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Galicia (Central Europe)

The name Galicia also can refer to an autonomous region of Spain.

Galicia (Polish: Galicja, Ukrainian: Галичина (Halychyna), Romanian: Galiţia, Hungarian: Gįcsorszįg) is the name of a region of Central Europe. The region takes its name from the earliest regional capital, the city of Halicz in Ukraine (Polish spelling; Ukrainian Галич (Halych)). Since around the early 19th century, Galicia consists of the area just north of the Carpathians to the east of Little Poland and north and northwest of Transylvania/Moldavia (Romania).


Some historians hold that the name, "Galicia" recalls its former inhabitants, the eastern Gauls, who also may have left their names imprinted on the landscape in Anatolian Galatia and in the Romanian county Galati. Another hypothesis is that the name refers to the local crows, or rooks, seen in the area around the capital city. According to some historians, the local name then was extended to the Romanian/Moldavian city of Galati in the 13th or 14th century, when the state of Halych-Volynia extended from the region of Halychyna proper, over Moldavia, up to the Black Sea.

The region of Galicia appears to have been incorporated, in large part, into the Empire of Great Moravia. It appears in an historical reference 981, when the ruler of Kievan Rus' took over the Red Ruthenia (Cherven' Rus') cities in his military campaign on the border with Poland. In the following century, the area shifted briefly to Poland (1018-1031) and then back to Ruthenia. As the successor state to Kievan-Rus', Galicia comprised an autonomous principality from 1087 to 1253 (united to Volynia in the state of Halych-Volynia from around 1200), which became a vassal kingdom of the Mongol Golden Horde from 1253 to 1340. During this time, the princes of Galicia moved the capital from Halych to L'viv. They also attempted to gain papal and broader support in Europe for an alliance against the Mongols. Their efforts were rewarded by papal acclamation of the prince of Halich-Volynia as the "King of Rus'", an era which came to an end around 1340-1349, when King Casimir III of Poland conquered Galicia. Between 1372 and 1387, the area belonged to Hungary. The sister state of Volynia, together with Kyiv, then fell under Lithuanian control and the mantle of Rus' was transferred from Halych-Volynia to Lithuania.

Thereafter, Galicia comprised a Polish possession called the Ruthenian Voivodship. This began an era of heavy Polish settlement among the Ruthenian population. Armenian and Jewish emigration to the region also occurred in large numbers. Numerous castles were built during this time and some new cities were founded: Stanislawow ("Ivano-Frankivsk" today) and Krystynopol ("Chervonohrad" today).

In 1772, Galicia became the largest part of the area annexed by Austria in the First Partition. As such, the Austrian region of Poland and Ukraine was known as the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria to underline the Hungarian claims to the country. However, a large portion of Little Poland was also added to the province, which changed the geographical reference of the term, Galicia. L'viv -- Lemberg served as the capital of Austrian Galicia, which was dominated by the Polish aristocracy, despite the fact that the population of the eastern half of the province was in the majority Ruthenian or Ukrainian with large minorities of Jews and Poles. The Poles were also overwhelmingly more numerous in the newly-added western half of Galicia. In 1846, the former Polish capital city of Cracow became part of the province following the Austrian suppression of that independent republic. From 1868, Galicia was an autonomus province of Austria-Hungary with Polish as an official language.

Parliament of Galicia in Lvov
Parliament of Galicia in Lvov

In 1918, Western Galicia became a part of the restored Republic of Poland, while the local Ukrainian population briefly declared the independence of Eastern Galicia as the "Western Ukrainian Republic". Eventually, the whole of the province was recaptured by Poles. Poland's annexation of Eastern Galicia was internationally recognized in 1923. After the Nazi-Soviet pact, Stalin annexed Eastern Galicia to the Soviet Republic of Ukraine. The border was later recognized by Allies in 1945, and the region was ethnically cleansed by Soviets and a communist puppet Polish government (Wisla Action ). The old province, as modified by Austria around 1800, remains divided today, with the western part Polish, and the original eastern part, Ukrainian.

Principal cities

  • L'viv (Львів, formerly Lwów, Lvov, Lemberg, Leopolis)
  • Kraków
  • Przemyśl (Перемишль (Peremysh'l) in Ukrainian)
  • Ivano-Frankivs'k (Івано-Франківськ, formerly Stanisławów)

See also

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45