The Idea of Galicia: History and Fantasy in Habsburg Political Culture

The Idea of Galicia: History and Fantasy in Habsburg Political Culture

The Idea of Galicia: History and Fantasy in Habsburg Political Culture

The Idea of Galicia: History and Fantasy in Habsburg Political Culture

Synopsis

Galicia was created at the first partition of Poland in 1772 and disappeared in 1918. Yet, in slightly over a century, the idea of Galicia came to have meaning for both the peoples who lived there and the Habsburg government that ruled it. Indeed, its memory continues to exercise a powerful fascination for those who live in its former territories and for the descendants of those who emigrated out of Galicia.

The idea of Galicia was largely produced by the cultures of two cities, Lviv and Cracow. Making use of travelers' accounts, newspaper reports, and literary works, Wolff engages such figures as Emperor Joseph II, Metternich, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Ivan Franko, Stanislaw Wyspianski, Tadeusz "Boy" Zelenski, Isaac Babel, Martin Buber, and Bruno Schulz. He shows the exceptional importance of provincial space as a site for the evolution of cultural meanings and identities, and analyzes the province as the framework for non-national and multi-national understandings of empire in European history.

Excerpt

Galicia was created in 1772 at the historical moment of the first partition of Poland, when the Habsburg monarchy applied that name to Vienna's ter- ritorial portion of the partition and conceived of Galicia as a new Habsburg province. at the beginning of the century there had been an old Habsburg province of Galicia in northern Spain, but it was taken, along with Spain, by the Bourbons in the War of the Spanish Succession. The name was there- fore available in 1772, serving as the Latin form of the medieval Rus prin- cipality of Halych, one of the successors of Kievan Rus in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The territories of medieval Halych coincided only roughly with those that the empress Maria Theresa took from Poland in 1772, but the name served its purpose and continued to be used even as the Habsburg province was extended and revised during the later partitions of Poland and the Napoleonic wars. The population of the province included Poles, Ruthenians (today Ukrainians), Germans (including Austrians), and Jews. Galicia, invented in 1772, enjoyed a historical existence of less than a century and a half, from 1772 to the end of World War I and the abolition of the Habsburg monarchy in 1918. Galicia was then removed from the map of Europe, and today, almost a century later, it belongs to the category of extinct geopolitical entities.

The territory of the former Galicia now lies divided between contempo- rary Poland and Ukraine, and, although the Galician Jews were almost entirely annihilated in the holocaust during World War II, the earlier emigration of Galician Jews meant that they survived outside Galicia, especially in America and Israel, where they continued to identify themselves as “Galitzianer” long after leaving Europe and well into the twentieth century. My father's parents were born in Galicia at the turn of the century, as subjects of emperor Franz Joseph, and they remembered both the province and the emperor all the rest of their lives, which they spent in New York city. The emperor, my . . .

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