonomy and to strengthen Ukrainian national identity among the local Slavic people. However, the reality on the ground was not so favorable for Ukrainian national propaganda.  The intelligentsia which was accepting the Ukrainian ethnolinguistic identity, so it had been quickly progressing with them. But on other hand, an overwhelming number of the peasantry (majority of the population of East Galicia) was not receptive to Ukrainian national identity’s propaganda.

Another factor was that both ethnic Poles and Jews had clear domination over the areas of education, culture, regional economy, and civil administration. The Poles regarded the city of Lwów/Lvov/Lemberg/L’viv (which was the crucially important settlement in East Galicia) as one of the most important cities of Polish culture and nation following Cracow, Warsaw, and Wilno/Vilnius.

During WWI (1914−1918), the Central Powers but especially Germany stubbornly supported Ukrainian national identity, nationalism, and national goals – all of them directed against Russia and Russian national interests.

On February 9th, 1918 in Brest-Litovsk it was signed the peace treaty between one hand the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire) and the Ukrainian People’s Republic (the UPR) – Brotfrieden in German (“Bread Peace”). The peace treaty ended the war in East Galicia and recognized the sovereignty of the UPR.

One of the most important points of this peace treaty was that the victorious Central Powers promised Ukraine some territories which included the Kholm region (populated by the Polish-speaking majority) as well as. It was also a secret initiative to transform both provinces of Bukovina and East Galicia into a crownland of Austria-Hungary (Austrian part). But the plan became soon extremely problematic . The Poles opposed it insisting on the indivisibility of the whole of Galicia in which they would have a dominance. In other words, for the Poles, the pro-Ukrainian policy of the Central Powers during WWI and especially in 1918 was not only anti-Russian but even more anti-Polish. Therefore, due to the policy of Berlin regarding the Ukrainian Question in 1918 the interethnic conflict between Poles and Ukrainians became, in fact, unavoidable.

The Conflict

In the autumn of 1918 during the collapse of the Danube Monarchy (Austria-Hungary), national workers of several ethnic groups within the monarchy had been preparing plans for the creation or re-establishment of their own (united) national states after the war. That was the case as well as with the Polish politicians in Galicia who wanted to include the whole region of Galicia (Western and Eastern) into the united national state of the Polish people. However, the Ukrainian political workers from West Galicia opposed such a Polish idea and on the night of November 1st, 1918 organized a coup. As a result, helped by Ukrainian national units, they succeeded in occupying Lvov and other cities in East Galicia. At the same time, they proclaimed the West Ukrainian People’s Republic as an independent Ukrainian state. The Poles of Lvov (being a majority of the city) were taken by surprise but organized a military defense (including schoolchildren) and soon expelled Ukrainian forces from the biggest part of the city. Nevertheless, in other cities of East Galicia, the Ukrainians had the greatest success, except in the city of Przemyśl/Peremyshl. Polish troops made advances in other cities in the western portions of East Galicia but on the other hand, Poland failed in several attempts to resolve this Polish-Ukrainian conflict by arbitration. In other words, before Poland proclaimed its own independence on November 11th, 1918, the war between Polish and Ukrainian forces already was going on over East Galicia and its most important city – Lvov.

The Polish armed forces expelled the Ukrainian military from Lvov on November 22nd, 1918. However, Lvov was under siege including constant firing by the Ukrainian military until April 1919 (five months). Nonetheless, immediately after the Ukrainian forces were drone away from Lvov, it happened the pogroms against the Jews in which up to 80 people died. The issue was that the local Pols accused the Jews of supporting the Ukrainian side regarding the destiny of Lvov. Especially, the Jewish paramilitary units being armed by the Ukrainian side have been accused by the Poles of anti-Polish policy in the city.

During the war between the Polish and Ukrainian forces over East Galicia in 1918−1919, the Polish side was gradually winning over the enemy. For the Ukrainian side in the conflict, the crucial problem was that the West Ukrainian political-military leaders did not succeed in mobilizing the biggest part of the Ukrainian peasantry for their course as the peasants have been much more involved in their economic than the political interests of existence. Another problem/question is how much they have felt themselves as “Ukrainians” at all in order to fight against the Poles. In such a political situation, in order to attract the peasants for the Ukrainian course, the Ukrainian nationalists tried to make use of some social-economic slogans and, therefore, promised the peasantry an agricultural reform after the war –distribution of land (the same have been propagating the Russian Bolsheviks at the same time). Nevertheless, the Ukrainian nationalists used all means of force for the reason to mobilize the peasants of West Ukraine for the Ukrainian military to fight Poles in East Galicia.

The Mediation by Entente

After the Great War, in 1919 the Entente powers attempted to mediate in this Polish-Ukrainian war with the final purpose to bring the war to an end as quickly as possible taking into account the post-war peace conference in Paris and around castles. In fact, what they preferred was a priority of the fight against Russian Bolshevism and, therefore, the Polish-Ukrainian War was simply weakening the European forces against the potentially aggressive policy of the Bolsheviks who at that time supported all kinds of the left revolutions in Central Europe. In other words, this war occurring on the borders with the Bolshevik Russia was preventing the creation of a united anti-Bolshevik Polish-Ukrainian front which could block eventual aggression of Europe by Lenin’s Red Army. The first practical move by the Entente forces concerning the making of peace between Ukrainian and Polish military forces occurred in February 1919 when a special French-led military commission negotiated both a truce and a demarcation line between Poland and Ukraine. According to this proposal, the city of Lvov and the oil region to the south around Boryslav had to go to Poland. In other words, some 2/3 of East Galicia would be included in West Ukraine.

The Entente’s commission also decided that the West Ukrainian People’s Republic was a failed state – not a viable one. The real reason for such a conclusion was the fact that the East Galician movement of independence was based only on an extremely tiny stratum of intelligentsia without massive support by the people especially in the countryside. The Ukrainian nationalists and politicians in order to attract the local peasants of East Galizia promised them alongside the agrarian reform as well as houses and castles of Lvov. However, it happened that the West Ukrainian national fighters lost control over the peasant movement they had themselves inspired.

As a matter of fact, the Polish leaders involved in the conflict accepted (half-heartedly) the set of peace-meal conditions required by the Entente commission. However, the same conditions Ukrainian leaders rejected and, automatically, ended the previously agreed Polish-Ukrainian truce. As a consequence, the Ukrainian armed forces on March 10th, 1919 started a new offensive to occupy the city of Lvov which soon collapsed just after the following ten days. In essence, that became a real turning point in the 1918−1919 Polish-Ukrainian War over East Galicia and the making of a final border between newly re-established Poland and newly to-be-formed Ukraine. Nevertheless, from mid-March 1919, that was Poles who took the military and political initiatives over the Ukrainians. Basically, it became obvious that the Ukrainian side would lose the war against Poland concerning East Galicia and the city of Lvov. During the night between April 14/15th, 1919, the Poles launched a fruitful attack resulting in Lvov not anymore at the distance of firing the city by Ukrainian artillery fire. The Polish offensive was so successful that in May 1919 Poles took several other East Galician cities (Stanislawów in Polish or Ivano-Frankivsk in Ukrainian) – that was at that time the headquarters of the Ukrainian political and military authorities.

At the very beginning of June 1919, West Ukrainian military detachments were in control of only several areas of East Ukraine. What happened, was pressure by the Entente commission on the Polish side to stop further offensive, and the bilateral truce negotiations between Poland and Ukraine were renewed. Nevertheless, West Ukrainian leaders did not respect the truce agreement and suddenly started an offensive on June 7th, 1919 with the result of recapturing some areas of East Galicia from the Polish side. Therefore, Poles blamed Ukrainians for the prolongation of the military conflict in and over East Galicia to such an extent that Entente states were compelled to send a commission to the city of Lvov for the sake to do investigation regarding serious complaints about crimes against the civil population in the city committed, in fact, by both sides. The commission finally did not find relevant evidence of Polish war crimes but, oppositely, a lot of cases of war crimes were done by the Ukrainian side. What is of probably crucial importance to emphasize here is the fact that the commission found a very enthusiastic reception of the Polish troops by the city dwellers as liberators against the terror of the “Ukrainian bands”.

The commission composed of the representatives of the Entente powers in order to finally solve the problem of East Galicia proposed that the whole territory of this region be occupied by the Polish troops and, in fact, consequently, included in the post-WWI Polish national state. For that reason, the Council of Foreign Ministers in Paris on June 25th, 1919 gave open permission to the Polish government in Warsaw to launch a new military offensive in East Galicia for the final purpose of expelling all West Ukrainian military detachments from the region and occupy the same completely. It was agreed that the Haller Army (armed in France) to be sent to Poland and deployed in the struggle against the communist units. For Eastern Galicia, autonomy had to be given within Poland, and the final decision on the status of East Galicia would be decided by referendum (but organized by the Polish authorities).

Finally, the Polish army led by Piłsudski himself, on July 2nd, 1919 started its decisive military attack against West Ukrainian military troops and succeeded in expelling them from the complete territory of East Galicia. Up to July 18th, 1919, the forces of West Ukraine composed of some 20,000 soldiers crossed the Zbruch River and entered the territory of the Ukrainian People’s Republic. Therefore, the destiny of East Galicia was decided in favor of Poland up to WWII.

Final Remarks

The war between Poland and West Ukraine was going on from November 1918 to July 1919. According to different scholars, the war took around 25.000 lives of the soldiers from both sides: around 10.000 Polish and 15.000 Ukrainian. However, due to the lack of sources, we can very hardly estimate the number of losses among the civilian population. Nevertheless, it was less than the overall number of soldiers lost combined from both sides. Another feature of this war was the fact that atrocities committed against both the civilian population and prisoners of war have been not on a large scale compared with some other cases during WWI, for instance, Serbia which lost around 25% of its population.

This war between the Polish and Ukrainian sides, nevertheless, poisoned Polish-Ukrainian relations for decades and became clear during WWII when Ukrainians committed a large-scale genocide on the Poles (and Jews) in Galicia.

The Polish-Ukrainian dispute was over the land:

  1. For the Polish side, the problems concerning the belongings of East Galicia did not end with the military defeat of West Ukrainian armed forces in July 1919. However, the problem continues to be as such for the next two decades playing the focal influence in both inner and foreign affairs of Warsaw.
  2. For the Ukrainian side, the problem was solved by J. V. Stalin at the end of WWII as according to his decision, East Galicia became annexed by Soviet Ukraine. The local Poles have been forced to live outside their motherland – Poland up to the present day while Ukrainians succeeded in creating within the USSR a Greater Ukraine by the annexation of the land from all neighbors.
  3. The Entente powers, nevertheless, being concerned with the direct threat of the export of the Bolshevik revolution from Russia to Europe, granted East Galicia (temporarily) to Poland having in mind to create at such a way a stronger defense corridor against Bolshevik Russia. However, the Treaty of Saint Germain signed in September 1919 gave only West Galicia (westward from the San River to Poland), leaving, therefore, the final resolution of the belonging of East Galicia as a problematic issue to be solved in the future.
  4. In December 1919, the British statesman Lord Curzon proposed two possible boundary lines throughout Galicia: 1) One of which would serve as the southern extension of what he proposed should be the eastern borders of Poland. That was officially accepted to be named as Curzon Line. The 2) variant, which was further east and included Lwów, would serve as Poland’s border. In reality, no one of these proposed solutions was accepted by Warsaw, whose annexation of all of East Galicia was, in March 1923, recognized by the Entente Council of Ambassadors.

<                                                                                                                                                                                            © Vladislav B. Sotirovic 2024

Personal disclaimer: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.

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  1. John

    I have no direct knowledge of any of this, and as such can only observe that perhaps “real democracy” that allows people to decide their own destiny is the best solution to problems. Decentralization of government & control of taxes so that communities are able to choose for themselves how they should be governed.

    Yes, it would be messy but what we have now is powerful institutions that impose agendas on everyone, and most people loosing their personal autonomy to unaccountable central governments.

    1. Daniil Adamov

      The problem with this is that no community is fully homogenous and unanimous. I suspect decentralisation would just lead to tyranny of the majority; historically, as in ancient Greek or medieval-to-Renaissance Italian city-states or Swiss cantons, it was either that or tyranny of local elites that cannot even be checked by central government. I’m not sure that this is any real improvement.

      Something of a moot point for the region anyway, since the various attempts at decentralised “real democracy” there (i.e. Cossack hosts and the East Ukrainian anarchy associated with Makhno) all proved militarily non-viable, a consideration that could simply not be ignored given the neighbourhood. It’s not a real choice if you’d just get crushed very quickly by better-organised people when trying to pursue it.

    2. Snailslime

      In theory that would be nice, but it could only work if everyone did it.
      Otherwise all small local communities are easy prey for the large powerful states that remain.

      In fact it’s why the US is constantly obsessed
      with the idea of breaking up other large, powerful states into smaller parts that are easier to control, plunder or if “necessary” destroy.

      Why they promote the idea, especially via the huge, global, state Department and CIA controlled NGO Industrial Complex, that outside the US every tiny minority everywhere totally should have their own independent state, and if that turns out non-viable, tough luck (if not outright “All the better!”).

  2. Rob Urie

    Very interesting piece.

    The mentions of, to combine them into a single paraphrase, Bolshevik expansionism, had context that isn’t reflected in the piece.

    The link below provides historical context to suggest that the Bolsheviks were by degree responding to Western efforts to reverse the Russian Revolution.

    And here is former American Ambassador to Russia George Kennan covering similar territory from the the perspective of the post-WWII American elite.

    Some years back I was hired to research the Western corporate presence in Africa. Around 1990, Belgian corporations were in former Belgian imperial possessions, French, French, Brits, British, etc.

    They weren’t mixed, e.g. French corporations in former Italian colonies, as capitalist trade theory might suggest.

    The point: WWI was ‘about’ the division of the world by the imperial powers.

    While the to-and-fro is important and interesting, it can’t really be understood without the broader trajectories of history.

    1. Cristobal

      I tried to follow it with the Google maps but all the names are different. Impossible.

      1. digi_owl

        Google tries to be all kinds of politically safe with their map service.

        That said, i am unsure if any online map is perfect. Openstreetmap for example default to Cyrillic for much of the region and is thus useless.

  3. AG

    Thx for this entry.

    p.s. Further reading suggestion to build on Sotirovic, for the time before WWII, but with much on Poland and her mistakes back then:

    “The Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance That Never Was and the Unpublished British White Paper, 1939–1940”
    by “revisionist” Canadian historian Michael Jabara Carley

    It is a lengthy response by Carley to a review of his book.
    Carley was discussed by some readers on naked capitalism in September I think.

  4. Feral Finster

    During WWI itself, the Austro-Hungarian authorities had an ongoing problem with pro-Russian elements in Galicia, and the German and Austrian efforts made to suppress these verged on genocidal.

    For that matter, in Jewish folk memory, Galicians were the stupidest and most ogrish antisemites of them all.

    1. AG

      This is interesting
      My 2 cents:

      1) Nicolai Petro as well points out that matter of fact the truly progressive parts of Ukraine were in the East not in the West, i.e. Russian aristocrats pushed for opening up and integrating foreign influence – and the current ethnonationalism and Neonazism of UKR for this very fact built heavily on Western (not Eastern) UKR racist traditions. This might appear simple for outsiders. But in anti-Slavic/Bolshevik societies like the one of post 1945 Western Europe people strongly believe that everything “East” was backward by design.

      2) In Germany the little that is publicly known about Galicia is extremely white-washed as Jewish parts of Chernivtsi and Lvov are regarded as representative for the whole of Galicia itself. Jewish progressive standing there takes a dominant space in the limited collective knowledge about Galician history. Which is why Galician anti-semitism is totally muted in Germany today. Since 2022 this is even more obvious. Altogether that created a difficult to stomach, often very fake folklore of “Jewishness” in German public, which was not necessarily shared by the established German-Jewish communities pre-WWII, which had lived in Germany for centuries and wanting nothing of that superficial folklore. Klezmer being one of those fake truisms in mass entertainment today.

      1. Daniil Adamov

        Don’t know what “truly progressive” means in this case, but it is true that the easternmost part of what would be Ukraine (i.e. the Donbas) was a hub of modern industry for the late Russian Empire. There was a lot of foreign investment there as well. The city of Donetsk itself used to be called Yuzovka, named after the Welsh industrialist John Hughes (Yuz) who built a factory there. All of this opened the way to external influences and greater socio-economic dynamism, for good or ill. By contrast, I understand western Ukraine has always been much more agrarian and parochial (but major cities are always the exception to this rule).

        1. AG

          Yeah, a much better term would be “cosmopolitan”.
          Unfortunately I am unable to find the particular paragraph by Petro which I was referring to.

          Petro, after writing about Hughes and the factory, too, goes on:
          Donbass resembled America in other ways as well. Thanks to the region’s insatiable
          demand for new workers, it became a true cultural and ethnic melting
          pot. By some estimates, more than two million newcomers settled in the region
          after the opening of its first iron ore smelting plant in 1871.⁹³ Such a rapid influx
          of people facilitated the development of a cosmopolitan identity that fit well with
          the Soviet mentality that valued people for their abilities as laborers, rather than
          because of their place of origin, ethnicity, or language. It is this local cosmopolitanism
          that Ukrainian nationalists point to dismissively when they say that
          Donbass is “not Ukrainian territory by content”
          DKR in 1918
          eventually sided with Moscow for three reasons. First, because of the popularity of socialism. Second, because the Ukrainian nationalistic course chosen by Hetman Skoropadsky was inconsistent with the cosmopolitan identity of the region. Third, because the Red Army
          was the only force still fighting the Germans. On this last point, local historian
          Vladimir Kornilov sees a certain continuity between 1918 and 2014.

          And more current (as of the book published 2022):

          What makes this a true tragedy, rather than merely a series of bad policy
          choices, is Kiev’s insistence that there is no Maloross culture at all in Ukraine.
          This position is now codified in the 2021 law on the native peoples of Ukraine,
          which states that Russians are not indigenous to Ukraine, and therefore have
          no right to any state protection of their spiritual, religious, or cultural heritage.

      2. Kouros

        Historically, historically, Chernivtsi, is in Bukovina, Northern Bukovina, which was taken by Austrians from Moldova after some Austrian-Ottoman War, and then incorporated in Galicia. The Romanian national poet, Mihai Eminescu was born there and got a German language education.

        1. AG

          This aspect of “pan-German culture ” is of course another reason for Germans today romanticizing certain historical periods (which is spooky). I have encountered the same in Romania with Hungarian-German-Romanian traditions in Sibiu. On the one hand you have an openness towards the West and “Western culture”. On the other hand those traditions keep alive the anti-Bolshevik fervour of the Imperial Age. As if 1939-1991 have never happened; or have had only negative effects.

          * * *

          One major reason for this complete re-branding and demonization is a total ignorance in academia and scholarship of the West and thus of Eastern European elites (mainly the RU-hating intellectual emigré milieu), about the true nature and history of economic development of the East pre-1945 mainly as a colony of the West. USSR´s main job was then to help develope much of these underdeveloped agricultural areas into something modern. While pre-G-7, already consisting of economic super powers, still stealing resources from the Third World, USSR was subsidizing its “periphery”.

          Not to mention the entire discarded history of internationalism. The intention of 1917 was a utopian non-nationalist integrative project addressing everyone all over Europe and the world. That was one of the true reasons for attempting to counter ethno-nationalism. And frankly I am furious about what has been going on for some time now with all the blatant lies about what was once one of Europe´s best traditions, the “Socialist International” of the 19th century, originating in Germany not Russia of all things…

    2. hk

      People should want to know about Semyon Petliura and the Schwartzbard Trial. I can only link to wikipedia which has obvious issues): so vile were Ukrainian ultranationalists in the immediate aftermath (sort of) of World War I in the East that the French jury decided that the guy who killed Petliura was innocent “before God and their conscience” despite there being no dispute that he did the killing. Of course, Petliura is now a Ukrainian national hero.

      1. Daniil Adamov

        Ironically, Petliura was previously (circa 1905) famous for defending Jews (he commanded a local self-defence unit that fought against anti-Jewish pogroms; I also seem to recall him speaking out against blood libel, but can’t find that information now). He was a philo-Semitic socialist nationalist. As far as I know, even during the civil war he desperately tried to stop the massacres perpetrated by his forces. However, he had even less control over Ukrainian nationalist troops than the Whites and the Reds had over theirs. White and Red soldiers robbed and killed Jews en masse despite all of their superiors’ efforts to bring them into line, and ended up more or less tied; Ukrainian nationalist soldiers did the same but outdid both by far in volume.

        Given the context, I’m not sure that this specific case really says much about the particular vileness of Ukrainian nationalists (although many were certainly vile). More about the extraordinary chaos of the civil war and pervasive anti-Semitism among the general population independently of political affinities. That last was perhaps stronger in Ukraine than elsewhere; then again, they also simply had more Jews to hand. Their military was also notably less disciplined than the main Red or White forces.

        Nevertheless, the French jury may have had a point; this did happen on Petliura’s watch, whether he could have done much more to stop it or not. It is one of the hazards of leading a rebellion. As for him being a hero – would that he was the worst man they liked.

      2. vao

        Interestingly, during the same period, Soghomon Tehlirian, the murderer of another génocidaire, Talaat Pacha, was also acquitted on similar grounds in Berlin.

        I very much doubt that a European tribunal would reach the same verdict if a Palestinian from Gaza assassinated Yoav Gallant or Benyamin Netanyahu. Nowadays, genocide seems to have become respectable in the West.

    3. gk

      You’re probably thinking of the KZ Thalerhof (“ewiges Schanddenkmal dieses Staates” – Kraus)

  5. digi_owl

    And without error, the people that bellyache the most about “holomodor” has their ancestry out in the green area that was not even made part of modern Ukraine until after it was all over.

    How did the most ignorant seeming nation on the planet become the seat of global power?!

    1. Daniil Adamov

      I think it is that a seat of global power can afford to be ignorant for a while. As can a country that is very far from any serious external threat.

    2. Feral Finster

      Moreover, the Ukrainian nationalists of the day knew about the famine and didn’t much care. Soviet Ukraine offered broad cultural autonomy, in contrast to the aggressively centralizing and polonizing Polish Second Republic. Like the fascists they were, the UPA were all about The Nation. They were indifferent to the fates of the people making up The Nation.

      Further, Jews and Poles were their principal folk devils at the time and most of the UPA were cooling off in Polish prisons when WWII broke out.

      1. Daniil Adamov

        IIRC Bandera’s group didn’t even care about Jews that much, unlike many other Ukrainian nationalist groups at the time. They were as happy killing them (to butter up to the Germans) as not (when that alliance fell apart). Poles, on the other hand…

        (Anyway, the Holodomor killing culturally corrupted non-Galician Ukrainians, ethnic Russians, Jews, Tatars etc. may well have had its upside in their eyes.)

    3. hk

      I always thought that was peculiar.

      I imagine that the real “genocide” that they have on mind is the suppression of the Eastern Catholic Church in the regions that came under Russian Empire’s rule (there is a reason why “Ukrainian national idea” came out of the lands under Austro-Hungarian rule, where Eastern Catholicism was supported, as both a bulwark against pro-Russian sympathies and a check on Polish influence (even if there were no Poland at the time, Polish nobles and nationalists getting too influential was not something Habsburgs liked–so Ukrainians had to be “Catholic, but different.”) Ukrainian famine was just tacked on later as the excuse to hate the Orthodoxy, I always wondered.

  6. Kouros

    Every time I see that map my hackles go up. The map is a piece of Russian propaganda, of course, but I am annoyed by its innacuracy.

    The Ukrainian part that buttreses R of Moldova from south and borders the Black Sea, known as Budjak and now part of the Odessa Oblast is depicted as being included in Ukraine in 1922. That is false, since in 1922, Budjak (Bugeac Rom) was part of the Kingdom of Romania.

    And this “error” (absolutely intentional) shows me it is Russian propaganda, which would rather present it as originally being Novorossyia and as a Russian gift to molify Ukrainian nationalism in 1922, by Lenin, and not as a piece of land stolen from Moldovans/Romanians.

    1. Daniil Adamov

      Authors of meme maps are seldom very concerned with details that are irrelevant to their point. Although it really wouldn’t have killed them to just include it in Stalin’s gift, yes.

  7. Michael Hudson

    The sequel to all this was the anarchist-separatist movement led by the Ukrainian Lester Makhno. It is his followers that were absorbed into the pro-Nazi Ukrainians. His books are still sold at Left Forum conferences in New York.

      1. Daniil Adamov

        I’m sure it’s not impossible that some of his followers fell in with the nationalists. But they were on the opposite side of the country and the political spectrum. I doubt they formed a big part of the nationalist movement.

  8. Kalen

    Thanks for such interesting post. Unfortunately for obvious reasons of a short form it was limited to 1918 and 1919 while for fuller understanding period 1916-1921 would have been much more informative especially for American audience.

    There are also some unmentioned contexts and arguments that add to already complex picture.

    So called Polish Ukrainian war was considered not a war between two states as independent Ukrainian state did not exist at all while Polish State reestablished on November 11th 1918 existed and had over 1000 years of national history being resurrected after 123 years of occupation and partition among Prussia (German Second Reich) Austro-Hungarian Empire and Russian Tsarist Empire.

    It was a civil war one could argue, an internal affair of Poland and that’s how it was being understood by all Poles at that time unanimously. West Ukrainian People’s Republic was not created on AH Empire lands but on Polish lands Paderewski argued in Paris against Curzon line..

    As author correctly pointed out that Lwów (Lvov) which motto was “Semper Fidelis Polonia” bestowed in 1658 by Pope Alexander VII for defense of Western Christianity, one of five foundational cities of Polish Union State including three Polish Capitals; Gniezno, Cracow, Warsaw and Wilno (Vilnius) a capital of Lithuania. Even today every school student in Poland has to read Polish Epic Novel that starts with words “[Grand Duchy of] Lithuania [also] is my fatherland.”

    Lack of support among peasants of East Galicia for leftist WUPR was not as much ideological but simply because they had deeply grounded affinities, dependencies and even loyalties to Polish State dating centuries to the past.

    They had different religion, forms of Orthodox Christianity than Catholic nobility which was sometimes a source of conflicts but only because of zealotry of Holy See crusaders, individual priests on orders from Rome who took on totally failed local religious conversion by force program killing thousands.

    However, Weakened Polish Kingdom could not afford religious wars and hence for centuries before XVIII century partition pushed extremely tolerant in comparison to the west policies. Tens of thousands of people immigrated to Poland from the west to avoid persecution including Jews who build up large population in Poland and that included East Galicia.

    The most controversial but founded in historical facts point both Poles and Russians often make is about who are, from ethnic point of view, people of East Galicia, Volhynia and adjacent territories. In historical records the only reference to Ukrainians is as subjects of Polish Union State like Poles, Jews, Armenians or Rus or anyone who just happen to live within south eastern border areas of Poland or south-western border areas of Russian empire subjects of Russian empire.

    Those were people of various Rus ethnic groups with common orthodox religion but they were different people native to the areas that even covered south eastern part of today’s Poland and eastern Slovakia. Those people did not emigrate from Russia they were born there only borders moved back and forth. In fact they happened to be under Polish rule not primarily because of conquest but because of Union State of Polish Kingdom and Grand Duchy of Lithuania via marriage of Polish Queen Jadwiga and Lithuanian Prince Jagiello in XIV century.

    As this Union State was never dissolved Poles still argue that they have a claim to vast swaths of former eastern and north and south eastern Poland they call “Kresy Wschodnie”.

    Rus peoples’ including nobility and peasants’ from Galicia affinities to Polish Crown date as far back as at least 1410 as they were fighting Teutonic State (Civitas Ordinis Theutonici) in eastern Prussia together with Poles and Lithuanians and many other ethnic groups. For that they were granted privileges of land.

    As mentioned in the article Ukrainian nationalism without a nation was promoted and in fact artificially created and nurtured by Austro-Hungarian Empire Secret Service as a way of managing ethnic groups within the empire (here Poles and variety of Halic Rus groups) via fueling often nonexistent ethnic conflicts as they insidiously promoted territorial claims of one ethnic/national group over another as British and other colonial empires did all over the world leading to senseless bloodshed.

    It is really huge stretch into ridiculous to extend ultranationalist figure like Bandera a Polish Citizen who before WWII did not fight Russians but Polish government and was sentenced to life in prison for planning and organizing successful assassination of Polish Cabinet Minister as a father of entire state of Ukraine in 1991 borders.

    It is very instructive to examine Bandera own map of Ukraine he wanted to create by ethnic cleansing not as much along ethnic lines but religious lines of Roman Catholic Church (Poles) Russian Orthodox Church (Rus) and Judaism (Jews sects) executed in part by population of Greek Catholic Church (nominal Ukrainians) on orders of OUN-B, UPA and GCC priests as it covers only part of contemporary Ukraine while stretches west to the line of river San and beyond in todays Poland.

    Even today among Nationalistic Ukrainians Polish Ukrainian war of 1919 is being downplayed as a nation building event focusing of fighting Russians from 1944 until today.

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