Ukrainian Russophiles - World War I and Afterwards

World War I and Afterwards

Immediately before the outbreak of World War I, the Austrian and Hungarian governments held numerous treason trials of those suspected of Russophile subversion. When the Austrians were driven from Galicia in August 1914, they avenged themselves upon suspected Russophiles and their families. Russophiles were punished for allegedly seeking to separate Galicia, Bukovyna and parts of northern Hungary from Austria-Hungary and attaching them to Russia, of seeking volunteers for the Russian army, and of organizing a pro-Russian paramilitary group known as the Russkie Druzhiny – a Russophile counterpart to the Ukrainophile pro-Austrian Ukrainian Sich Riflemen. Hundreds of suspected Russophiles were shot, and thirty thousand were sent to the Talerhof concentration camp, where approximately three thousand died of exposure.

The Russian administration of Galicia lasted from August 1914 until June 1915. Russian Grand Duke Nicholas issued a manifesto proclaiming that the people of Galicia were brothers who had "languished for centuries under a foreign yoke" and urged them to "raise the banner of United Russia." During this time, with the help of local Russophiles, the Russian administration, aware that the Ukrainophiles were loyal to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and that they had organized the Ukrainian legion of the Austro-Hungarian army, engaged in a harsh persecution of the Ukrainophile leaders and their ideology. Ukrainian schools were forcibly converted to Russian-language instruction, reading rooms, newspapers, co-operatives and credit unions were closed, and hundreds of community leaders were arrested and exiled under suspicion of collaboration. The popular head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky was arrested and exiled to Russia. Although Nicholas II issued a decree forbidding forceful conversion from Uniatism to Orthodoxy, except in cases where 75% of the parishioners approved, the ultimate goal was the liquidation of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. In addition to its head, hundreds of priests were exiled to Russia and replaced by Orthodox priests, who urged the parishioners to convert to Orthodoxy. The behavior of the Russian authorities was so heavy-handed that it was denounced as a "European scandal" in the Russian Duma by the Russian statesman Pavel Milyukov. The Russians were aided in their suppression of Ukrainian culture by local Russophiles and by Polish anti-Ukrainian figures such as Lviv professor Stanisław Grabski. Such actions angered most of the local Ukrainian population.

When Austria regained Galicia in June 1915, most of the remaining Galician Russophiles and their families retreated alongside the Russian army in fear of reprisals. Approximately 25,000 of them were resettled near Rostov-on-Don. Among those that did not leave, the Austrians arrested and sentenced to death approximately thirty noted Russophiles, including two members of parliament, Dmytro Markov and Volodymyr Kurylovich (their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment and they were released in 1917)., as well as Metodyj Trochanovskij. Kost Levitsky, a prominent Ukrainophile leader and the future president of the West Ukrainian National Republic, appeared as a prosecutor during the trials against the Russophiles.

When civil war broke out in Russia, some Galician Russophiles then fought in the ranks of the White Army, specifically under Lavr Kornilov, in the hope that Galicia would become part of a democratic White Russia.

After the collapse of Austria-Hungary the Ukrainians of Galicia proclaimed the West Ukrainian National Republic. Between 70 and 75 thousand men fought in its Ukrainian Galician Army. They lost their war and the territory was annexed by Poland. However, the experience of proclaiming a Ukrainian state and fighting for it significantly intensified and deepened the Ukrainian orientation within Galicia. Since the interwar era, Galicia has been the center of Ukrainian nationalism.

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