Part 2, Section 24 - Lemkovina under Austria
Two years before Poland was divided, upon the order of Maria Theresa on July 19, 1770, the Austrian government took Speesh from Poland and in expanding its borders north, parts of Novy Targ, Chorstin and Novo-Sandetsky Districts. With the division of Poland which occurred in 1772, all of Galicia was made part of Austria, and this in turn, was divided into 19 circles in 1782, and then into 76 Districts in 1868. Lemkovina now consisted of Novo- Sandetsky, Gribow, Dukla, Jaslo, Krosno, S'ianok and Liski Districts. All legal, land and administrative questions, had to go to state representatives for resolution, and, with the introduction of the German language, people had difficulty in communicating. In addition to the German, the Rusyn and Polish languages were used for state business.
The Austrian government immediately began reforms. The taxes that had gone to the Lords was diverted to a Religious Fund. They revised and abandoned some taxes while developing new forms of taxation such as rustikalni (?), chopovi (?), salt and tobacco. The number of Greek-Catholic churches decreased while the number of Latin rite churches increased to 995 in Galicia. The Latin clergy were granted pensions from the Religious Fund upon retirement and the government favored them. Complaints by the Greek-Catholic clergy were usually resolved in favor of the Latin clergy.
The policy of the Austrian government was "deride et impera" (divide and rule). They divided the Poles into two hostile camps and, likewise, they divided Lemkos, instigating one group against another. Also, thanks to Joseph II and Maria Theresa, active German colonization began where all the more important and better positions were held by Germans. On the one hand, the government tried to weaken the Polish Shlakhti [landlords], but on the other hand, they gave them some important duties. Villages suffocated under the burden of high taxes and now, they were also obliged to serve in the army. In order to avoid paying taxes and being recruited to the army, villagers walked from village to village, leaving behind their households, finally settling in the forests.
Demeaning serfdom, discrimination, oppression and compulsory army service caused the rebellion in 1846 during which, in an organized manner, the Polish villagers threw themselves on the large landowners (shlakhti) as revenge for their misfortune. Polish villagers from Krosno smashed lord Tito Torzhesisky and the poet Vincent Polya. Badly beaten, they were taken to Jaslo. Hearing about the rebellion, the owners of Grebov, Ferdinand and Jules Goshi, and the owners of Bialy and Poliany, Kiril and Amelian Zielinski also fled for their lives. Rebel chieftain, Shelya with his gang, was the most aggressive during the rebellion. In Lemkovina everything was relatively quiet and Lemkos did not participate in the rebellion.
In 1848, serfdom was abolished by the Constitution, and compulsory army service was abolished in 1849 and 1851. To fully understand the economic, political and cultural life of Lemkovina's people we must examine the prevailing conditions of the entire Rusyn population in Galicia and Ugorshchina (the Hungarian section of the empire, now Ukrainian Transcarpathia: cities of Uzhgorod, Mukachevo, etc.)

Originally appeared in newspaper "Karpatska Rus'". Yonkers NY. Permission was granted by the editor for it to appear on The Lemko Page.

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Date Posted: February 24th, 1998
Last Revision: May 29th, 1999

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