Red Ruthenia

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Red Ruthenia
Ruś Czerwona  (Polish)
Червона Русь (Ukrainian)
Historic Region
Red Ruthenia (without Podolia) on contemporary borders
Red Ruthenia (without Podolia) on contemporary borders
Region Eastern Europe, Poland/Ukraine
Ducal seal "Ladislaus Dei Gracia Dux Opoliensis Wieloniensis et Terre Russie Domin et Heres" (c. 1387)
The 1507 Lesser Poland and Red Ruthenia Map (Polonia Minor; Russia) by Martin Waldseemüller [1]
The Ruthenian Voivodeship of 1635 within the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

Red Ruthenia or Red Russia (Latin: Ruthenia Rubra or Russia Rubra, Ukrainian: Червона Русь, Chervona Rus, Polish: Ruś Czerwona, Russian: Червоная Русь, Chervonaya Rus) is a historic term used since medieval times to refer to the area known today as south-eastern Poland and Western Ukraine; first mentioned in Polish historic chronicles in the 1321, was the part of Rus' incorporated to Poland by Casimir the Great in the 14th century.

Ethnographers[who?] explain that the term was applied from the old-Slavonic use of colours for the cardinal points on the compass. The ancient totem-god Svetovid had four faces. The northern face of this totem was white, the western face red, the southern black, and the eastern green. However, some inconsistency exists in the theory such as the fact that nothing is known about Green Ruthenia and the Black Ruthenia is located to the west from the White Ruthenia. Another theory suggests that the name could have arisen from already established polity of the Red Cities (Grody Czerwieńskie). Some towns in the area carry names related to the color red.

Since the 14th century and after the disintegration of Ruthenia the area of Red Ruthenia was contested by numerous historical states such as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (Gediminids), Kingdom of Poland (Piasts), Kingdom of Hungary, Kingdom of Ruthenia, and others. After the Galicia–Volhynia Wars most of the Red Ruthenia for some 400 years became part of Poland, incorporated as the Ruthenian Voivodeship. The historic Red Ruthenia, reaching on its south-west to Przemyśl and Sanok, has been inhabited for nearly the last ten centuries mostly by the Ruthenian population.

The traditional population of Red Ruthenia was perhaps Lendians,[2] and on the borders Boykos, Lemkos and a German group of so-called Głuchoniemcy (Walddeutsche) which became Polish. There were also several Jews and Armenians here, as well as Poles.[3]

Marcin Bielski claimed that Bolesław I Chrobry had settled some Germans in the region to defend the borders against Hungary and Kievan Rus', however, they turned to farming. Maciej Stryjkowski mentioned Germans peasants near Rzeszów, Przemyśl, Sanok, and Jarosław, describing them as good farmers. De facto, it was Casimir the Great who settled German burghers and peasants on the border of Lesser Poland and Red Ruthenia to join the acquired territory with the rest of kingdom. While evaluating the size of the population of late medieval Poland, one should take into account the development of internal colonisation and the migration of Polish people to Red Ruthenia, Zips[citation needed], and Podlachia,[4] whom Ukrainians called the "Mazury", poor peasant migrants, chiefly from Mazowsze.[5]

It was in the second half of the 14th century that a new wave of settlers i.e. the Vlachs, came from the south-eastern Carpathians and quickly spread over southern Red Ruthenia. From the 15th century, however, the Ruthenian element began to prevail there. Nevertheless, it was not until the 16th century that the Vallachian population in the Bieszczady Mountains and the Lower Beskid was completely Ruthenized.[6]

Between the 14th and 16th centuries the area in question underwent a rapid urbanization process, resulting in the founding of over 200 new towns built in the so-called German model (iure Theuthonico), which had been virtually unknown in Red Ruthenia when it was an independent state (Duchy of Halych, before 1340).[7]


In the Middle Ages, it was part of Ruthenian Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia. It came under Polish control in 1340, when Casimir III of Poland acquired it[8][9] Since these times the name Ruś Czerwona is recorded, translated as "Red Ruthenia", 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.

In October 1372 Władysław Opolczyk was unexpectedly deprived of the office of Count palatine. Although he retained most of his castles and goods in Hungary, his political influence was significantly decreased. As a compensation, he was made Governor of the Hungarian Galicia. In this new position, the Duke of Opole successfully contributed to the economic development of the territories entrusted to him. Władysław mainly resided in Lwów, but at the end of his rule he spent more time in Halicz. The only serious conflict during his time as Governor was related to his approach to the Russian Orthodox Church, which caused the anger of the local boyars, who were strongly Catholics. Probably following Władysław's advices, in 1374 King Louis I published an earthly privilege for the nobility in Koszyce, which ensured the succession of the King's daughters after his death.

Under Polish rule, 325 towns were founded between the 14th and the second half of the 17th century, most in the 15th and 16th centuries (96 and 153 respectively).[10]

Red Ruthenia (without Podolia) was conquered by the Austrian Empire in 1772 during the first partition of Poland, and remained a part of it until 1918.[11]

Between World War I and World War II this land belonged to the Second Polish Republic. Presently, this area is split. The Western part is the area of South-Eastern Poland (around Rzeaszów, Przemyśl, Zamość and Chełm); the Eastern part (around Lviv) is a part of Western Ukraine.

Also, during his reign (1333–1370), Casimir the Great founded on Magdeburg rights several cities, urbanizing hitherto rural province.[12] Major Ruthenian cities founded by the King Casimir included:

item. City cities founded Current administrative unit
1. POL Sanok COA.svg Sanok 1339 Subcarpathian Voivodeship
2. POL Krosno COA.svg Krosno 1342 Subcarpathian Voivodeship
3. POL Łańcut COA.svg Łańcut 1349 Subcarpathian Voivodeship
4. POL Przemyśl COA.svg Przemyśl 1350 Subcarpathian Voivodeship
5. POL Rzeszów COA.svg Rzeszów 1354 Subcarpathian Voivodeship
6. POL Lwów COA.svg Lwów 1356 Lviv Oblast
7. Halicz coa XIVw.png Halicz 1367 Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast

Administrative Division (14th century-1772)[edit]

In the 1340s, the Rurikid dynasty died out, and the area passed to King Casimir III of Poland. But the sister state of Volhynia, together with Kiev fell under Lithuanian control.

Thereafter, the region comprised a Polish possession divided into a number of voivodeships. This began an era of German eastward migration and Polish settlement among the Ruthenian population.Armenian and Jewish immigration to the region also occurred in large numbers. Numerous castles were built during this time and some new cities were founded: Stanisławów (Stanyslaviv in Ukrainian, now Ivano-Frankivsk) and Krystynopol (now Chervonohrad).

Ruthenia was many times subjected to incursions by Tartars and Ottoman Turkey in the 16th and 17th centuries, however they were driven out, devastated during the Khmelnytsky Uprising (1648–1654), the Russo-Polish War (1654–1667), and inconvenienced by Swedish invasions during The Deluge (1655–1660), and the Swedes returned during the Great Northern War of the early 18th century.

Historically Red Ruthenia consisted of three governorships: 1) the Ruthenian whose capital was Lviv, and part of which were the provinces of Lviv, Halych, Sanok, Przemyśl, and Chełm; 2) Bełz, which separated the provinces of Lviv and Przemyśl from the rest of Lviv governorship; and 3) the Podolian with its capital in Kamieniec Podolski.

Skansen in Sanok.
The village of Markowa. The typical Umgebindehaus - houses, about 150-200 km southeast of Kraków, around 18th or 19th century, built in the style of ancient mountain Walddeutsche atmosphere.[13]

Ruthenian Voivodeship[edit]

Szeroki Wierch seen from Tarnica.
  • Przemyśl Land (Ziemia Przemyska), Przemyśl; Its area was 12,000 km2. and in the 17th century it was divided five smaller regions (county, powiaty).
  • Sanok Land (Ziemia Sanocka), Sanok
    • Sanok County (Powiat Sanocki), Sanok. Actually the intensive development of human settlements in the region took place during 13th to 15th centuries. The settlements were located according to the German Law within an area flanked by Wisłok, San and Wisłoka rivers. The historic Red Ruthenia, reaching on its south-west to Przemyśl and Sanok, has been inhabited for nearly the last ten centuries mostly by the Ruthenian population. The Wallachians engaged mainly in mountain pasturage, were probably also familiar with some forms of agriculture. Moving to the West, the Vallachians founded numerous villages in the Przemysl and Sanok regions in the 15th century. In the Sanok Province there were 6 Israelite communities with synagogues and kahal organizations. Jewish Communities of the 16th and 17th centuries had legislative autonomy also in the sphere of criminal law. Social ethnic background, using various law systems (German, Ruthenian and Wallachian). Peasants occupied themselves mainly with farming and sheep breeding. What was characteristic of the Sanok region was that many subjects of Hungarian lords participated in the brigandage activities there while peasants living in Poland took part in robberies in Hungary. At the head of the list comes the land of Sanok which, in the matter of rural population even surpassed in density the neighbouring Palatinate of Cracow. Last in rank comes the land of Halicz, the most eastward, which was perpetually threatened with Tatar and Wallachian invasions.

Bełz Voivodeship[edit]

POL województwo bełskie IRP COA.svg
Ruthenia CoA[14]
POL powiat sanocki COA.svg

First World War and Polish-Ukrainian conflict[edit]

During the First World War, Galicia (Red Ruthenia) saw heavy fighting between the forces of Russia and the Central Powers. The Russian forces overran most of the region in 1914 after defeating the Austro-Hungarian army in a chaotic frontier battle in the opening months of the war. This gave Russia the opportunity to invade Germany from the south. In 1918, Western Ruthenia became a part of the restored Republic of Poland, while the local Ukrainian population briefly declared the independence of Eastern Galicia as the West Ukrainian People's Republic. These competing claims lead to the Polish-Ukrainian War. In the western part of Red Ruthenia, Rusyn Lemkos formed the Lemko-Rusyn Republic in 1918, initially attempting to unite with Russia, instead of Ukraine. As this was impossible, they later attempted to unite with Rusyns from the area south of the Carpathians, in an attempt to join Czechoslovakia as a third ethnic entity. This effort was suppressed by the Polish government in 1920, and the area was incorporated into Poland. The leaders of the republic were tried by the Polish government, but were acquitted.

Second World War and Distrikt Galizien[edit]

In 1939 the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht approved a plan (Fall Weiss) with details of future attack on Poland. In the plan, military brigades from Galicia played the role of a Fifth column, to attack and demoralize the Polish Army in the rear, if resistance from Polish troops were stronger than expected.[15] After September 17, 1939, all territory east of the San, Bug and Neman rivers, approximating the former territory of East Galicia (Red Ruthenia), was annexed into the USSR. This territory was divided into four administrative districts (oblasts): Lviv, Stanislav, Drohobych and Ternopil (the latter including parts of Volhynia) of the Soviet Republic of Ukraine. In 1940–1941, the Soviet authorities conducted four mass deportations from the eastern part of the Second Polish Republic, inhabited by Ukrainians, Belarusians, Jews, Lithuanians, Russians, Germans, Czechs, and Armenians, along with Poles. Approximately 335,000 Polish citizens were carried out and deported to Siberia, Kazakhstan, and the north-east of European Russia, by the NKVD. According to general Vasily Khristoforov, the director of the FSB archives in Moscow, exactly 297,280 Polish citizens were deported in 1940.[16]

Cheerful German and Slovak soldiers posing with Ukrainian civilians in Komańcza Red Ruthenia, Poland 1939. (see Slovak invasion of Poland (1939)).

After June 22, 1941, the period of Sovietisation came to an end when Germany occupied East Ruthenia during Operation Barbarossa. This was a period of massacres. Evacuating Soviets decided instantly to kill the mass of people waiting in the prisons for deportation to the Gulag even if their fault was petty crimes or no fault at all.

Conflicts in Ruthenia and Volhynia between Poles and Ukrainians also intensified during this time, with skirmishes between the Polish Home Army (AK), Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), German Wehrmacht, and Soviet partisans. These conflicts included the massacres of Poles in Volhynia, and within Ruthenia, revenge attacks on Ukrainians and Operation Vistula. Despite these warring factions, and despite Ukrainian Galicians joining the UPA and supporting its anti-Soviet and anti-Polish terrorism, some also joined Germany in its fight against the USSR, forming the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Galizien (1st Ukrainian). The Division SS "Galizien" was commanded by German and Austrian officers (Walter Schimana, Fritz Freitag) who were delegated to the division.


The new Poland/USSR border, with majority Polish-speaking areas to the west, and Ukrainians (Ruthenes) to the center and east was recognized by the western Allies as part of the Yalta Conference with the Soviet Union. There were however large minority populations on either side of the new frontier and the end of the Second World War saw the forcible population transfer of over 500,000 people by the Communist authorities, Ukrainians moving to the east and Poles to the west in the Operation Vistula.

See also[edit]

Lemkos in stylised folk-costumes from the village of Mokre near Sanok, Poland.
Polish folk-costumes Pogórzanie.


  • "Monumenta Poloniae Historica"
  • Akta grodzkie i ziemskie z archiwum ziemskiego. Lauda sejmikowe. Tom XXIII, XXIV, XXV.
  • Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego (Digital edition)
  • Lustracja województwa ruskiego, podolskiego i bełskiego, 1564-1565 Warszawa, (I) edition 2001, pages 289. ISBN 83-7181-193-4
  • Lustracje dóbr królewskich XVI-XVIII wieku. Lustracja województwa ruskiego 1661—1665. Część III ziemie halicka i chełmska. Polska Akademia Nauk - Instytut Historii. 1976
  • Lustracje województw ruskiego, podolskiego i bełskiego 1564 - 1565, wyd. K. Chłapowski, H. Żytkowicz, cz. 1, Warszawa - Łódź 1992
  • Lustracja województwa ruskiego 1661-1665, cz. 1: Ziemia przemyska i sanocka, wyd. K. Arłamowski i W. Kaput, Wrocław-Warszawa-Kraków. 1970
  • Aleksander Jabłonowski. Polska wieku XVI, t. VII, Ruś Czerwona, Warszawa 1901 i 1903.


  1. ^ „Karte von Germania, Kleinpolen, Hungary, Walachai u. Siebenbuergen nebst Theilen der angraenzenden Laender“ von des „Claudii Ptolemaei geographicae enarrationis libri octo“, 1525, Strassburg
  2. ^ Andrzej Rozwałka (2008). "Pobuże region as an object of research and protection of the archaeological heritage from the period of Early Middle Ages". In Maciej St. Zięba. Our Bug. Creating conditions for development of the border areas of Poland, Ukraine and Belarus through enhancement and preservation of natural and cultural heritage (PDF). John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. p. 109. The cultural unity of the area had been disturbed, if we look at it from the perspective of the whole Smaller Poland, after the basin of upper and middle Bug and of upper Wieprz rivers had been taken over in 981 (or 979) by Ruthenia, with its rich culture of urban character, the fact that can be seen in such places as Czermno, Chełm, or Gródek on Bug . This way a new boundary had divided the former community of Lendians living in the basins of rivers San, upper Bug, Styr and probably upper Dniester, who subsequently were absorbed in majority by the eastern Slavic element. 
  3. ^ "were mainly Germans, Poles, Armenians and Jews, but also Karaims, Tatars, Greeks or Wallachians [in:] "Kwartalnik historii kultury materialnej: t. 47, PAN. 1999. p. 146
  4. ^ Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte, 1992
  5. ^ M. H. Marunchak. The Ukrainian Canadians, 1982
  6. ^ Czajkowski, 1992; Parczewski, 1992; Reinfuss, 1948, 1987, 1990
  7. ^ Kwartalnik historii kultury materialnej: t. 47, PAN. 1999. p. 146
  8. ^ H. H. Fisher, "America and the New Poland (1928)", Read Books, 2007, p. 15
  9. ^ N. Davies, God's playground: a history of Poland in two volumes, Oxford University Press, 2005, pp. 71, 135 [1]
  10. ^ A. Janeczek, Town and country in the Polish Commonwealth, 1350-1650, in: S. R. Epstein, Town and Country in Europe, 1300-1800, Cambridge University Press, 2004, p. 164
  11. ^ K. Kocsis, E. K. Hodosi, Ethnic Geography of the Hungarian Minorities in the Carpathian Basin, Simon Publications, 1988, p. 84
  13. ^ Franciszek Kotula. Pochodzenie domów przysłupowych w Rzeszowskiem. "Kwartalnik Historii Kultury Materialnej" Jahr. V., Nr. 3/4, 1957, S. 557
  14. ^ "Lew wspięty w koronie, herb najważniejszego nabytku terytorialnego Kazimierza Wielkiego — Rusi Czerwonej, wywodzi się od poświadczonego już w drugiej dekadzie XIV w. godła napieczętnego książąt halicko-włodzimierskich Andrzeja i Lwa." [in:] Polskie herby ziemskie: geneza, treści, funkcje. 1 93. p. 14
  15. ^ Sergei Berets. Ukrainian Legion - allies of Nazis, rivals of Bendera.. BBC World Service - Russian Service, 02/09/2009.
  16. ^ Instytut Pamięci Narodowej :: FSB, Moskwa 2004