Galician Culture

The Austrian-Hungarian Empire stretched from Galicia in the north to Bosnia and Herzegovina in the South. What this meant is the area called Galicia was just one small section in the larger empire. Even within the Empire, Galicia was divided between West Galicia (today within the borders of Poland) and Eastern Galicia (today within the borders of Ukraine). Poles and Ukrainians, sometimes called Ruthenians or Rusyns, co-existed, along with Germans, Jews, Hungarians, Romanians, Slovaks and many more.

The map below shows the Austro-Hungarian empire and its ethnic groups. Poles are purple and Ukrainians are yellow and can be spotted in the top right in Galicia. There were pockets of a Polish majority in Eastern Galicia, mostly around L’viv.

Galicia was a large area and as such, a variety of different ethnic, sub-ethnic and religions co-existed, each with their own culture. It will be nearly impossible to list all of them here but the well known cultures have been listed below, under if they can be found in today’s Poland (Western Galicia) or Ukraine (Eastern Galicia).

In 1773, when the first partition of Poland occured, Galicia had about 2.6 million inhabitants in 280 cities and market towns and approximately 5,500 villages. There were 19,000 noble families (about 3% of the population). The serfs accounted for 1.86 million of the population, more than 70%. A few were full-time farmers but 84% of them had only small holdings or no possessions.

After the full completion of the partitions of Poland, and the new borders cutting Galicia off from many of its traditional trade routes, this resulted in stagnation of economic life and decline of towns in Galicia. The Austrian government determined to exploit Galicia and drained it of its manpower through conscription to the Army. The government also decided that the area would remain an agricultural hub, serving as a supplier of food products and raw materials, rather than developing industry.

This, unfortunately, led to widespread poverty in Galicia and eventually to many immigrating to North and South America.


Western Galicia

Language: Polish, German

Religion: Roman Catholic, minority Greek Catholic

Examples of Polish sub-ethnic groups include, but are not limited to:

Eastern Galicia

Language: Polish, Ukrainian, Rusyn, and many more

Religion: Greek Catholic, minority Roman Catholic

Examples of Eastern Galician sub-ethnic groups include, but are not limited to:

Galician Flag


Additional Resources

Books on Galician Culture and History

From Serfdom to Self-Government, Memoirs of a Polish Village Mayor, 1842-1927Jan Słomka
Galicia: A Multicultured LandPaul R. Magocsi and Chris Hahn
Galicia: A Historical Survey and Bibliographic GuidePaul R. Magocsi
The Idea of Galicia: History and Fantasy in Habsburg Political CultureLary Wolff
One Hundred Years in Galicia: Events that Shaped Ukraine and Eastern EuropeDennis Ougrin and Anastasia Ougrin
Music in the Culture of Polish Galicia, 1772-1914Jolanta T. Pekacz
The Nation in the Village: The Genesis of Peasant National Identity in Austrian Poland, 1848-1914Keely Stauter-Halsted
From Peoples into Nations: A History of Eastern EuropeJohn Connelly
Diaspora Nationalism and Jewish Identity in Habsburg GaliciaJoshua Shanes
Framing the Ukrainian Peasantry in Habsburg Galicia, 1846-1914Andriy Zayarnyuk
Gente Rutheni, Natione Poloni: The Ruthenians of Polish Nationality in Habsburg GaliciaAdam Świątek
Habsburg Lemberg: Architecture, Public Space, and Politics in the Galician Capital, 1772-1914Markian Prokopovych
A History of Habsburg Jews, 1670-1918William O. McCagg Jr.

Websites on Galician History and Culture

History of GaliciaToronto Ukrainian Genealogy Group
Galicia: A Brief HistoryJewishGen
History of Galicia (Eastern Europe)Wikiwand
Polish Culture (includes modern and historical culture for all of Poland)