GALICIA HISTORIC OUTLINE
Galicia Province today.
In 1772, the Austrian, Prussian and Russian Empires began carving
up the Commonwealth of Poland between themselves. Austria's share
of the first partition of Poland became its new Province of Galicia,
and Zolynia was in its western half, near the empire's northeastern
border (After 1848, Hungary was given partial autonomy, sharing
the common Austrian monarchy in a renamed Empire of Austria-Hungary).
A large crescent-shaped province running roughly from Cracow to
Romania just above the Carpathian Mountains, Galicia's population
was largely made up of Poles (concentrated in the west) and Ruthenians
(ethnic Ukrainians, concentrated in the east). Lemberg, later Lwow
and today Lviv, was the provincial capital, about 104 miles (166
km) east of Zolynia. Polish, German and, briefly, Ukrainian were
the official languages in Austrian Galicia. Yiddish was the daily
language of Zolynia Jews among themselves.
Galicia was mainly rural with little major industry and was often
considered by the Austrian government to be an economically backward
burden. Of Galicia's one million farms, two in five were smaller
than five acres in size and only one in five were economically viable.
Before 1882, there were virtually no banks or public sources of
credit for new enterprises, and Jews were a prime sources of loans,
adding to resentment felt by Poles and Ukrainians. There were many
major outbreaks of typhus and cholera.
At first, the Austrian government adopted harsh restrictions and
special taxes on Jews. Jews were prohibited from many industries,
including flour-milling and brewing. Only Jews with 500 florins
could acquire a civil marriage permit, which would cost ten percent
or more of their total wealth (many Galician Jews were not born
into a government-recognized marriage because of this). Jews had
to pay Sabbath candles, Jewish community taxes and more. Some of
these laws remained in effect for decades.
Starting in the 1780s, Emperor Joseph II attempted to assimilate
and Germanize Jews, with limited success, mainly as a potential
ally against the Poles and Ukrainians. For generations, the central
government in Vienna tried to play the various classes and ethnicities
-- wealthy nobility, peasants, Poles, Ukrainians and Jews -- against
each other in order to maintain supremacy. In the 1860s, to blunt
revolutionary sentiments in its outer provinces, all Austrian citizens
were granted full civil rights. This included Jews, though they
were still considered ineligible for the highest public offices
and social circles.
Though young urban Jews grew more secularized through the years,
the Hasidic movement had been born in Poland and remained strong
in rural Galicia (to this day, the grave of Zolynia's Reb Horovitz
in nearby Lancut is a site of Hasidic pilgrimage).
By the turn of the 20th century, Jews were represented in Galician
universities and in professions such as law and medicine far in
excess of their percentage of the population. In the province's
few urban centers and larger towns, Jews played growing economic
and social roles and a few Jews were able to accumulate significant
amounts of land and wealth. However, most Galician Jews were still
poor and a wave of emigration to more prosperous countries, especially
the United States, had begun.
Following is a brief summary of events, particularly relating to
Jews in the province:
1772: At the beginning of Austrian rule, Galicia's total population
of 2.1 million is nearly ten percent Jewish.
1787: Galician Jews are ordered to adopt fixed, hereditary surnames.
Civil records of Jewish births, deaths and marriages are kept for
the first time, until 1875 kept by Jews of each community in separate
1788: Jews are first recruited into the Austrian Army. Later, Jews
can pay a tax in lieu of military service.
1789: Galicia is divided into over 140 religious communities. Each
community has a Chief Rabbi to administer Jewish vital records and
education, and a three-man "kahal" to represent Jewish
interests to local civil authorities, support religious institutions,
take care of Jewish poor and collect taxes on the Jewish community.
The Kahal of Zolynia Miasteczko (the country town) governs Jewish
affairs for Zolynia town, Zolynia village and thirteen other nearby
smaller shtetls until the end of Austrian rule (see the Research
section of this site for more information).
1789: New laws attempt to assimilate and Germanize Jews. Jews must
attend either German or reformed Jewish schools, must adopt Christian
dress (never enforced) and some limitations on Jewish trade and
real estate ownership are lifted. Most Jewish taxes remain in force.
1827: Four in ten male Galician Jews have no permanent employment.
1874: The Galician population is 45 percent Polish, 41 percent
Ruthenian (Ukrainian), 11 percent Jewish and 3 percent Austrian.
1875: Galicia is divided into 75 administrative units for the purpose
of keeping vital records and other administrative functions. Zolynia
lies within the District of Lancut.
1881: Wave of emigration begins. By 1914, over 325,000 Galician
Jews will leave for better prospects in Vienna and other countries,
especially the United States.
1890: 35 percent of Galician Jews are merchants, 30 percent are
artisans, 15 percent are landlords and tavernkeepers and 20 percent
hold other miscellaneous occupations.
1890: A quarter of Galicia's physicians and nearly half of its
attorneys are Jewish.
1900: Nine out of ten of all Galicians live in the countryside,
but Jews make up four out of ten of the population in cities and
1900: Jews are restricted in selling many agricultural products,
a law reflecting the growing economic competition among ethnic groups
in impoverished Galicia.
1910: Sales of many alcoholic beverages are prohibited, costing
thousands of Galician Jews their income, particularly in rural areas.
1918: Four years of war lead to the dissolution of the Austrian-Hungarian
Empire. All but a small part of Galicia becomes part of the the
new independent Poland, though the new country must fight a war
with Ukrainian nationalists to secure eastern Galicia and a war
with Russia to secure the eastern borders.