Poverty in Austrian Galicia

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Funeral in Galicia by Teodor Axentowicz, 1882

Poverty in Galicia was extreme, particularly in the late 19th century. Galicia in that period has been described as not only the poorest province of the Austro-Hungary, but the poorest province of Europe. Reasons for this poverty included little interest in reform from the major landholders and the Austrian government, population growth resulting in small peasant plots, lack of education and primitive agricultural techniques, and a vicious circle of chronic malnutrition, famine, and disease, reducing productivity. Poverty in the province was so widespread that the term "Galician misery" or "Galician poverty" (bieda galicyjska) has become proverbial.[1]

Causes and contributing factors[edit]

A number of social factors caused the extreme poverty in Galicia.[2][3] In the 19th century, most of Galicia was part of the Austrian Empire (later, the Austro-Hungarian Empire), which acquired it through the partitions of Poland, and was its poorest province.[4] Whereas on average, 7.3% of the Empire were eligible to pay the minimum income, in Galicia, where the per capita income was one tenth of the Austrian average, only 0.8% were wealthy enough to qualify for taxation.[5][6] Due to malnutrition and illnesses, the province was said to have "the highest number of people not fit for military duty".[7]

Education lagged behind, with only 15% or so of the peasants attending any kind of school, meaning that few peasants had the skills to pursue other careers.[8] Even if they did, no major Galician city (Kraków or Lwów) was a center of significant industry, which gave peasants little alternatives to their profession.[9] Neither the mostly Polish large landowners, nor the Austrian imperial government, showed much interest in reform, such as industrialization, which would upset the system in which Galicia was a provider of agricultural products for the rest of the Empire, and a market for inferior industrial goods, a situation profitable for both the governments and the landowners.[10][11][12] The Austrian government treated Galicia as a colony that could be treated to another country, and overtaxed it rather than invested in it.[3][10][13] In what little industry Galicia had, one of the largest local branches (about a third of the total) was alcohol brewing, further exploiting and impoverishing the peasantry.[6] Alcoholism was a major social problem.[14]

Agricultural productivity of Galician peasants was one of the lowest in Europe, due to the use of primitive agricultural techniques, many little different from those used in the Middle Ages.[7][12][15] The situation was compounded by the lack of good land and growing population, resulting in the steadily diminishing size of an individual peasant's plot.[2] Over 70% of Galicia population lived off the land.[11] In the second half of the 19th century, with only a marginal increase of arable land (about 7%), the population of peasants doubled.[5] In 1899, 80% of the plots had less than 5 acres (2.0 ha), and many were not able to grow enough food on their plots to support their families.[2][16] Overpopulation in Galicia has been so severe that it has been described as the most overpopulated place in Europe, and compared to India and China.[3]

Emancipation of serfs in 1848 did not improve their situation significantly, as they were given poorly paid jobs by the local major landowners (who owned 43% of the arable land in 1848), doing little to improve the peasants welfare from the previous feudal relations.[5][11][17] Due to other changes in the law, peasants also lost access to many forests and pastures, which the large landowners tried to secure for themselves.[5]

Results[edit]

As a result of Galician poverty, Galician peasants were too malnourished to work properly, and had little immunity to diseases such as cholera, typhus, smallpox and syphilis.[2] Stauter-Halsted describes a vicious circle in which Galician peasants worked "lethargically because [they were] inadequately nourished and [not living] better because [they] work too little."[2] Frank quotes Szepanowski: "every resident of Galicia does one-quarter of a man's work and eats one-half of a man's food."[5] The near constant famines in Galicia, resulting in 50,000 deaths a year, have been described as endemic.[3] Many peasants were heavily in debt, and had lost their land to the money-lenders. Most of those were Jewish; which led to resentment and growing anti-Semitism.[18]

The misery of Galician peasants was highlighted by a number of activists such as Ivan Franko, and in several publications, such as Scarcity and Famine in Galicia by Roger Łubieński (1880).[19] Stanisław Szczepanowski in 1888 published the still widely cited Galician Misery in Numbers[13] and his phrase Galician misery or Galician poverty (nędza galicyjska or bieda galicyjska) became a proverbial description of Galicia, characterizing the depressed economy of the region.[3][16][20][21][22][23]

In response to the poverty and lack of reform, many peasants chose to emigrate.[24] This process began in the 1870s with few thousand, then over 80,000 emigrated in the 1880s, about 340,000 in the 1890s, and an even greater number in the 1900s.[24] Davies notes that from mid-1890s to 1914 (the start of World War I), at least two million people left Galicia, with at least 400,000 in 1913 alone.[3] Harzig gives an estimate of 3 million.[25] The years 1911-1914 might have seen the emigration of 25% of Galician population.[16] Some emigration was local, to richer parts of Galicia and nearby Bukovina; others moved to Russia, Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, or other provinces of Austria, Prussia and partitioned Poland.[24] An increasing number emigrated to the United States (Herzig notes perhaps as many as 800,000 out of her 3 million estimate).[3][19][24][25]

Comparisons[edit]

Norman Davies noted that the situation in Galicia was likely more desperate than in Ireland, and that Galicia was likely "the poorest province in Europe".[3] Galicia was indeed the poorest of the Austrian provinces and markedly poorer than western Europe. In 1890 the per capita product, in 2010 dollars, for Galicia was $1,947. In contrast, the per capita product in Austria was $3,005 and in Bohemia was $2,513. Galicia was not as poor as eastern Hungary, whose per capita product was $1,824 and Croatia-Slavonia, whose per capita product in 2010 dollars was $1897. Galica's per capita product was almost identical to that of Transylvania, which was $1,956 in 2010 dollars. Galicia's annual growth rate from 1870 to 1910 was 1.21 percent, slightly lower than the imperial average of 1.5%. [26] In comparison to other countries, Galicia's 1890 per capita product of $1,947 in 2010 dollars was three times lower than that of the United Kingdom ($6,228) and lower than that of every country in northwestern Europe. However, it was higher than that of Portugal ($1,789), Bulgaria ($1,670), Greece ($1,550), Russia ($1,550), and Serbia ($1,295). [27]

Notes[edit]

a ^ Although as shown by the analysis of late 1840s deaths in Zadoks, many death estimates sum those from hunger and disease.[28] For example, Bodnar attributes the deaths to "typhus following the potato famine".[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ David Crowley, National Style and Nation-state: Design in Poland from the Vernacular Revival to the International Style, Manchester University Press ND, 1992; ISBN 0-7190-3727-1 (Google Print) p.12.
  2. ^ a b c d e Keely Stauter-Halsted (28 February 2005). The Nation In The Village: The Genesis Of Peasant National Identity In Austrian Poland, 1848-1914. Cornell University Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-8014-8996-9. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Norman Davies (24 February 2005). God's Playground A History of Poland: Volume II: 1795 to the Present. Oxford University Press. pp. 106–108. ISBN 978-0-19-925340-1. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  4. ^ Alison Fleig Frank (2005). Oil empire. Harvard University Press. pp. 44–45. ISBN 978-0-674-03718-2. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Alison Fleig Frank (2005). Oil empire. Harvard University Press. pp. 43–44. ISBN 978-0-674-03718-2. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Rosa Lehmann (2001). Symbiosis and ambivalence: Poles and Jews in a small Galician town. Berghahn Books. pp. 33–. ISBN 978-1-57181-505-7. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Keely Stauter-Halsted (28 February 2005). The Nation In The Village: The Genesis Of Peasant National Identity In Austrian Poland, 1848-1914. Cornell University Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-8014-8996-9. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  8. ^ Alison Fleig Frank (2005). Oil empire. Harvard University Press. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-674-03718-2. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  9. ^ Keely Stauter-Halsted (28 February 2005). The Nation In The Village: The Genesis Of Peasant National Identity In Austrian Poland, 1848-1914. Cornell University Press. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-8014-8996-9. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Alison Fleig Frank (2005). Oil empire. Harvard University Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-674-03718-2. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  11. ^ a b c d John E. Bodnar (1973). The ethnic experience in Pennsylvania. Bucknell University Press. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-8387-1155-2. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  12. ^ a b Ivan L. Rudnytsky (1982). "The Ukrainians in Galicia Under Austrian Rule". In Andrei S. Markovits; Frank E. Sysyn. Nationalbuilding and the politics of nationalism: essays on Austrian Galicia. Harvard University Press. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-674-60312-7. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Richard Frucht (2005). Eastern Europe: an introduction to the people, lands, and culture. ABC-CLIO. p. 53. ISBN 978-1-57607-800-6. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  14. ^ Kamil Kowalczyk, Grzegorz Moskal, Michał Rapta, Józef Szlaga (2012). Rabka Juliana Zubrzyckiego. Historia Rabki. p. 43. ISBN 978-83-931788-4-1. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  15. ^ Keely Stauter-Halsted (28 February 2005). The Nation In The Village: The Genesis Of Peasant National Identity In Austrian Poland, 1848-1914. Cornell University Press. pp. 24–25. ISBN 978-0-8014-8996-9. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  16. ^ a b c Norman Davies (31 May 2001). Heart of Europe:The Past in Poland's Present. Oxford University Press. pp. 331–. ISBN 978-0-19-164713-0. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  17. ^ Keely Stauter-Halsted (28 February 2005). The Nation In The Village: The Genesis Of Peasant National Identity In Austrian Poland, 1848-1914. Cornell University Press. p. 2122. ISBN 978-0-8014-8996-9. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  18. ^ Jaroslav Petryshyn (1 January 1985). Peasants in the Promised Land: Canada and the Ukrainians. James Lorimer & Company. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-88862-925-8. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  19. ^ a b Larry Wolff (9 January 2012). The Idea of Galicia: History and Fantasy in Habsburg Political Culture. Stanford University Press. p. 256. ISBN 978-0-8047-7429-1. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  20. ^ Mieczysław Czuma (1998). Austriackie gadanie czyli encyklopedia galicyjska. Oficyna Wydawniczo-Handlowa Anabasis. p. 145. ISBN 978-83-85931-06-5. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  21. ^ Robert Allen Rothstein (31 December 2008). Two words to the wise: reflections on Polish language, literature, and folklore. Slavica Publishers. p. 185. ISBN 978-0-89357-361-4. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  22. ^ Larry Wolff (9 January 2012). The Idea of Galicia: History and Fantasy in Habsburg Political Culture. Stanford University Press. p. 289. ISBN 978-0-8047-7429-1. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  23. ^ Israel Bartal; Antony Polonsky (1999). Focusing on Galicia: Jews, Poles, and Ukrainians, 1772-1918. Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. p. 19. ISBN 978-1-874774-40-2. Retrieved 8 April 2013. "Galician poverty became proverbial in the second half of the nineteenth century" 
  24. ^ a b c d John E. Bodnar (1973). The ethnic experience in Pennsylvania. Bucknell University Press. p. 48. ISBN 978-0-8387-1155-2. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  25. ^ a b Christiane Harzig (1997). Peasant Maids, City Women: From the European Countryside to Urban America. Cornell University Press. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-8014-8395-0. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  26. ^ Richard Sylla, Gianni Toniolo. (2002). Patterns of European Industrialisation: The Nineteenth Century. pg. 230. Conversion from 1970 to 2010 dollars here
  27. ^ Stephen Broadberry and Alexander Klein. AGGREGATE AND PER CAPITA GDP IN EUROPE, 1870-2000: CONTINENTAL, REGIONAL AND NATIONAL DATA WITH CHANGING BOUNDARIES pg.20 Conversion from 1990 to 2010 dollars here
  28. ^ Jan C. Zadoks (15 October 2008). On the Political Economy of Plant Disease Epidemics: Capita Selecta in Historical Epidemiology. Wageningen Academic Pub. p. 102. ISBN 978-90-8686-086-9. Retrieved 8 April 2013.