Poles in Ukraine

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Poland Polish minority in Ukraine Ukraine
Polish Children Choir in Lviv.jpg
Concert of Polish Children Choir in the Lviv Roman Catholic cathedral
Total population

In the 2001 Ukrainian census, 144,130 identified themselves as ethnic Poles.[1] 0.3% of the population of Ukraine

Other sources: 800,000 (Wspolnota Polska)
Regions with significant populations
Zhytomyr Oblast, Khmelnytskyi Oblast, Lviv Oblast
Ukrainian (71,0%), Russian (15,6%), Polish(12,9%)[1]
Predominantly Roman Catholicism,
Few Eastern Orthodox Church
Related ethnic groups
Poles in Belarus, Poles in Russia, Poles in Lithuania

The Polish minority in Ukraine officially numbers about 144,130 (according to the 2001 census),[2] of whom 21,094 (14.6%) speak Polish as their first language.[2] The history of Polish settlement in current territory of Ukraine dates back to 1030–31. In Late Middle Ages, following the extinction of Rurikid dynasty in 1323, the Kingdom of Poland extended east in 1340 to include the lands of Przemyśl and in 1366, Kamianets-Podilskyi (Kamieniec Podolski). The settlement of Poles became common there after the Polish–Lithuanian peace treaty signed in 1366 between Casimir III the Great of Poland, and Liubartas of Lithuania. Following the Union of Lublin (1569), principalities of Galicia and Western Volhynia were incorporated into the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland as the Ruthenian Voivodeship, while the rest of Red Ruthenia together with Kiev came under Lithuanian control.[3]


Early medieval time[edit]

In early medieval times Red Ruthenia area known as Eastern Galicia was settled by tribes of Western Slavs - Lendians. According to the Nestor - Primary Chronicle tribe of Lendians were 'Lachy' (Lechites) and their Duke Wlodzislav took part in dealing with Bizantine empire together with Waregians Rus.[4] It is first attested in AD 981, when Vladimir the Great of Kievan Rus took over the Red Ruthenian strongholds in his military campaign on the border with the land of Lendians. Nestor reports in his chronicle that: "Vladimir marched upon the Lyakhs (k Lyakbotri) and took their cities: Peremyshl (modern Przemyśl), Cherven (modern Czermno), and other towns."[4][5]

The Lechitic Gate (Latskie Vorota) on Kiev's Maidan Nezalezhnosti.

In the following century, the area shifted to Poland in 1018–1031, then back to Kievan Rus' and in 1069–1080 back to Poland. In 1031 Harald Hardrada and his men reached the land of the Kievan Rus, where they served the armies of Yaroslav I the Wise, the Grand Prince of the Rus, whose wife Ingigerd was a distant relative of Harald. Harald is thought to have taken part in Grand Prince Yaroslav's campaign against the Poles Laesir, and was appointed joint commander of defense forces. Following the extinction of the Rurikid dynasty, it was rejoined with the Polish Crown at the Polish–Lithuanian peace treaty signed in 1366 by Casimir III of Poland, with Liubartas of Lithuania.[6][7][8] The name Ruś Czerwona was recorded (which translates as "Red Ruthenia"), and applied to a territory extended up to the Dniester River, with priority gradually transferred to Przemyśl (Peremyshl). Since the times of Władysław Jagiełło, the Przemyśl Voivodeship was called the Ruthenian Voivodeship ("województwo ruskie"), with the priority eventually transferred to Lwów (Lviv). It consisted of five lands: Lwów, Sanok, Halicz (Halych), Przemyśl (Peremyshl), and Chełm (Kholm). The city of Halych gave the name to Galicia.

Within the Russian Empire[edit]

At the end of the 18th century, resulting from joint Partitions of Poland with Austria-Hungary and the German Empire, Russia absorbed lands west of Kiev. Approximately ten percent of the population in these territories was Polish.[9] Even after Kiev region ceased being a part of Poland, Poles continued to play an important role there. In 1812 there were over 43,000 Polish noblemen in Kiev province, compared to only approximately 1,000 "Russian" nobles. Typically the nobles spent their winters in the city of Kiev, where they held Polish balls and fairs.[10] Throughout the Tsarist period Poles wielded considerable influence. Polish landlords owned approximately 46 percent of all private property in Ukraine west of the Dnipro River.[11] Until the mid-18th century Kiev (Polish Kijów) was Polish in culture.[9] although Poles made up no more than ten percent of Kiev's population and 25% of its voters. During the 1830s Polish was the language of Kiev's educational system, and until Polish enrollment in Kiev's university of St. Vladimir was restricted in the 1860s they made up the majority of that school's student body. The Russian government's cancellation of Kiev city's autonomy and its placement under the rule of bureaucrats appointed from St. Petersburg was largely motivated by fear of Polish insurrection in the city.[10] Warsaw factories and fine Warsaw shops had branches in Kiev. Józef Zawadzki, founder of Kiev's stock exchange, served as the city's mayor in the 1890s. In 1909 9.8 percent of Kiev's population (44,400 people) were Poles. [11] Kieven Poles tended to be friendly towards the Ukrainian national movement in the city, and some took part in Ukrainian organizations.[12] Indeed, many of the poorer Polish nobles became Ukrainianized in language and culture and these Ukrainians of Polish descent constituted an important element of the growing Ukrainian national movement.[9] Ukrainian-speaking Poles from the Russian empire include Ukrainian political theorist Vyacheslav Lypynsky and painter Kazimir Malevich.

History since the 1930s[edit]

In the Ukrainian SSR east of the Zbruch river, in 1926 there were 476.435 Poles, which was 1.6% of total population of Soviet Ukraine. In current western Ukraine, which was then part of the Second Polish Republic, the population of Poles ranged from 17% in the Wołyń Voivodeship (1921–1939) to 58% in the Lwów Voivodeship. Altogether, Poles in these lands made around 35% of total population, around 3 million people. This large Polish population dramatically decreased in the late 1930s and 1940s after the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland (see: Soviet invasion of Poland), as a result of Soviet mass deportation of Poles to Siberia and other eastern regions of the USSR as well as a campaign of ethnic cleansing, carried out by Ukrainian nationalists (see: Massacres of Poles in Volhynia).

In the Ukrainian SSR there was a Polish Autonomous District, located near Zhytomyr, created in 1926, but it was disbanded in 1935 and its Polish inhabitants were either murdered or deported to Kazakhstan. Actually, the former Polish Autonomous District is a territory with largest ethnic Poles concentration in Ukraine, the former Polish Autonomous District capital Dovbysh population is predominantly Polish and Catholic.

That number has been steadily decreasing over the past half a century; the censuses of Soviet Ukraine gave the following numbers: 1959 – 363,000; 1970 – 295,000; 1979 – 258,000 and 1989 – 219,000. This decline can be explained due to policies of Sovietization, which aimed to destroy Polish culture on Soviet Ukraine. The situation of Polish minority has improved when Ukraine regained independence, policy of Sovietization ended and various Polish non-governmental organizations were allowed to operate, but Poles number declined drastically: the first Ukrainian census 2001 counted 144,130 (35% less).

Pierogi ruskie (ruthenian dumplings), most enduring of Polish culinary traditions are the pierogies, which the recourse to the ruthenian culinary traditions of the former Polish eastern territories (Kresy).,[13] a national dish of Poland.

As most Poles from the Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union have been repatriated to Poland (primarily Regained Territories), there were actually relatively few Poles left on the former southeastern territories of the Second Polish Republic incorporated into Soviet Union. Most Poles who remained in Ukraine were and are concentrated in Zhytomyr Oblast (about 49,000) and Khmelnytskyi Oblast (about 20,000). There are also many in Lviv Oblast.

On October 13, 1990 Poland and Ukraine agreed to the "Declaration on the foundations and general directions in the development of Polish–Ukrainian relations". Article 3 of this declaration said that neither country has any territorial claims against the other, and will not bring any in the future. Both countries promised to respect the rights of national minorities in the land and to improve the situation of minorities in their countries. This declaration re-affirmed the historic and ethnic ties between Poland and Ukraine, containing a reference to "the ethnic and cultural kinship of the Polish and Ukrainian peoples". Under the "Declaration of rights of nationalities of Ukraine" (approved November 7, 1991) Poles, as minorities, were guaranteed political, economic, social, and cultural rights. The Polish minority in Ukraine were and have been active supporters of Ukrainian independence; they supported Viktor Yushchenko over Viktor Yanukovych virtually as a bloc in the disputed 2004 election.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Results / General results of the census / National composition of population / Language composition of population". 2001 Ukrainian Census. Retrieved May 21, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Results of the 2001 census with languages spoken (Розподіл населення окремих національностей за іншими мовами, крім рідної, якими володіють), Ukrainian Statistical Bureau (Державний комітет статистики України). Retrieved 21 August 2011. (Ukrainian)
  3. ^ Michael J. Mikoś. "Middle Ages. Cultural background". Printed source: Polish Literature from the Middle Ages to the End of the Eighteenth Century. A Bilingual Anthology, by Michael J. Mikoś, Warsaw: Constans, 1999. Staropolska online. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Russian text of the chronicle of Nestor in PDF
  5. ^ "Powieść minionych lat", tłum. F. Sielicki, Wrocław – Warszawa – Kraków 1999 ("Primary Chronicle" in Polish translation)
  6. ^ A. Buko, "The archaeology of early medieval Poland", Brill, 2008
  7. ^ H. H. Fisher, "America and the New Poland (1928)", Read Books, 2007, p. 15
  8. ^ N. Davies, God's playground: a history of Poland in two volumes, Oxford University Press, 2005, pp. 71, 135 [1]
  9. ^ a b c Timothy Snyder. (2003). The Reconstruction of Nations. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 119-122
  10. ^ a b Michael F. Hamm. (1995). Kiev: A Portrait, 1800-1917. Princeton: Princeton University Press p. 225
  11. ^ a b Poles in Ukraine. Entry: Encyclopedia o Ukraine, pp. 86-94 Toronto: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Toronto Press
  12. ^ Michael F. Hamm. (1995). Kiev: A Portrait, 1800-1917. Princeton: Princeton University Press pp. 54-55
  13. ^ "Jako zakonnik Święty Jacek działał w Polsce i na Rusi, był także przeorem w Kijowie, a stamtąd właśnie przyszły do nas wigilijne pierogi, knysze, kulebiaki. ..." [in:] Helena Szymanderska. Polska wigilia. 2000; "We might add that "pierogi" is probably the only Polish dish that seems to have its own patron saint. "Swiety Jacek z pierogami!" , (St. Hyacinth and his pierogi!) is an old expression of surprise, roughly equivalent to the Amarican "good grief" or "holy smokes!". Nobody seems to know what the connection between these dumplings and the saintly 13th-century monk was all about." [in:] Polish Heritage Cooker by Robert Strybel, Maria Strybel, 2005 p. 456


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