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Modernism: Representations of National Culture

Ahmet Ersoy
Maciej Górny
Vangelis Kechriotis

Chapter V. Regionalism, autonomism and the minority identity-building narratives

Address delivered at the House of Lords in Vienna

Andrzej Szeptycki
Traduction de Robert Russell

Texte intégral

1Title: Address delivered at the House of Lords in Vienna

2Originally published: Stenographische Protokolle über die Sitzungen des Herrenhauses des Reichsrates 1909 bis 1911 XX. Session (1. bis 15. Sitzung), Wien, k.k. Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1911, pp. 286–287.

3Language: German

4The excerpts used are from the original.

About the author

5Roman Maria Aleksander Szeptycki (Andrei Sheptytsky) [1865, Przyłbice near Lviv (Ukr. Prylbychi, present-day Ukraine) – 1944, Lviv]: clergyman and Ukrainian national leader. Szeptycki was Uniate bishop of Stanisławów (Ukr. Ivano- Frankivsk, present-day Ukraine), metropolitan of Halicz (Ukr. Halich, present day Ukraine), archbishop of Lviv (Pol. Lwów, Ger. Lemberg), bishop of Kamieniec Podolski (Ukr. Kamianets-Podilskyi, present-day Ukraine), and a central figure of the Uniate community. He was born into an aristocratic Polish Catholic family with Ruthenian roots. His ancestors were already leading the Greek Catholic Church in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the seventeenth century. He studied law and theology in Cracow and Breslau (Pol. Wrocław, present-day Poland). Szeptycki’s early decision to become a monk in a Greek Catholic Basilian Order was unwillingly accepted by his father, who conditioned his agreement on performing his Austrian military service and completing his studies. In 1888 with the acceptance of his family, Roman became a monk and changed his secular names to Andrzej (Ukr. Andrei). In 1899 he was nominated bishop of Stanisławów and in 1900 he became metropolitan of the Uniate Church. Szeptycki was devoted to ecumenism and he supported every attempt to reunite the whole Orthodox Church with the Catholic. At the same time, he advocated cultural rights of the Ukrainian population in Galicia. From 1901 until 1914, he was active as a member of the Galician Diet, and from 1903 until 1914, in the ‘House of Lords’ of the Viennese Parliament and the ‘Imperial Ministerial Council.’ Szeptycki established the ‘Studite Brethren’ and introduced the congregation of Redemptorists into Galicia. In 1914, when the Russian army entered Lviv, he was arrested and sent to Kiev, Novgorod and finally to Kursk. Freed in 1917, Szeptycki returned home to support the attempts to create an independent Ukrainian state. At the same time, he was trying to mitigate a Polish–Ukrainian military clash in Eastern Galicia. In the interwar Polish state, Szeptycki supported the liberal-nationalist Ukrainian political movement. He also launched a campaign against the anti-Orthodox policies of the Polish government in the late 1930s. In 1939 Szeptycki remained in Soviet-occupied Lviv, demanding that all the Uniate clergy stay at their posts. After the outbreak of the German–Soviet war, he officially welcomed the approaching Wehrmacht as the honorary head of the ‘Ukrainian National Council’ in Lviv. He supported the creation of the Ukrainian state administration. Nevertheless, Szeptycki soon distanced himself from the Nazi policy and organized an informal network based in Uniate monasteries which saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust. He also tried, unsuccessfully, to influence Ukrainian partisans to stop the pogroms against Poles in Wolhynia (1943–1944). Szeptycki died in Soviet Lviv in November 1944. Two years later the Uniate Church was officially disbanded in the Soviet Union. The clergy was forced to join the Orthodox Church, while those who resisted would be persecuted.

6Main works: Tипикoн Cтyдитcкoї Лaвpи cв. Aнтoня Пeчepcькoгo в Cкнилoвi пiд Львoвoм [Typicon of the Studite monastery of St. Antoni Pechersky in Sknilov near Lviv] (1910); Tвopи митpoпoлитa Aндpeя Шeптицкoгo. Пacтиpcкi пocлaння дo дyхoвeнcтвa й вipних cтaниcлaвiвcькoї єпapхiї 1899–1904 [Works of the metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky. Letters to the clergy and believers of the Stanyslaviv eparchy] (1935); Пиcмa – пocлaння митpoпoлитa Aндpeя [Letters – proclamations of the metropolitan Andrei] (1961); Tвopи Cлyги бoжoгo митpoпoлитa Aндpeя Шeптицкoгo [Works of metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky, servant of God] (1965–1989).


7The Ukrainian national movement developed within the borders of two empires that shared the Ukrainian lands since the partition of Poland: Russia and Austria. While the movement was suppressed in Russia and the Ukrainians were denied their national identity, Austria’s liberal nationalities policy allowed the Ukrainians to create national cultural institutions and organizations, foremost in autonomist Galicia. However, Ukrainian national identity often interfered or collided with the Polish national movement.

8The ruling cadres of autonomous Galicia were dominated by Polish aristocrats. Most prominent Galician families monopolized important posts and presided over internal politics. The Ukrainian movement developed in opposition to local Polish administration, without any significant support from the Austrian authorities. The movement was sharply divided along ideological lines: the old-Ruthenian party tried to build a political program based on the historical rights of the Ukrainians, whereas the so-called ‘Moskalophiles’ advocated the idea of national unity with Russia. From the late 1860s onward, a new nationalist trend emerged, supported by immigrants from the Russian part of Ukraine. At this time, also the self-description ‘Ukranian’ started to replace the historical denomination ‘Ruthenian,’ which, however, remained an official name of the East Slavic ethnic groups of Austria till the dissolution of the Monarchy. In the 1870s, a Ukrainian socialist (‘radical’) movement was formed, and at the end of the century large parts of the two predominant groups, nationalist and ‘radical,’ formed a national-democratic party that remained dominant in west-Ukrainian political life till the 1930s. A major weakness of this party was its restrained relations with the Greek Catholic (Uniate) Church. In the last decades of the century, however, the party succeeded in attracting the support of the Uniate clergy, and, through it, the Ukrainian Galician peasantry. At the same time, it was the conservative and clerical members of the national-democrats who pledged for compromise with Poles in Galicia.

9The new metropolitan Szeptycki was extremely successful in connecting the Uniate Church to the Ukrainian national movement. He demanded high moral standards from the clergy and forced it to pay attention to the social situation of the Ukrainian peasantry. He was also an active participant to the campaigns for establishing a separate Ukrainian university in Lviv. The university project was a part of a broader Ukrainian political program that sought to redefine the balance of power in Galicia either by co-opting the Ukrainian elites to the ruling circle, or, preferably, by dividing the province into separate sections, the Polish and the Ukrainian.

10The address delivered by Szeptycki (in his political activities he used the Polish version of his name) in the upper chamber of the Austrian Parliament was a turning point in the successful campaign for establishing a Ukrainian university. He conveyed his opinions during the budget debate of June 1910, skillfully stressing Ukrainian loyalty towards the Habsburg dynasty and the unison of the Ukrainian nation and the Greek Catholic Church. He expressed the Ukrainians’ belief in the historical mission of Austria, which was to solve the question of nationalities on the basis of a compromise. He also cautioned his audience against the radicalization of political life in Galicia, which he interpreted as a result of unfulfilled demands of the Ukrainians. Finally, Szeptycki alluded to the danger of Russian pan-Slavic propaganda that could undermine the loyalty of the Ukrainian peasants towards the house of Habsburg. While attempting to gain the support of Austrian ruling circles, Szeptycki also negotiated with Polish political leaders, and finally achieved his goal. The 1913 imperial decree allowed the creation of a Ukrainian university, and in February 1914, a Polish–Ukrainian compromise was achieved. The Polish politicians did not oppose the establishment of the Ukrainian university in Lwów, whereas the Ukrainian representation in the Galician Parliament (till then almost totally absent) was to comprise approximately one third of the deputies. The significance of the compromise becomes more clear when one considers the turbulent political atmosphere of the early twentieth century, with the radicalization of politics in Galicia, the bloody police interventions during the local electoral campaigns, and the assassinations of Polish and Ukrainian political leaders. The Ukrainian achievements in Galicia provoked a sharp reaction among the Russian official circles with continuing adherence to Russification policies in Ukraine. The Polish– Ukrainian compromise was never to be realized. In 1914 the war began and Galicia was soon to turn into a battlefield, while the main author of the compromise, metropolitan Szeptycki, was arrested by the Russian military and silenced till 1917.

11The idea of a Polish–Ukrainian compromise was gradually marginalized during the twentieth century. Already in the autumn of 1918, political conflict in Galicia turned into military clash with Polish irregular forces fighting against units of the ‘Western Ukrainian National Republic’ (Szeptycki was a member of the ‘Ukrainian National Council,’ the political representation of Ukrainian Republic) in Lviv. The final victory of the Poles, followed by the demise of the young Ukrainian statehood augmented the political conflict. The policy of the Polish interwar state towards the Ukraine oscillated between allowing limited autonomy to the assimilation of Ukrainian and Belarusian citizens. While the Polish state prohibited the creation of a Ukrainian university, it also dissolved the Ukrainian high school network in former Galicia. The Ukrainian struggle for independence (1918–1920) was unsuccessful, but many Ukrainians refused to yield to Polish authorities (the boycott of Polish state institutions lasted till 1923), hoping for an intervention by the Western powers. In the early 1930s, when the liberal national-democratic group in Ukrainian politics attempted to forge a deal with the Polish state, the powerful radical nationalist movement took over the leadership till 1945. Andrzej Szeptycki remained a moral authority beyond the Ukrainian community, although his capacity to shape Ukrainian politics was never as strong as in his earlier days as a Uniate metropolitan.

12Szeptycki is still considered a moral authority by many modern Ukranians, especially adherents of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church who regard him as a saint. Together with his heir at the metropolitanate, Yosyf Slipy (1892– 1984), he embodies the high moral standards of the persecuted Church which was claimed to represent the nation’s conscience during the tragic years of Stalinism and after. Szeptycki is also praised by Jewish authors, who refer to his attempts at rescuing the Galician Jews from the Holocaust. Polish opinions are divided: Catholic authors comment on his theological opinions and political achievements with admiration and devotion. His selected writings have been translated into Polish and he is one of the symbols of Polish– Ukrainian reconciliation. At the same time, Polish nationalist historiography criticizes his lenient attitude towards Ukrainian radical nationalism and his initial enthusiasm for the German occupation of the country.


Address delivered at the House of Lords in Vienna

14Esteemed House! If I choose to speak in the budget debate, it is not to criticize the present government proposals or express any objections to them in principle. I only wish to draw the attention of the esteemed House to the cultural needs of the Ruthenians, which have hitherto not received sufficient consideration. Although it is a matter of quite fundamental importance that the nations represented in the Imperial Council should be provided with at least the minimum requirements for their cultural development, this is unfortunately not the case with the Ruthenians. It is this fundamental importance that convinces me, in addressing this subject, that I do not speak pro domo mea, at least not in the strictest national sense; I am guided by considerations of a quite general nature, mindful of the welfare of the whole Monarchy in which we Ruthenians (Ukrainians) have found tolerance, liberty and protection. Without wishing to censure the government, but not without a sense of justified regret, I have to say that in the state budget estimates on today’s agenda we can find no proof that the Government actually and actively seeks to take into account the wishes and aspirations of the Ruthenians.

15Although the question of creating an independent university in Lemberg has for years been the object of negotiations and the earnest wishes of the Ruthenian nation, no positive action in this regard has hitherto been taken. But this matter, esteemed Gentlemen, is for many reasons of greater importance than it might at first sight appear. That the establishment of a Ruthenian university in Lemberg is necessary I consider to be proven, and more than proven: it is self-evident. For if the Ruthenians already had a university, the necessity of a second might be doubtful; yet since they have none, to ask whether a Ruthenian university is necessary is like asking whether universities are necessary at all. For if universities are powerful factors in the historical life of a nation, then so must they be for all nations! If universities, by elevating and fostering culture, exert such a powerful influence on the life of human society that in the modern age they have become the greatest and most important centers of cultural and national life, then so must they be for all societies. If they are necessary, then they are above all and chiefly necessary for those who as yet have none. It must be admitted that a people that numbers three and a half million in Galicia, thus occupying fourth place among the nations of the Empire, and whose cultural development yearly demands large numbers of priests, schoolteachers, civil servants, judges and other academically trained professionals, cannot in the long term do without a university and must be conscious of an urgent need to establish such an institution.

16Neither can it be denied that the Ruthenians have a right to a university of their own, especially since this right has been conceded to several much smaller nations in the Empire. And should anyone object that the Ruthenians are not yet ready for autonomous intellectual inquiry at their own university, we would be compelled to dismiss such an argument as historically false, since even in the seventeenth century we had flourishing academies and consequently also high schools. If this argument proved anything at all, the logical inference would be that a young man should not attend school until he has learnt something, nor a sick man visit the doctor until he is well.

17Furthermore, any attempt to justify this shortcoming on the grounds of economy rests on an entirely mistaken assumption. For the debate about universities is above all a postulate of culture and learning. We have known for a long time that expending resources on raising the standard of cultural life and learning is not strictly speaking expenditure, but an investment that brings rich rewards. Just as excessive frugality in agriculture or any other business can have disastrous consequences—not only where the expenditure is absolutely essential, but also in cases where it is considered solely in terms of actual tangible gain—so it is too with the cultural life of a nation. We shall make little progress in this matter by forever asking anxiously: is it really absolutely necessary, is there really no other way of avoiding this expenditure? A paradox it may be, but it is nonetheless a pure truth: culture is most necessary in those very places where certain voices dispute that necessity, just as schools are most necessary in those very places where the lack of education is not properly felt. As it is with sunshine and clean, healthy air, so is it too with culture. More light, more air: these are the key words for culture. Nobody thinks to ask whether any place may have a superfluity of sunshine and air, or whether the lungs might manage on a smaller amount of oxygen. Doctors have long since abandoned the tenet that the stale air of closed rooms can be good for the human body. Even if the Ruthenians were not of one mind, as in fact they are, in their demands for enlightenment and their own culture and learning or even if there were those among them who believed they could live without sun and air, this would provide even stronger proof of our assertion.

18The Ruthenians regard it as a blessing of divine providence that they have found in Austria true religious tolerance and an assured freedom to develop their own culture. Their gratitude for this tolerance and freedom is betokened by their loyalty to the anointed person of the beloved Monarch and the entire dynasty. The striving for cultural development, however, requires the support of the state, without whose participation learning is simply incapable, nowadays, of proper development. The lack of state support, or rather the lack of consideration for the cultural needs of a nation, is an injurious wound to the body of that nation, and consequently to the empire of which it is a part. Doubtless the theoretical recognition of the right to culture and the abstract freedom of autonomous development that we enjoy within Austria are not without significance, especially in these times when the majority of the legislative bodies in Europe take, in theory and principle, a very different view— as we have seen in recent weeks. Yet this kind of theoretical recognition is in fact of very little account, and we should not be surprised that people feel dissatisfied and unhappy when they are in every way denied their daily bread; for in these times cultural and, in particular, economic needs are universally felt, imposing themselves with the same categorical imperative as the need for daily bread.

19Where these needs are not adequately met, where the bare minimum is wanting, where there is still discussion whether an even smaller piece of bread might not after all suffice, there appear symptoms analogous to hunger— and hunger is always a bad counselor. There have been frequent manifestations of unrest in Galicia—proof enough that the conditions in that country are abnormal. On the one hand we have observed extreme tendencies, albeit of a more acceptable and general nature than elsewhere; on the other, foreign emissaries who have sought to offer the Ruthenian people the hope of a secure future, only outside the confines of the Monarchy, have all too often found a willing audience. These two opposing tendencies have one and the same psychological basis: pessimism, and the loss of the better hope that the lasting satisfaction of all cultural and economic needs can only be attained by legal means, and that this is indeed the only proper way. If an organism is at times afflicted by a fever, or is insufficiently resistant to the bacilli threatening it from without, the remedy for both ailments is the same: better nourishment. That such a cure is no luxury, that the health of the organism will contribute to the well-being of the whole, is self-evident. It is of great consequence to all the nations belonging to the Monarchy that their cultural needs be satisfied, and of even greater consequence to the Monarchy itself; so that he who speaks out in such matters may be sure that his words will be received as those of a citizen mindful of the welfare of Austria as a whole.

20For at a time when many a great and powerful European state bases its existence on a narrow and unjust nationalism, Austria alone, with great effort and sacrifice, is laying the foundations of a monumental edifice of a higher order, seeking support in the counterbalanced interests of different nations, and finding an enduring basis in justice—something that has yet to be accomplished by those who build their foundations on the sand of national egoism. This mighty undertaking is beset by such difficulties that it would perhaps be foolhardy to expect it to yield any tangible results in the near future.

21By striving to make the principle of justice between nations a reality, however, we are also working for the victory of a great idea. If that idea does not prevail it is a defeat of all that is noble and good. But as long as law and justice are not empty words, then the future belongs to Austria and her peoples.

22The university issue can be illumined from yet another angle, to which I may be permitted, as spiritual leader of Catholic Ruthenians of the Greek Rite in Galicia, to draw the attention of the Government and the esteemed House. For the Austro-Hungarian monarchy is the state within whose borders are to be found the largest of the Eastern Rite communities that still adhere to the resolutions of the Council of Florence and, most importantly, uphold the venerable traditions of early Christianity—namely, the principle of the unity of the Eastern and Western churches. This religious union of the Orient with Rome, of the Catholic faith with the Greek Rite, has become for us Ruthenians something of a national tradition, our national religion. In defense of this idea, which is surely of global importance yet has always met with hostility from national and religious self-interest, our ancestors shed rivers of martyrs’ blood, and it is an idea cherished by our people to this day. Thus any initiatives aimed at raising the level of our cultural life will also indirectly further this great and momentous question of religion.

23I repeat: for all these reasons, for the cultural and Catholic-religious development of the Ruthenian people under the Habsburg scepter, I consider the establishment of a Ruthenian university in Lemberg to be not merely necessary but eminently important. I therefore urge the Government to direct its attention to this matter with all the goodwill and energy that its importance demands.


Robert Russell (Traducteur)

© Central European University Press, 2010

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