Ukrainian Russophiles - Rise and Development

Rise and Development

Western Ukrainian Russophilia appeared in Carpathian Ruthenia at the end of the 18th century. At this time, several people from the region settled in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and obtained high academic positions. The best known of these was Vasilly Kukolnik (father of Russian playwright Nestor Kukolnik), a member of an old noble family who had studied in Vienna before coming to Russia. Vasilly's pupils included Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich of Russia and Grand Duke Nikolai Pavlovich of Russia, the future emperor Nicholas I of Russia. These émigrés, while adopting a sense of Russian patriotism, also maintained their ties to their homeland and tried to use their wealth to introduce Russian literature and culture to their region. When the Hungarians revolted against the Austrians in 1848, the local East Slavs, antagonistic toward the Hungarians who had dominated them, were deeply moved by the presence of the seemingly invincible Russian troops sent by Nicholas to help crush the rebellion. At this time, Austria supported the Russophile movement as a counterbalance to Polish and Hungarian interests, and under the leadership of the Russophile nobleman Adolf Dobriansky, the people of Transcarpathia were granted limited autonomy, although the region reverted to Hungarian control after a few years.

In Galicia, Russophilia emerged as early as the 1830s, when "Society of scholars" was organized in Peremyshl and was stimulated in part by the presence in Lviv (Lemberg) in 1835 and from 1839–1840 of Russian pan-Slavist Mikhail Pogodin who became acquainted with the local Ruthenian intelligentsia and became an influence on them. However, the movement did not come to dominate western Ukrainian society until the 1850s–60s. Many proponents of Ruthenianism became disenchanted with Austria and linked themselves with the giant and powerful Russian state. The relative rise of Russia's power in comparison to that of Austria during the 19th century also played a role in such feelings. Events of the 1860s helped to increase pro-Russian feelings in Galicia. Traditionally, the local Ruthenians had a naive belief that the Hapsburg Emperor was on their side and that he would defend them against the Polish nobility. From the late 1850s, Austrian courts often sided with (primarily Polish) nobles in land disputes with peasants, during which forests and pastures that the peasants had traditionally been using were deemed the property of the nobles. This led to significant economic harship for the peasants. While this was happening, the Russian tsar had emancipated the peasants in Russian-ruled Ukraine. In 1863-1864, an insurrection of Polish nobles in areas that included Russian-ruled Ukraine was brutally crushed by the Tsarist government, which in punishing the Polish rebels provided the Ukrainian peasants with relatively favorable compensation. Many Galicians began to approvingly contrast the Tsar's brutal treatment of the Polish nobles with the Austrians' seemingly taking the Polish side in the Polish-Ukrainian conflict. Many of them came to believe that the plight of the Ukrainians was improving more under the Tsars than it was under the Austrians. In the testimony of one Austrian-Ukrainian peasant, "if there is no justice in Vienna, we will find it in the Moskal."

During this time, the poet and scholar Yakiv Holovatsky, a member of "The Ruthenian Trinity", joined the Russophile movement. Soon thereafter, the Russophile priests of the St George Cathedral Circle came to dominate the local hierarchy of the Greek Catholic Church, thereby transforming that Church into an instrument of their cause. Russophiles took over Ruthenian academic institutions (such as the Stauropegion Institute, with its printing press and large collection of archives) and the venerable Ruthenian newspaper Slovo ('The Word'), and under their leadership it became the most widely circulated newspaper among Western Ukrainians. In 1870, the Russophiles formed a political organization, the Ruthenian Council (Ruska Rada) which represented the population of Western Ukraine. From the 1860s until the 1880s Western Ukrainian political, religious, and cultural life came to be dominated by the Russophiles.

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