Part 2, Section 26 - The Agrarian Question in Galicia
In Galicia, 83% of the population earned their living from agriculture, forestry, or fishing, while 39.2% of the land belonged to nobles who often owned several thousands of hectares, [1 hectare = 2 1/2 acres], in scores of estates. 1 For example, here are a few of them:
Baron Jan Libig 66,756 ha in 62 estates
Count Roman Potockiy 49,874" '' 104 ''
Archduke Karol Stefan 44,079 '' '' 53 "
Wilhelm Adam Schmidt 35,516 '' '' 20 ''
Baron Bertold Popper 33,421 '' '' 28 ''
Count Jakov & Maria Potockiy 25,586 '' '' 34 ''
Count Stanislaw Badeni 22,761'' '' 16 ''
Count Karol Lanckoronskiy 20.077 '' '' 38 ''
Wilhelm Friedrich Schmidt 19,722'' '' 13 ''
Count Andrey Potockiy 18,996'' '' 39 ''
Maria & Olivir Count Ressegnir 15,452'' '' 10 ''
Count Stan Siemienskiy-Levickiy 14,303"" 23
Prince Yevstakhy Sangushko 13,490 '' '' 42 ''
Prince Gioronim Lubomirskiy 13,179"'' 24 ''
Prince Kalikst Poninskiy 12,582 " '' 16 ''
The masters of these great manors included not only Galician magnates but also foreign aristocrats headed by Archduke Karol Stefan. Among them were Poles, Germans, and Jews. Estates in Galicia were accumulated not only by Austro-German aristocrats but also by various merchants and speculators. Ownership of landed property made it easier to play a more important role in politics.
Also among the large landholders was the Catholic Church. Ecclesiastical holdings reached the sum of 129,028 hectares. The Latin archbishopric in Lviv had 14,787 hectares, and the Greek Catholic archbishopric had 30,991. The Latin bishopric in Przemysl had 7,808 hectares, the Greek 1,000. The Latin rite chapter in Lviv owned 6,318 hectares. Some Latin parishes were also granted large holdings. For example, The Lord's Grave parish in Cracow owned 708 hectares, the parish in Oleska had 693, in Terebovlia 578, in Dolinia 1,592. As the landed gentry became richer, the peasantry grew poorer. In 1898 there was an average of 4 acres of land per peasant family. Because industry was poorly developed, work opportunities for the villagers were limited, and the land had to be divided into parcels. For 1,009,000 households there were 19,340,321 parcels listed. That means there were 19 scattered parcels for every 4-acre holding. Besides establishments of 3-4 acres, there were many dwarfed to 1-2 acres. There also were many peasants who did not have even a piece of land. These were the so-called cottagers and roomers. A cottager had his own hut set on somebody else's land, for which he had to pay the owner a rent payable in labor for the rest of his life. A roomer did not even have a hut of his own and had to work for a miserly wage on the fields of the lord or a wealthy peasant. Professor Napoleon Cybulski of the University of Lviv described these poor wretches of his time as being in a state of "near starvation". They make their bread by mixing flour with potatoes, cabbage, beans, peas, ground corn cobs, apples, etc. Instead of bread they often bake ash cakes and eat them half raw and covered with ashes, hot out of the stove, because the cakes would be inedible when dried out. To sustain life they resort to rotten potatoes, oil cake, bran, pigweed and other weeds, beet and cabbage greens. Often, 10% of the people do not have bread all year round. The poorest eat no bread for most of the year.2
Attesting to the wretched state of the Galician peasantry was the fact that they were often unable to pay their taxes and had to pay a high rate of interest for late payment. In 1904, Galician peasants paid the state treasury 1,230,000 zloty [translator's note; Lemkin does not indicate what the monetary unit is here; I am assuming it should be zloty in interest for late payment of taxes. In 1900, there were 4,028 auction sales of peasant properties for nonpayment of taxes. In all these cases, the amount of the tax plus interest did not come to 100 zloty. In one such case, a peasant's property valued at 1,400 zloty was auctioned off for 8 zloty of unpaid tax, which sum had risen to 80 zloty when court costs were added. Another peasant had his eleven-acre homestead auctioned off to Count Lubomirskiy for 250 zloty, while in the Allotment Bank's report its value was listed at no less than 8,000 zloty.
The poor were not allowed into local councils. And sometimes when one did manage to get in, neither the executive nor the members of the council paid much attention to him. They would often not notify him of meetings, would make it hard for him to get a look at the village books, etc. The executive would deny poor people their workbooks, which were necessary to get work outside, while the prefect would deny them passports to go over the border. A poor man would be denied a certificate of poverty, which he would need to be exempted from hospital costs, but a wealthy person could easily get such an exemption. To pasture a cow on public lands, a cottager or roomer had to pay a much higher fee than a rich landholder. In Chernitsa, Novy Sanch District, landholders paid nothing for public pasture, but the landless ones had to pay up to 10 kroner per cow. With such an interpretation of poverty, conflict often arose, and in such cases both the prefect and the policeman stood against the injured party.
Peasants were deprived of field and pasture. Cattle were the salvation of poor peasants, but there wasn't enough forage. The owners of land took advantage of this and forced people to pay dearly in both money and labor for pasturing on their lands. Those who lacked pasture had to put their cattle on stubble or fallow, or graze them along roads, hedges, or yards. This practice often caused damage to the fields and brought heavy penalties.
The peasantry in general suffered from lack of firewood. To gather brush (fagots) in the lords' forests, a person had to pay dearly or work off several, sometimes several score, days in the lords' fields. The manorial forest was a wellspring of constant conflict. The lord's servants dealt harshly with women and children caught gathering brush or picking mushrooms, with herders who moved their animals through roadside hedges, with those who dared to take a shortcut through the woods, with the farmer whose dog wandered in the woods. Every year, wounded and slain peasants fell in the forests of the lords. In Zhelekhova, a seventy-year old man was beaten nearly into unconsciousness, and his coat was taken, all because he was grazing his cow in a grove that marked the border between the lord's fields and the commons. On the property of Archduke Stefan, a forester who shot a peasant was sentenced to 7 days or 7 kronen. 3 Another forester who had raped a girl and then shot her with birdshot served only 8 months.4
A source of incessant conflict between the village and the manor were the hunting regulations. Only holders of no less than 115 hectares of combined lands could have a chance of getting hunting charters. Peasants could form hunting associations. In the management of such an association, each owner of 4 acres had one vote, an owner of 8 acres had two votes, etc. Those who had the most votes came out the best in this arrangement. Hunting charters were granted for a period of 6 years. The holder of such a charter also had to have a hunting license, which for ordinary country folk was impossible to get. In practice, the authorities would not allow peasants to keep firearms. The local council granted hunting charters in accordance with instructions from the prefecture. If it should happen that, despite pressure from the prefect and the manor, the council did issue a hunting license to someone else, then both the prefect and the lord would spare no effort to harass him and force him into submission. Such a person could not find work for hire, could not buy firewood or lumber, and would be fined stiff penalties for gathering brush in the forest. That's how Count Roman Potockiy took vengeance on peasants in his neighborhood. The fees charged for hunting on peasant lands were very low, while the peasants' losses from damage caused by wild life were very high. Peasants complained constantly: "Bears, deer, wild geese destroy our potatoes, oats, beans, and forage; wolves raise havoc in our sheep pens; foxes carry off our geese and our chickens." People would keep bonfires going all night, but that didn't help much. The animals would become accustomed to yells and fires and come right up to the dwellings. In practice, the damages were never paid for. In the first place, it was very hard to prove a hunter's guilt under the hunting laws. And even if guilt were proven, the hunter would have hundreds of ways to get out of it, supported by the prefect, who would

Equally harmful to the peasants was the fishing law of April 26, 1885. The rivers were divided into fishing reserves, each of 150 or more hectares of surface. A charter would be issued by the prefect without any consideration for the needs of the communities Involved and even without taking into account the value of the quit rent. On the San River near Sanok, fishing reserves on the territory of 8 communities were chartered for 40 kronen, which averaged out to 5 kronen yearly for each community. Another reserve on the San together with the tributaries and estuary of the Oslava River was chartered from 10 communities for 75 kronen, which came to 7 kronen yearly for each community. The community of Mrygolod tried to get its quit rent reduced by 13 kronen, 50 heller for a fishing reserve, but this amount was disputed.
In short, landholders paid money for hunting and fishing reserves chartered from peasant communities, but paid nothing for damages incurred and also charged the peasants high quit rents for the land allotted to them.
The manor brought ruin to the peasants by means of taverns. To be sure, the ancient right of propination had been purchased from the magnates in 1889 for a price of 134 million kronen, but the great overlords of the settlements did not give up these revenue sources that had proven themselves over centuries. They chartered propination districts from the regional authorities and then licensed individual inns to their henchmen for returns up to
50% higher than they had projected for themselves. Among the delegates to Lviv Se)m there were 84 propination holders. Their incomes from this must have been great, since they paid up to 100,000 kronen yearly into the treasury under the rubric of quit rent According to M. Bobrzhinskiy's account, there were 16 thousand inns in Galicia. The innkeepers, who were principally Jews, knew how to get people drunk and were also good motivators in providing cheap labor for the landholders.

The manor rapaciously defended its semi-feudal rights. Obviously force on the part of the lord was hard to withstand. On his side he had the prefect, the gendarme, and the judge. When the plaintiff was a peasant and the defendant a lord, the case was quashed.. No lawyer dared to come out in defense of the community of Zubazukha near Zakopane against Count Zarnoyskiy. The presiding judge in the Yaslo Maidzinskiy district court told a plaintiff: "It doesn't pay to bring a complaint against the Lord Count, best you withdraw." A peasant woman who wanted to enter a charge against Count Tyshkevich for destruction of her property was laughed out of the Kol'bushova court. When Count Stanislav Badeni's former steward wanted to bring a case against the Count and asked the magistrate for a poverty permit so he could be exempted from paying stamp taxes, the attending gendarme tore up the permit with the cry: "You scum, how do you get to sue the Lord Count." 5 A woman in Vola Senkova, who had been beaten into unconsciousness, was ridiculed when she wanted to enter a complaint against the overseer of the estate. 6 Going to the authorities could even be dangerous. When a forester tore the clothes off a woman he met in the lord's forest and then chased her naked on a public road, the prefecture sentenced, not the forester, but the woman to 2 days in jail7. Having clothes torn off and being chased naked to the village by the lord's lackeys was a matter of daily routine. When a forester in Bokhenskiy beat up a woman from Domushchitse, a widow and mother of five children, the woman was jailed while the attacker got off scot free. 8 When a peasant in Katslubisko tried to defend his meadow, which was being illegally ditched by the lord's servants, he was shot by a forester. It was not the forester who was arrested, but the injured villager and his brother.9 When a 12 year old boy led out of the manor his father's horses, which had been taken for damages, the father was sentenced to 8 days in jail and the son to a cudgeling, and while that was in progress the father had to hold his boy's feet.
Entire volumes could be written about the harsh attitudes of the Austrian administrative authorities, the nobility and their servants, toward ordinary peasants, and about the atrocities that called to heaven for vengeance. But even from what has been written here we have a picture of the terrible oppression suffered by the peasantry.
Manorial service in the fields and in the household was governed by the basic statute of the Austrian state, which guaranteed personal freedom to citizens. The worker was at the mercy, and mercilessness, of the landholder and the gendarme. The rules that governed the relationships between servant and master were established by an imperial edict of July 1857, which in Galicia was implemented by a decree of March 20, 1872. This law introduced into hired labor relations an order that placed the entire administrative and police apparatus at the disposal of the landholder. The police and the local authorities were required to provide servants for the manor. In practice, this meant a police escort. The servant had no rights and no defense. Here are a few examples from the instructions to a deputy governor. A servant who is not employed must be put to work in community or public service, furthermore, if he makes excuses that he is obligated to work for relatives, he is to be grabbed on sight. Housemaids who are not working and do not take advantage of offers to work are to be driven out of the community. A servant hired for a specific term could be fired without notice before the term was up. It was enough for a servant to get sick and he could be cast out without treatment or provender. As manager of a manorial estate, Prince Lubomirskiy wrote to a prefecture: "I respectfully request the honorable Ts. K. Prefecture to bring Maria Lianoska, as soon as possible, back to my service, which she has secretly run away from without any cause on my part." From the further content of this letter, it turns out that the girl was afraid of being raped by the petitioner, because he tries to vindicate himself by saying that when he called her to his room he "did not molest her". A worker could not readily leave his job because of the insecurity that would face him; he (or she) was supposed to give advance notice to the local authorities or the management of the manor.
This meant that a young woman, beaten and molested by a lord and threatened with rape, would have to accuse him face to face and furnish proof by herself, something rarely possible for a frightened girl. Even if she could prove maltreatment and rape, the lord would not be punished with arrest but would only pay a small fine at most. When a maidservant would not give in to him, lording Mikhail Lukashevich ordered his grooms to unhinge the door to the room where the distraught girl had fled, to disrobe her naked and lash her unmercifully. This incident was published in the newspapers. Since his guilt was proven, the court perforce fined the accused 200 kronen for "disturbing the domestic peace". The cudgel, the horse whip, and the flail were common means of punishment, authorized by the regulations. Quitting service without permission was forbidden, even after marriage. Well known for torturing their servants were the Austrian chamberlain Gn'yevosh, Xavier Potocki's constables, squire Uznanskiy, Prilutskiy, and many others. 10 Slapping with a hand loaded with rings was not considered abuse. There were many cases of severe injury, disablement, and mental derangement brought about by beatings. 11 Rarely did such incidents come to court, and when that could absolutely not be avoided, the punishment was very light. All disputes between worker and employer were decided by political authorities, primarily a prefect. A worker could not turn to the courts until at least 30 days had past. Another means of terrorizing workers and forcing them to accept service were the workbooks given to manorial servants. Retention of the workbook by the lord made it impossible to seek work elsewhere. Galician manors made very little use of permanent servants; they preferred to take advantage of day workers, to whom they had absolutely no obligation whatsoever. The wages of a day worker in Galicia were the lowest in the entire Austrian empire. 12 A correspondent wrote in 1896: "Last year the prefect issued an order requiring peasants to dig potatoes at the manor for nothing." This was enforced by the magistrates 13. Even ten years later there were instances of forced labor. Vladislav Viktor, manager of an estate in Vola Senkowa, beat a peasant woman into unconsciousness because she would not go to work on the manor, saying that she had her own place to take care of.14
Manorial managers made certain of cheap labor by means of loans for fertilizer. The cost of this labor was reckoned to be considerably less than average. Workers were compelled to do something for nothing in exchange for work on the manor. For example, in order to get a job planting potatoes they would first have to work for free spreading manure; to be able to work at gleaning, they had to tie up to 30 shocks of grain for the field
master or the head stockman. 15 The wife and children of a stable hand were a reserve of labor that did not have to be paid until they were needed. A family man working on a manor received produce, that is, payment in kind, which was enough for existence but not for a normal life. An unmarried lad [or girl] got leavings instead of produce. His value, either in money or in kind, was very low 16. As an example, in Baron Romashkan's household the servants did not get any breakfast at all; for dinner they were given potatoes or hulled barley gruel, for supper ground barley or cornmeal. Tardiness to work brought a fine of 4 kronen, which amounted to several day's wages. A bricklayer who worked for this lord discovered on payday that after his fines were deducted he not only had nothing left but even owed the baron 30 kronen. Argument could lead to beating or even torture. Deductions could be made for illness or even militia duty. Rozvadovskiy penalized a man 2 kronen for a half day's illness and 30 kronen for a week of military training, this while his pay for the whole year was only 60 kronen. 17
The average daily wage in manor households was 55 heller for men and 40 heller for women, which was barely enough to buy 2 kilograms of bread.18 Living conditions were simply catastrophic. Servants with families lived in communal dormitories, and often there were several families in each room. The adults slept on benches made of poles and planks that were lightly covered with straw, while the children slept on the ground with rags for cover. Young unmarried men (and women) slept in barns and sheds. A field worker's day lasted 14 to 18 hours. A stable hand had to be on his feet at 3 o'clock in the morning and could not lie down to sleep earlier than 10 o'clock.
Hatred of the manor and its masters grew stronger from day to day. The most bitterly detested aspect of the system was the military levy. The term of service was three years. The Austrian army was foreign to both Rusyn and Pole. Between the officer, who was usually a German, and the ordinary soldier there was an impassable stone wall, not that anybody ever tried to get over it. Use of the Rusyn word "esm" or the Polish "yestem" or the Czech "zde" instead of the German "hier" meant 2-5 months in prison.19 The military courts did not recognize any due process. Justice was administered without witnesses, with no defense, and even without the presence of the defendant. Auditor, investigative judge, and plaintiff were all combined in one person, as was also the reviewer in the event of appeal. Sadism was rife among the officers. The common soldier was mercilessly beaten where he stood with whatever happened to be handy, beaten about the face, on the head, and over the entire body, beaten with fists, with sword, with rifle butt.
Facial beatings were often so fierce that eardrums and noses were crushed. In 1903, an order was issued to shackle men to stakes or racks for many hours. Utter contempt for the man and his belongings was the rule.20 It is not surprising that military service was regarded by the peasants as penal labor to be avoided at any cost: mutilation, prison, or even death. In the 10 army corps stationed at Przemysl, the following incidents were reported in 1901 alone: (1) 80 soldier suicides, (2) 10 officer suicides, (3) 70 cases of severe self mutilation by soldiers, (4) 400 desertions, (5) 13 fatal beatings, (6) 40 cases of madness with loss of speech and hearing, (7) 725 sentences at hard labor, (8) 4 cases of officer madness, (9) 3 cases of officer degradation. 21 Such was the fearsome nightmare prevalent in the Austrian military.
To get away from starvation wages and unemployment, from the misery of life in village and manor, from the arbitrariness of the masters, and often from military service and the hated Austrian army, Galician peasants and workers fled to foreign lands. The oppression, exploitation and atrocities suffered by peasants, workers and manorial servants at the hands of the Polish magnates gave rise to agrarian strikes in Galicia that reverberated throughout Europe. Such strikes went on continuously from 1898 to 1904. They started in western Galicia and spread eastward to encompass principally the estates of Prince Adam Sapiega, County Roman Potocki, Count Liantskoronskiy, Count Semienskiy, Count Dziegushchinskiy, Count Baworowskiy, Count Kazimir Badeni, and others. Although these strikes caused many victims, nevertheless these disciplined peasant masses showed their great strength and solidarity, and they put pressure on the manorial system. Ivan Franko estimates that the participants in these strikes were 80% Rusyn and 20% Polish. 22

1 J. Buzek. Wlasnosc tabularna w Galici wedlug stanu z koncem r. 1902. [Property ownership in Galicia as of late 1902]

2 N. Cybulski. Proba badan nad zywieniem sie ludu wiejskiego w Galicyi, Krakow 1894. [ Attempted research dealing with the diet of peasants in Galicia, Krakow 1894].

3 Prawo Ludu nr 28 of April 19, 1906.

4 Wieniec Pszczolka nr 15 of April 15, 1900.

5 Sluzba Dworska nr 2 from July 1905.

6 Prawo Ludu nr 38 of Sept 21, 1901

7 Sluzba Dworska nr 4 from September 1905.

8 Wieniec-Pszczolka nr 12 of March 25, 1900.

9 Przyjaciel Ludu nr 1 of Jan 27, 1906 and Prawo Ludu nr 20 of October 14, 1900.

10 Sluzba dworska nr 2 and 3 (2nd of July and august 1905).

11 Prawo Ludu nr 37 of _ 14th, 1906 and nr 1 from June 1905.

12 The relative percentages of daily wages were: Lower Austria 87.7, Czechia 57.0, Silesia 47.9, Galicia 29.0.

13 Letter from Mikhail German, Nadlisie, September 6, 1896).

14 Prawo Ludu nr 38 of Nov 21, 1906.

15 Swoboda of May 25, 1902.

16 The wage per day was, in heller: Lower Austria 88.75, Czechia 61.25, Silesia 43.75, Galicia 22.50.

17 Interpolation by Braiter d. 94. X. 1902.

18 Ivan Franko maintains that one day's salary in Galicia varied from 16 to 40 hellers.

19 Secret military tribunals. Speech by representative Daszynski at the National Council (Rada Panstwa) meeting on Nov 8, 1902.

20 Prawo Ludu nr. 5 of Nov 2, 1906. Prawo Ludu nr. 52 of Dec 28, 1906.

21 I. Daszynski. Secret military tribunals.

22 Ivan Franko. Bauerustrikes in Ost Galizien.

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

Icon Return to Lemko Home Page

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

We welcome questions and comments. Please send them to Walter Maksimovich.

© 1998 LV Productions. All Rights Reserved.

LV Productions
c/o Walter Maksimovich
3923 Washington Street
Kensington MD 20895-3934