Oleksandra Krushynska: Becoming Austrian? The Problem of Socio-Political Transformations in Galicia During First Decades of Habsburg Rule (1772-1815)

This project deals with the socio-political transformations that took place in the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria from 1772, the year it was created on the territory acquired by the Habsburg empire as a result of the First Partition of Poland, to 1815, the year of the end of Napoleonic wars and the Vienna Congress. The latter date is chosen for being an important milestone in Galician history for two main reasons. On one hand, Galicia was in that year recognized by the European great powers (first and foremost, by Austria itself) as an inalienable Austrian territory. Up to this moment, Galicia was still seen as a potential territorial bait in Habsburg foreign politics. On the other hand, the Napoleonic wars turned out to be the first test of loyalty of the Galician population towards the Habsburgs. Although during the wars the Austrian empire was at its weakest, and the hopes of a revival of Polish independence were expressed in all the three states that had then possessed former Polish territories, no significant anti-Austrian uprising took place in Galicia, and at the same time, the Galician nobility actively joined the Austrian army. Therefore, the main goal of this project is to study how the reforms and transformations imposed by the Habsburg monarchy have influenced the allegiance of the Galician population over the course of one generation. To fulfill this goal, I will examine the formulation of Habsburg policies towards Galicia, their implementation and modification in this process, and, last but not least, their results within the studied period of time.

Based on my dissertation, this project is focused on the three main areas of transformation. The first looks at administrative reforms and changes to the state system introduced during the transfer from the democracy to monocracy of the nobles. The second one is focused on agrarian reforms and changes to the status of the peasantry, and the third deals with the adaptation of former elites to Habsburg rule and the compromises achieved through that process.

The methodological framework of this research includes a juxtaposition of “Austrian” and “Galician” discourses, or the discourses of the colonizing power and the society it took over, and their analysis through the lens of postcolonial theory. In this case, a fuller picture of the studied time period in Galicia could be created, and a mistake of treating Galician society only as a passive object of imperial agenda would be avoided. The attitude of Austrian elites was a combination of valuing Galicia for its potential of being exploited both economically and politically, on one hand, and the “civilizing mission” of bringing Galicia to progress and prosperity in correspondence to the ideals of Enlightened Absolutism, on the other. As for the “Galician” discourse, shaped by the former Polish elites of the land, it was based on attempts of these elites to justify their rule over the land and to get back their privileges and influence lost after the three partitions, or at least to reach some compromise with the new government.

There is little research dealing not only with the establishment of Austrian rule over the land, but also with the impact and outcome of Enlightened Absolutist reforms in Galicia before 1809-15. The loyalty towards the Habsburgs during the Napoleonic wars could arguably be called the biggest success of the first decades of Austrian governance in Galicia, but the strategies that led to such a loyalty within various social groups and their actual implementation have not yet been fully studied. Since, within this project, Galicia is not simply treated as an object of Habsburg regional politics, but as a subject of bilateral relationships between the center and periphery, it might be relevant in terms of filling a research gap in the studies of Austrian and European history at the end of the 18th to the beginning of 19th century.

Oleksandra Krushynska is an university assistant (prae doc) at the Department of Eastern European History of the University of Vienna. Her doctoral project deals with the first decades of history of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria within the Habsburg empire (supervisors: Prof. Dr. Kerstin S. Jobst and Prof. Dr. Christoph Augustynowicz).

She holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees with honors in International Relations from the Institute of International Relations at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. She was also a participant of the international Master’s program Erasmus Mundus Global Studies, and has studied Global History at the University of Vienna and International Relations at the University of Wrocław as part of her mobility track. She was awarded a Master’s Degree in Global Studies, with her MA thesis dealing with the recent European integration reforms in Ukraine and the assistance of the European Union in these transformations.

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