Ukrainian Russophiles - Pre-war Decline and Fall

Pre-war Decline and Fall

Within a generation of achieving dominance of Western Ukrainian life, however, the Russophiles were eclipsed by the Ukrainophiles, or so-called Populists (Narodovtsi). Originally coming from the same social stratum as the Russophiles (priests and nobles), but joined by the emerging secular intelligentsia, the Ukrainophiles were from a younger generation who unlike their fathers found ethusiasm for Taras Shevchenko rather than the Tsars, and embraced the peasantry rather than rejected it. This dedication to the people (the "bottom-up" approach) would prove successful against the Russophiles' elitist "top-down" orientation.

Many factors accounted for the collapse of the Russophile movement. The principal one was likely the Ukrainophiles' incredible capacity for organization. The Populists fanned out throughout the countryside in order to mobilize the masses to their cause. In 1868, the Lviv student Anatole Vakhnianyn organized and became the first head of the Prosvita organization, whose goal was to organize reading rooms and community theaters which became extremely popular among the peasants. In order to help the impoverished peasants, Ukrainophile activists set up co-operatives that would buy supplies in large quantities, eliminate middlemen, and pass the savings onto the villagers. Credit unions were created, providing inexpensive loans to farmers and eliminating the reliance on non-Ukrainian moneylenders. Russophiles belatedly tried to imitate such strategies but could not catch up. By 1914, Prosvita had 3,000 reading rooms while the Russophile version, the Kachkovsky Society (founded in 1874), had only 300. The Ukrainian co-operative union had 900 members, while the rival Russophile one had only 106. Prevented from publishing in the mainstream western Ukrainian newspapers by the Russophiles who controlled them, the Populists created their own. In 1880, Dilo ('Deed') was founded as a rival to the Russophile Slovo, and due to the rising literacy of the Ukrainian population its circulation surpassed that of its older rival.

A second important factor for the success of the Ukrainophiles was the exile from Dnieper Ukraine of a large number of well-educated and talented eastern Ukrainian writers and scholars, such as the writer Panteleimon Kulish, the former professor of Kiev's University of St. Vladimir, economist and philosopher Mykhailo Drahomanov, and especially the historian Mykhailo Hrushevsky, who headed a newly-established department at the University of Lviv. Many of these figures settled or lived for a time in Lviv. In contrast, no prominent Russian intellectuals came to Galicia in order to help the local Russophile cause. This phenomenon led to the ironic observation of Drahomanov that the Ukrainianophiles were actually more in touch with contemporary Russian cultural and intellectual trends than were the Russophiles despite the latter group's love for Russia. From among the local intelligentsia, Ivan Franko showed the literary potential of the vernacular Ukrainian language. The local Russophiles could not compete with the talent of these Ukrainophile cultural figures and scholars.

Help for the Ukrainophile cause from eastern Ukraine also took the form of generous financial assistance from wealthy Ukrainian landowners. Due to restrictions against Ukrainian printing and the Ukrainian language imposed by the tsarist government in eastern Ukraine, eastern Ukrainian noble or Cossacks officer families who had not became Russified sent money to Galicia in order to sponsor Ukrainophile cultural activities there. These people, enjoying gentry status, were generally much wealthier than the priests and priests' sons who dominated the local Galician movements. The amount sent by these private individuals from Russian-ruled Ukraine to Ukrainophile causes likely equalled the subsidies sent by the Russian government to Galician Russophiles. For example, Yelyzaveta Myloradovich, a noblewoman from Poltava, donated 20,000 Austrian crowns to the Shevchenko Scientific Society.

The Austrian government also contributed significantly to the Ukrainophiles' victory. During the latter part of the 19th century, as Austria-Hungary and Russia became rivals, the Austrian authorities became alarmed by the Russophiles' activities. To maintain the loyalty of the Ukrainian population, the Austrian authorities made concessions to Ukrainian causes, such as expanding the Ukrainian educational system, and in 1893 made the Ukrainophile version of the vernacular Ukrainian language the language of instruction. Doing so effectively shut the Russophiles out of the educational system. During the 1880s the Austrians put many Russophiles on trial for treason or espionage. These trials were widely publicized, and served to discredit the Russophiles among the Ukrainian people, most of whom continued to be loyal to the Austrian Emperor. One of the prosecuters was Kost Levitsky, who later became an important Ukrainian politician. The Austrians also deported an editor of the Russophile newspaper Slovo and deposed the Russophile head of the Greek Catholic Church, Metropolitan Joseph Sembratovych.

In 1899, Count Andrey Sheptytsky became new head of the Greek Catholic Church. A Polonized nobleman from an old Ukrainian family, he adopted the Ukrainian language and a Ukrainophile orientation. Although Sheptytsky did not interfere in priests' personal activities and writings, he slowly purged the Church's hierarchy of Russophiles. Despite drawing some Ukrainophiles' criticism for the slow progression of his changes, under Sheptytsky's leadership the Church gradually ceased being a bastion of Russophilism and instead became a staunchly Ukrainophile one.

Lacking support within their community and from the Austrian government, the remaining Russophiles turned to outsiders for support. They largely depended on financing from the Russian government and Russian private sponsors (the Galician-Russian Benevolent Society was established in Saint Petersburg in 1908) and from ultraconservative Galician Polish aristocrats. The Polish ultraconservatives had become alarmed by the social mobilization of the Ukrainian peasants and sought to use the Russophile movement as a way of dividing the Ukrainian community. They were also united with the Russophiles in opposition to a proposed alliance between Ukrainophiles and politically moderate Poles. Polish support provided the Russophiles with some advantages during elections, some advantages for Russophile priests in obtaining parishes, and tolerance towards Russophile political activities.

Help from Russian and Polish patrons largely failed to prevent the Russophile decline. By the early 20th century, the Russophiles became a minority in Galicia. Within the Church, they were nicknamed "bisons," in scholar Himka's words an "ancient, shaggy species on the verge of extinction." Of nineteen Ukrainian periodicals published in Galicia in 1899, sixteen were Ukrainophile in orientation, only two were Russophile in orientation and one was neutral. In the 1907 elections to the Viennese parliament, the Ukrainophiles won 22 seats while the Russophiles won five. But the Russophiles, due to Polish interference, won elections to the Galician parliament the same year by taking 11 seats, the Ukrainophiles 10. In 1913, 30 Ukrainophile and only 1 Russophile delegate were sent to the Galician Diet. There were certain regional patterns in the support for Russophilism, in that it was most popular in the extreme western parts of eastern Galicia, particularly in the Lemko region of centered on the city of Przemysl. This region, closest to Polish ethniographic territory, may have been most receptive to Russophilia's radical differentiation of Ukrainians/Ruthenians from Poles.

Read more about this topic:  Ukrainian Russophiles

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