‘On the liberation of Galicia’

One hundred years ago today (22 April 1915 new style, 9 April 1915 old style), Tsar Nicholas II visited Lvov, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia. The Russian Army had seized the city in summer 1914 in the early stages of the First World War. The capture of the Austro-Hungarian fortress of Przemysl in March 1915 finalized the Russian conquest of Galicia, and the Supreme Commander of the Russian Army, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, persuaded the Tsar to visit Lvov to mark this achievement. According to the chief of the Tsar’s personal guard, Aleksandr Spiridovich, the local population gave Nicholas a warm reception. On arrival in Lvov, the Tsar inspected a guard of honour and met his sisters, Grand Duchesses Olga and Ksenia, the first of whom was working in the city as a nurse.

Nicholas II and Grand Duchesses Olga and Ksenia, Lvov
Nicholas II and Grand Duchesses Olga and Ksenia, Lvov

Next, the Tsar attended a church service presided over by one of the senior bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Evlogy. Despite instructions from the Grand Duke to keep his sermon apolitical, Evlogy refused to do so and proclaimed that the people of Galicia viewed the Tsar as a liberator. He then spoke of his ‘joy at seeing Russian eagles over the Carpathian Mountains.’ After the service, Nicholas reviewed a march-past of Russian soldiers, then retired to the Viceroy’s palace for dinner.

Nicholas II reviews parade of Russian troops, Lvov
Nicholas II reviews a parade of Russian troops, Lvov

After dinner, the Tsar went out on a balcony and spoke a few words to the assembled crowd. According to Spiridovich, he received a ‘rapturous welcome.’ The French military attaché, the colourfully named Brigadier General Pierre Adolphe Henri Victurnien Marquis de Laguiche, Comte de Sivignon, agreed with Spiridovich.  In a telegram to the French Minister of War, he remarked that the Tsar had been received, ‘de la part de la population avec manifestations [de] sympathie très marquées, notamment à Lemberg où [l’]Empereur a été vivement acclamé.’ (‘by the population with very marked demonstrations of warmth, notably in Lemberg [Lvov] where the Emperor was enthusiastically acclaimed.’)

Nicholas II in Lvov
Nicholas II in Lvov

Nicholas was delighted with the welcome in Lvov. On leaving he gave Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich a diamond-studded ceremonial sabre inscribed with the phrase ‘На освобождение червонной Руси’ (‘On the liberation of red Rus’, i.e. Galicia).

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6 thoughts on “‘On the liberation of Galicia’”

  1. This is classic, Paul: After Malo Rossiya, Novorossiya, now we can call Galicia Red-Rossiya… if you list this a bit more public you’ll give some part of Ukraine real indigestion for the next month and risk putting yourself on Gerashenko’s hitlist…

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    1. According to George Vernadsky in his book ‘Kievan Rus’, in 981 AD Vladimir the Great, ‘marched upon the Poles and took Peremyshl, Cherven, and a number of other west Ukrainian towns, since known as the “Cherven cities”. The name Cherven was later understood as the old Russian adjective meaning “red” and consequently this region was eventually spoken of as “Red Russia” (Chervonnaia Rus’).’

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  2. Thank you for bringing this interesting, forgotten perhaps even suppressed history of Galicia to light. Another interesting piece of history was the the Austro-Hungarian Empire War Ministry issued phrasebook in 6 languages: German, Hungarian, Polish, Czech, Croatian and Russian for its soldiers in order to communicate with each other. For some reason the Habsburgs felt it unnecessary to issue a phrasebook in the Ukrainian language.

    Another example of Galicians welcoming the Russian army’s capture/liberation of Lvov/Lviv/Lwow/Lemberg/Leopolis in September 1914 can be found in the Galician-American diaspora magazine/newspaper “Svit”, which proclaimed that “our Lvov is Russian, our Halych is Russian”!

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  3. Thanks, Paul, for this blog.

    Did all your photos in this post come from Spiridovich? I have his first Great War volume, recording his diary 1914-1915, but could only find one of the photos you posted.

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