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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Russophilism in Western Ukraine

10 June, 2003 - 00:00


The most painful and difficult question in the building of any nation is Who are we and what do we do about them? Perhaps the greatest historical success of the Ukrainian national movement is that people, who lived under different states for centuries and spoke in ways that were only partially intelligible to each other, were united into a single, albeit imperfect, whole that now calls itself Ukrainian. But an alternative identity still survives in Transcarpathia as well as in parts of Slovakia, Poland, and abroad, the Ruthenians or Rusyns or sometimes Carpatho Russians. In North America and the former Yugoslavia they developed a literary language, which is really as good as any other, and their numbers have been estimated from about a hundred to potentially as high as three million (Prof. Paul Robert Magosci of the University of Toronto), a very substantial them, whom we consider part of us. The discussion of who they are is really a part of the discussion of who we are, and this newspaper considers it a public service to air these views in a discussion that has long predated us and will undoubtedly go on for quite some time. Further contributions to this discussion are welcome. —The Editors).

The so-called Russophile movement that emerged in Galicia under Austria-Hungary is, at first glance, quite an unusual thing. Paradoxically, it was linked to the nascent Ukrainian national movement and requires an excursus into history. In the late eighteenth century, when Europe saw a spectacular birth of new nations, some of today’s Western Ukrainian lands (Transcarpathia, Bukovyna, and Halychyna) became part of the Habsburg Empire. The state created relatively good conditions for the national cultural development of Ukrainians, but the latter failed to take advantage of it.

A graphic example of this is the destiny of Studium Ruthenorum (the Ruthenian Institute). This institution emerged with permission of liberal Emperor Joseph II at Lviv University in 1787. It taught theological and philosophical subjects in Ruthenian, i.e., the Ukrainian book language with a strong Old Church Slavonic component. The Ruthenian Institute was shut down in 1809 at the request of the Ukrainian students themselves. They did not want to hear lectures in a “non- prestigious” language, preferring that classes be conducted in German.

Still, influenced by the national awakening of the Habsburg Empire’s peoples, the Ukrainians soon inevitably faced the deceptively simple question: “Who are we, of what nation?” But this question turned out to be not so simple for them (as well as for other stateless peoples) at the turn of the nineteenth century. Naturally, it was not the common folk who addressed these problems, but a small number of intellectuals. Who were they? In Halychyna and Transcarpathia, they came mainly from Greek Catholic clerical families. By force of their social status, they were close to the grassroots and knew the folk culture well. Moreover, the Greek Catholic faith enabled them to be conscious of their distinction from the Germans, Hungarians, and Poles.

One should not overvalue the populist sentiments of the Greek Catholic priests and first Western Ukrainian intellectuals. They represented a subjugated people without prestige, one which had no clearly defined ethnic identity. This is why the first Western Ukrainian intellectuals often communicated in a “cultured” (Polish, Hungarian, or German), rather than their own undeveloped language. They went to schools where Western European (mostly German) cultural values prevailed. No wonder that such individuals viewed the culture of their people as inferior and often sought the support of some external force. This was the tragedy of the Western Ukrainian intelligentsia. For this reason, small wonder that the latter espoused quite different ideologies. For instance, V. Podolynsky wrote in A Word of Warning (1848) that the public figures of Halychyna belonged to four — Ruthenian (Ukrainian), Polish, Russian, and Austrian — parties.

Russophilism can be explained within the context of Western Ukrainian intellectuals’ attempts to find a patron. The Russian Empire suited them for a number of reasons. Russia was a politically great power which to a considerable extent set the pace in European politics, especially after the Napoleonic Wars. Moreover, the Romanovs were interested in having its own fifth column in the Austrian Empire. Thus, quite naturally they helped the pro-Russian-minded subjects of the Habsburg Empire. Russia was also close to the Austria-ruled Ukrainians from a cultural perspective, for they, like Russians, had preserved much of the Byzantine and Old Rus’ cultural heritage. The Greek Catholic Church of Halychyna and Transcarpathia made use of the Eastern (Byzantine) rite and Old Church Slavonic texts, as the Russian Orthodox Church did. As to the Ukrainians of Bukovyna, they practiced the same faith as and were in the same religious-cultural field as the Russians.

The Russian language was in general understood by Austrian Ukrainians. Moreover, some of them were enraptured with Russian culture, particularly literature and its brilliant representatives. Such people did not mind identifying themselves as Russians, which allowed them to claim affinity with a mighty nation and its cultural achievements. The ethnonymic factor also played a certain role. The Austrian Ukrainians, both in Galicia and Transcarpathia, called themselves Ruthenians (rusyny), which sounded almost like Russians (russkiye), which could also be used as a proof of the two peoples’ kinship and unity.

Finally, a considerable role in the development of Russophilism was played by the Slavophile movement. The latter was launched in the Austrian Empire by the Czechs who hoped that unification would enable the Slavs to check German expansion. However, in the 1840s the center of Slavophilism shifted to Russia, and the Russian autocracy began to use the idea of Slavic unity for its own ends. In particular, it tried to position itself as defender of the interests of all Slavs.

The Russophile movement emerged in the Austrian Empire and reached its peak in Transcarpathia. At first glance, this looks strange, for Transcarpathia was the Ukrainian region most distant from Russia. To some extent, Russophilism owed its existence to intellectual emigrants from this area. Transcarpathia turned out to be a land surprisingly rich in talented people. Yet, those talents failed to fulfill themselves at home. After all, their homeland was a remote hinterland. Transcarpathian public life was controlled by Hungarian feudal lords, who hampered local Ukrainians from making their way up, and it was easier to do so outside their native land. For example, many talented Transcarpathians taught at the universities of Budapest, Krakow, Lviv, and elsewhere. Most of them found themselves in the Russian Empire, perhaps the best pace to fulfill their potential. Russia was then encouraging talented foreigners. Although, on the one hand, Transcarpathians were officially treated as foreigners, on the other hand they were viewed not as aliens but as a people closely related in terms of culture and origin.

For example, Transcarpathian Ivan Orlai (1770-1829) came to Petersburg in 1791 as an advisor on culture and education. He was one of the founders and principal (1821-1826) of the famous Nizhyn Lyceum. This Rusyn also improved things fundamentally at Odesa’s Richelieu Lyceum, where he was principal in 1826-1829. Orlai’s efforts were greatly appreciated by Goethe, who maintained friendly relations with him, and by Gogol who had been Orlai’s student and considered his teacher an unsurpassable pedagogue. On Orlai’s recommendation, Russia received Baludiansky, the first rector of St. Petersburg University; Dudrovych, rector of Kharkiv University; Lodiy, Kukolnyk, the brothers Bilevych, and Pavlovych as professors at Petersburg and Kharkiv Universities. Naturally, the Transcarpathians who had made a career in Russia maintained ties, one way or another, with their homeland.

Still, the national renaissance in Transcarpathia could have followed a non-Russophile path. The first half of the nineteenth century saw such figures as Mykhail Luchkai, Vasyl Dovhovych, and Ivan Fogorashy- Berezhanyn, who pinned their hopes on regional separatism and union with Halychyna. However, the revolutions of 1848 became a major factor that strengthened Russophile sentiments in Transcarpathia. That revolution in the Austrian Empire was triggered by the Hungarians. Pressing for far broader rights, the latter did not seek to abolish ethnic oppression in their state. On the contrary, they pursued a nationalistic policy towards the Slavic peoples. The Hungarian revolutionaries viewed Transcarpathia as their own land and opposed the local Ukrainians’ demands to open schools with the native language as medium of instruction and to allow usage of the native language in government institutions.

In this situation the Transcarpathian Ruthenians or Rusyns sought allies. These Habsburg Austria, which promised to meet the national demands of the empire’s Slavs, and Russia, which assisted the Austrians against the Hungarians revolutionaries. In 1849, Russian troops entered Transcarpathia. The soldiers were ordered to behave politely and forbidden to requisition bread and other foodstuffs or occupy living quarters by force. On the whole, the military obeyed these instructions. The Transcarpathian Ruthenians saw that the Russians were very far from the dog’s head image imposed on them by Hungarian propaganda, that it was relatively easy to understand their language and, moreover, they crossed themselves the same way the local Rusyns did.

Some Transcarpathian intellectuals interpreted the coming of Russians as a mission of liberation against hostile Hungary. Prominent Transcarpathian writer and pedagogue Oleksandr Dukhnovych (1803-1865) reminisced that when he saw Russian Cossacks on the streets of Pre я sov (Priashiv), he danced and cried with joy.

The local Russophile movement was led by Adolf Dobriansky (1817-1901), an undoubtedly talented personality, a lawyer, economist, and politician. During the 1848-1849 Hungarian Revolution the Habsburgs appointed him chief of the Ruthenian District in Uzhhorod. However, Vienna was no longer interested in Transcarpathian Ukrainians after the revolution. The Habsburgs decided to come to terms with the Hungarians, which resulted in the establishment of a dual monarchy, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1867. The Hungarians thus became the full-fledged masters of Transcarpathia. Dobriansky was relieved of his office. He began to seek Russian help, maintained close contacts with Russian Slavophiles, including chairman of the St. Petersburg Slavic Committee, Ivan Kornilov, and chairman of the Petersburg-based Galician-Russian Society, Anton Budilovich who was, incidentally, married to his daughter.

The strengthened position of Hungarians in Transcarpathia pushed local Ukrainian intellectuals into a Russophile stand. Also conducive to this was the activity of Russian Embassy officials in Vienna, including Archpriest Mikhail Rayevsky who propagated Russian political ideas among the Austrian Slavs for forty years, beginning in 1842. He paid special attention to the Ukrainians. He secured stipends for Western Ukrainian students in Russia and supervised the dissemination of Russian publications among Austria- Hungary’s Ukrainians. The Transcarpathian Russophiles were organized in the Society of St. Basil the Great, had its own print media, including the newspaper Svit (1867-1871), journal Nauka (1882-1903), etc.

In Halychyna, the soil was not so fertile for Russophilism. The national awakening of Halychyna’s Ukrainians was strongly pro-Ukrainian from the very outset. A graphic example of this was the activity of the Ruthenian Triad in the 1830s, with an attempt to rely on authentic Ukrainian folk culture. Nevertheless, there were figures in Galicia in the first half of the nineteenth century, inclined to consider their compatriots as part of the Russian people. One of such figures was prominent historian, ethnographer, and archivist Denys Zubrytsky (1777-1862) who wrote and published a series of valuable works on the history of Halychyna. Zubrytsky himself cooperated with Russian scholarly institutions, was member of the Petersburg Archeographic Commission and the Kyiv-based provisional commission for studying old documents. The Petersburg Academy of Sciences also elected him a corresponding member.

Although cultural Russophilism played no significant role in Galicia, the 1848-1849 revolution and the consequent events brought about major changes. The revolution contributed to an alliance between Halychyna’s Ukrainians and the Habsburgs. The latter regarded the Halychyna people as rivals to the Poles who presented a constant threat to Vienna. The Galicians in turn hoped that the Habsburgs would help them become the leading national force in the homeland. But the revolution suffered a defeat. The Habsburgs opted for understanding with the Poles, rather than an alliance with the Ukrainians. They appointed the Pole Agenor Goluchowski, who had previously held the office of imperial minister of the interior for some time, as provincial governor. The Ukrainian leader felt betrayed by the Habsburgs who left them one on one with a stronger adversary. They began searching for a new patron. In the eyes of many, tsarist Russia could be it. Local feeling was it was “better to drown in the Russian sea than in the Polish puddle.”

In the 1860s-80s the Russophile orientation dominated in the sociopolitical life of Galician Ukrainians. Many intellectuals, previously of pro- Ukrainian, switched to the Russophile position. Among then was Yakiv Holovatsky (1814-1888), a member of the Ruthenian Triad. The Russophiles managed to assume control of some well-known cultural and educational organizations, such as the Stauropageon Institute, the Galician- Ruthenian Matytsia, the People’s House, and Rus’ka Besida (Ruthenian conversation). The Mykhailo Kachkovsky Society became one of the main centers which tried to work actively among the lower classes. For example, this organization ran 181 reading clubs in rural Halychyna in the 1870s. The Russophiles also managed to establish a host of printed publications by which they actively propagated their ideas, such as the newspapers and journals Slovo (1861-1887), Nauka (1874-1900), Halychanyn (1893-1914), and others. They also had such serialized publications as A Library of Russian Writers, A Russian Library, the literary research collections Halychanyn (1862-1883), Galician Historical Collection (1853-1854, 1860), and Literary Collection (1969-1873, 1885-1890, 1896-1897), which published ancient acts, chronicles, ethnographic materials, bibliographic works, and Russian fiction.

In the 1860s-80s, Galician villages were full of rumors about the early advent of the “white tsar,” the Russian emperor, who would punish the Poles, drive away the Jews, seize land from the nobles, and distribute it among the local peasants. These rumors were fueled especially whenever Russian-Austrian relations took a downturn. Vienna was seriously alarmed by the strides the Russophile movement was making in Halychyna. For this movement was increasingly assuming a political nature, forming a fifth column for the Russian autocracy. It was also obvious that the Russophiles received support, including material aid, from Russia.

In 1881 Lviv saw the trial of Halychyna Russophiles Ivan Naumovych, Venedykt Ploshchansky, et al. Incidentally, Olha Hrabar, Dobriansky’s daughter, was also in the dock. It was a purely political trial. The defendants were charged with high treason. Although they were acquitted, the investigation had exposed some questionable aspects of the Russophiles’ activities, including their links with Russian authorities.

There were more anti-Russophile trials. The one with the greatest public reaction was held in 1913-1914 at Syhota (Transcarpathia), when 96 peasants headed by priest Oleksiy Kybaliuk were tried. The were accused of collaborating with an enemy state, secretly converting to Orthodoxy and praying for the Russian tsar. It should still be noted for fairness’ sake that Austria-Hungary carried out no mass reprisals against the Russophiles before World War I.

Despite all the minuses, Russophilism promoted the Ukrainian national movement in Halychyna. The struggle against the former gave birth to the movement of narodovtsi (national populists) oriented towards a union between the Ukrainians of Galicia and the Dnipro basin. The struggle and public debates between the Russophiles and the narodovtsi greatly galvanized the cultural and public life of Ukrainians in Halychyna. This strengthened pro-Ukrainian figures and forced them to increase their level, for the Russophiles had quite a high cultural potential.

However, this is not the only positive influence Russophiles had on the Ukrainian national movement. They served the latter as a sort of a lightning rod. Naturally, the Austrian imperial government was not exactly happy about national movements in its state. However, the development of Russophilism when Russian-Austrian relations became tense compelled the Habsburgs to take a more tolerant view of pro-Ukrainian figures and even render them some support, for they were a counterweight to the Russophiles.

Russophilism also gained some currency in Bukovyna. The latter was an isolated Austrian crown land and differed in many respects from Halychyna and Transcarpathia. The local intelligentsia was clearly oriented toward German culture. The land’s administrative center, Chernivtsi, was often referred to as Little Vienna. As much as half of the city’s population spoke German. It is this language in which Bukovyna’s great Ukrainian writers Yury Fedkovych and Olha Kobylianska wrote their first works; this tongue dominated even in well- educated families conscious of their Ukrainian origin. The Ukrainians began to establish their organizations only in the 1860s: Rus’ka besida (Ruthenian Conversation) in 1869 and the Ruthenian Council in 1870. As the Russophile orientation clearly prevailed among the leaders of Austria’s Ukrainians at the time, it is no wonder that such organizations were also Russophile. The Bukovyna Russophiles also issued their own publications: Bukovynska zoria (Bukovyna Dawn, 1870) and Rus’ka rada (Ruthenian Council, 1871-1912).

In the case of Bukovyna, Russophilism was a childhood disease of the Ukrainian national movement. It affected a number of local figures, including the aforesaid Fedkovych who later took a pro-Ukrainian stand and with his brothers who published Ukrainian literature in Bukovyna. Bukovyna’s Ukrainian intellectuals reoriented themselves under the influence of the Galician national populists. This was also helped, to a certain extent, by the establishment of Chernivtsi University in 1875. Some departments of this university were filled by Halychyna Ukrainians who propagated national ideas there.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Russophilism began to lose much ground in Austria-Hungary. Simultaneously, the Ukrainian national movement, an alternative to Russophilism, was gaining strength, especially in Halychyna. A certain role was played by he fact that the imperial government, with Russo-Austrian relations tense, tried to restrict the Russophiles’ influence. The outbreak of World War I, when Austria-Hungary and Russia found themselves in the opposite camps, led to still more restrictions. Many Russophiles were interned in concentration camps, including the notorious Tallerhof. The overthrow of the Romanov dynasty and the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in Russia dealt a staggering blow to Russophilism. The flame to which the Russophiles had been drawn went out.

Russophilism thus became a marginal trend in the public life of Western Ukrainians. Yet, some Russophiles reoriented themselves ideologically and embraced Communism. Traditional Ruthenian tribalism made itself felt here. It is telling, for example, that the father of the prominent Communist writer Yaroslav Halan was a Russophile. Today, what can be considered an odd relapse into Russophilism is the Ruthenian movement that has some occurrence among the Ukrainians of Transcarpathia — not so much in Ukraine proper as abroad, first of all, in Slovakia.

In general, Russophilism was a rather specific distorted manifestation of precisely the Ukrainian national movement which slowed down but in some cases paradoxically encouraged the latter. This phenomenon is a mirror that reflects our mental drawbacks and cultural complexes. It naturally gives us small pleasure to look into the mirror to see these warts. Yet we must do so if we are to rid ourselves of them.

By Petro KRALIUK, Professor, Doctor of Sciences (Philosophy), National University of Ostroh Academy
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