Galicia, historic region, Poland and Ukraine

Galicia gəlĭˈshə, –shēə, –ə [key], Pol. Galicja, Ukr. Halychyna, Rus. Galitsiya, historic region (32,332 sq mi/83,740 sq km), SE Poland and W Ukraine, covering the slopes of the N Carpathians and plains to the north and bordering on Slovakia in the south. It is drained by the upper Dniester, the upper Vistula, and the San, which divides Galicia into the western (Polish) and the eastern (Ukrainian) parts. The Polish section (area 13,226 sq mi/34,255 sq km) covers Rzeszów and the larger part of Kraków provinces; the Ukrainian section (area 19,106 sq mi/49,485 sq km) includes Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Tarnopol oblasts. Mainly agricultural, Galicia also has mineral resources, notably oil wells around Drohobych and Boryslav, in Ukraine, and in Rzeszów prov., in Poland.

Originally the duchy of Halych (Galich), it was united with the duchy of Volodymyr (see Volodymyr-Volynskyy) in 1188 and annexed by Casimir III of Poland in the 14th cent. With the first partition of Poland (1772) most of the region passed to Austria, which made it a crownland with the capital at Lviv (Lemberg) and named it Galicia. Austria enlarged its holdings with the third Polish partition (1795) and again in 1815. In 1846 an abortive Polish insurrection in Galicia served Austria as a pretext for annexing Kraków, an independent republic since 1815.

In 1848 Kraków and Lviv were centers of revolution against Austria, and in 1861 Galicia won limited autonomy, including representation in the Austrian parliament, where Galician deputies formed a powerful bloc. Polish, spoken in W Galicia, and Ukrainian, spoken in E Galicia, became official languages along with German; the Jews, a substantial minority, were refused recognition by the Austrian government. Galicia was the center of the branch of Orthodox Judaism known as Hasidism. The Austrians maintained an uncertain peace by playing off the three major ethnic groups. However, the growing Ukrainian nationalist movement resulted in demands for increased political and cultural rights, or even for independence, in E Galicia. The Polish independence movement also gained ground, but in World War I the Polish legions, organized in Galicia by Marshal Piłsudski, fought under Austrian command until 1917.

In 1918 the Poles, having proclaimed national independence, wrested W Galicia from Austria and fought the troops of the newly established Ukraine republic in E Galicia, forcing them to withdraw. The Paris Peace Conference (1919) assigned E Galicia to Poland pending a plebiscite scheduled for 1944. However, in a treaty (1920) with the Ukrainians, upheld by the Polish-Soviet Treaty of Riga (1921), Poland obtained full title to E Galicia. In 1939 most of E Galicia was incorporated into Ukraine, an act upheld by the Polish-Soviet Treaty of 1945. Nearly all the Jews in Galicia perished during World War II.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Polish Political Geography