Pacification of Ukrainians in Eastern Galicia

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Eastern Lesser Poland / Eastern Galicia (Lwów, Stanisławów and Tarnopol Voivodeships), Second Polish Republic - territories inhabited by the Ukrainian minority in Poland and affected by the pacification

The Pacification of Ukrainians in Eastern Galicia was a punitive action against the Ukrainian minority in Poland, carried out by police and military of the Second Polish Republic in September–November 1930 in response to a wave of sabotage and terrorist acts perpetrated by Ukrainian nationalists.[nb 1][1][2][3][4]

It took place in 16 counties of southeastern provinces of the country, or eastern Galicia. This area was in the interbellum part of the eastern Lesser Poland province. Therefore, in Ukrainian and Polish literature this event is also called "Pacification in Eastern Galicia" (Ukrainian: Пацифікація у Східній Галичині) and "Pacification of Eastern Lesser Poland" (Polish: Pacyfikacja Małopolski Wschodniej), respectively.


Eastern Galicia was incorporated by the Polish republic after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire and the defeat of the short-lived Western Ukrainian People's Republic.[1] After the war, in 1920–1921, approximately 100,000 Ukrainians, and Jews as well as people of other ethnicity who had supported Ukrainian independence, were interred in concentration camps[5] by the Polish government, where they were often denied food and medicine; some of them died from starvation, disease or suicide. The victims included not only soldiers and officers but also priests, lawyers and doctors who had supported the Ukrainian cause.[6] The death toll at these camps from diseases was estimated at 20,000 people (during the war, the Ukrainian government had interred 25,000 Poles).[7]

From the outset the Polish government adopted the policy of assimilation and repression of the Ukrainian minority in these lands. Many Ukrainian organizations continued close contact with the Weimar Republic, later Nazi Germany, while others kept in contact with the new Soviet government to the east. The use of the Ukrainian language was banned in government agencies in 1924 and support was steadily withdrawn from Ukrainian schools. Polish-Ukrainian relations deteriorated during the Great Depression, which led to much economic disruption, felt particularly hard in the rural areas. In this atmosphere radical Ukrainian nationalists propagating active resistance to Polish domination found a ready response from Ukrainian youth.[8]

In July 1930, activists of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) began sabotage actions, during which warehouses and cereal fields owned by Poles were burned, Polish homes were destroyed, bridges were blown up, state institutions, rail lines and telephone connections were damaged.[1][9] The organizer of the action was Yevhen Konovalets.[10] Financing was provided and weaponry was illegally smuggled with German support.

The main reason behind the sabotage campaign was the decision of the mainstream Ukrainian parties to participate in the Polish political system, coupled with Józef Piłsudski's policy of toleration, which threatened the OUN's position in Ukrainian society.[1][11] The organization reacted by adopting a tactic designed to radicalize Ukrainian public opinion and block any form of compromise with Polish authorities.[1][9][10] The OUN used terrorism and sabotage in order to force the Polish government into reprisals so fierce that they would cause the more moderate Ukrainian groups ready to negotiate with the Polish state to lose support.[12] OUN directed its violence not only against the Poles, but also against all those Ukrainians who wished for a peaceful settlement of the Polish - Ukrainian conflict.[13]

In the course of time, local Ukrainians, many of whom saw the Poles as occupiers of their land, joined the action. Offices of the Polish paramilitary organization Strzelec were burned, as were the stands of the popular trade fairs in Lwów (Lviv). Government offices and mail trucks were attacked. This situation lasted until September, with some sporadic incidents taking place as late as November. The terror action was limited to Galicia, and did not take place in Volhynia.[1]

In response, Polish authorities decided to pacify the turbulent province. The decision to carry out the action was made by Marshall Józef Piłsudski in his capacity as Prime Minister of the Second Polish Republic. Recognizing that terrorist actions carried out by the OUN did not amount to an insurrection, Piłsudski ordered a police action, rather than a military one, and deputized the Minister of Interior, Felicjan Sławoj-Składkowski with its organization. Sławoj-Składkowski in turn ordered regional police commanders to prepare for it in the Lwów Voivodeship, Stanisławów Voivodeship and Tarnopol Voivodeship. The commander of the planned action was Lwów Voivodeship's chief of police, Czesław Grabowski.

Before the action commenced, around 130 Ukrainian activists, including a few dozen former Sejm (Polish parliament) deputies were arrested.[14] The action itself began on 14 September 1930, in several villages of Lwów Voivodeship, where the cavalry unit of 14th Regiment of Jazłowiecki Ułans was directed, even though the detailed plan for the action was not established until 18 September.

Forces involved[edit]

From 20 to 29 September, 17 companies of police (60 policemen each) were used. Of these, 9 came from the police academy in Mosty Wielkie (Velyki Mosty), 3 from Lwów Voivodeship, 2.5 from Stanisławów Voivodeship, 2.5 from Tarnopol Voivodeship (a total of 1041 policemen and officers). The main operations with the participation of military units took place in the first half of October.

Overall, the action affected:

  • Lwów Voivodeship: police action - 206 places in 9 different counties, military action - 78 places in 8 different counties.
  • Stanisławów Voivodeship: police action - 56 places in 2 counties, military action - 33 places in one county
  • Tarnopol Voivodeship - police action - 63 places in 4 counties, military action - 57 places in 5 counties.

Or in total 494 villages. Timothy Snyder and other sources give the figure of 1000 policemen used in the operation, affecting 450 villages.[1]

Nature of the action[edit]

The operation was carried out in three stages. First, a basic edict was issued authorizing a particular action. Second, police units were brought in. Third units of the regular army carried out "operational maneuvers".

The pacification involved the search of private homes as well as buildings in which Ukrainian organizations (including the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church) were based. During the search, the buildings, belongings, and property of Ukrainians was destroyed and the inhabitants often beaten and arrested. Several Ukrainian schools (in Rohat, Drohobycz, Lwów, Tarnopol and Stanisławów) were closed and the Ukrainian Youth Scout organization Plast was delegalized. On 10 September, five deputies of Ukrainian National Democratic Alliance were arrested.

The pacification was carried out by first surrounding a village with police units, then calling out the village elder or an administrator of the village. He in turn was informed about the purpose of the operation, and was ordered to give up any weapons or explosives hidden in the village. All villagers were to remain in their houses. Subsequently, the houses of those suspected of cooperation with Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists were searched, which included the tearing up of floors and ceilings. During the course of the search the furniture and property inside the houses were often destroyed.[15] Policemen found about 100 kilograms of explosives and weapons (1287 rifles, 566 revolvers, 31 grenades).[1] Also, during the searches, physical force was used and many people were beaten.[15] According to Polish historian Władysław Pobóg-Malinowski, there were no fatalities,[16] while, according to Ukrainian historian Petro Mirchuk, 35 Ukrainian civilians died during the pacification. Stephan Horak estimates the number of victims at 7.[17] Additional punishments included levying special "contributions" on the villages and stationing regiments of cavalry in the village, which had to be fed and quartered by the villages.

A committee of the League of Nations in its response to Ukrainian-Nationalists protest regarding the "pacification" action, while not approving the methods used, stated that it was the Ukrainian extremists themselves who were to be blame[8] for consciously inviting this response by their sabotage activities and maintained that it was not governmental policy of persecution of the Ukrainian people.[18]

Effects of the action[edit]

One of the unintended consequences of the action, from the point of view of Polish authorities, was that previously allegedly "moderately oriented" Ukrainians became radicalized, and even those who had previously felt loyalty to the Polish state began supporting separation.[19] The OUN continued its terroristic activities, and engaged in numerous assassinations. Some of those murdered by the OUN after the Pacification included Tadeusz Hołówko, a Polish promoter of Ukrainian/Polish compromise, Emilian Czechowski, Lwow's Polish police commissioner, Alexei Mailov, a Soviet consular official killed in retaliation for the Holodomor, and most notably Bronisław Pieracki, the Polish interior minister. The OUN also killed moderate Ukrainian figures such as the respected teacher (and former officer of the Ukrainian Galician Army of the West Ukrainian People's Republic) Ivan Babij.[20]

According to Ukrainian-Canadian historian, Orest Subtelny, "collective punishment" meted out on thousands of "mostly innocent peasants" resulted in exacerbation of animosity between the Polish state and the Ukrainian minority.[8]


  1. ^ Snyder writes: "In July 1930, Ukrainian nationalists began sabotage actions in Galicia, destroying Polish properties and homes throughout the region in hundreds of terrorist actions. In September, Piłsudski ordered the pacification of Galicia, sending a thousand policemen to search 450 villages for nationalist agitators... "In 1930, as the OUN terrorized the Galician countryside...Volhynia remained comparatively peaceful..."[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Snyder, Timothy (2007). Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist’s Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine. Yale University Press. pp. 75–76, 157. ISBN 978-0300125993.
  2. ^ Lucyna, Kulińska (2009). Działalność terrorystyczna i sabotażowa nacjonalistycznych organizacji ukraińskich w Polsce w latach 1922-1939 [Activities of terrorism and sabotage by Ukrainian nationalist organizations in Poland in the years 1922-1939] (in Polish) (1st ed.). Kraków: Księgarnia Akademicka. p. 212. ISBN 9788371881473. OCLC 613214866.
  3. ^ Pisuliński, Jan (2003). "Pacyfikacja w Małopolsce Wschodniej na forum Ligi Narodów". Zeszyty Historyczne (in Polish). Instytut Literacki (144): 110. ISSN 0406-0393.
  4. ^ Ostanek, Adrian Adam (2017). "Stosunki polsko‑ukraińskie a bezpieczeństwo II Rzeczypospolitej w kontekście wydarzeń 1930 roku w Małopolsce Wschodniej". Studia Historica Gedanensia (in Polish). VIII: 164.
  5. ^ Concentration camps Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine. Originally published in Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984). University of Toronto Press.
  6. ^ Myroslav Shkandrij. (2015) Ukrainian Nationalism: Politics, Ideology, and Literature, 1929-1956. New Haven: Yale University Press pg. 19 Cited passage states "After the war, in 1920-1921, Polish concentration camps held over one hundred thousand people. In many cases prisoners were denied food and medical attention. Some starved; others died of disease or committed suicide. Among the interned were Jews and others of other nationalities who supported Ukrainian independence, and Jews figured among the witnesses who described the murder and abuse."
  7. ^ Jochen Böhler. (2019). Civil War in Central Europe, 1918-1921: The Reconstruction of Poland. Oxford University Press, pg. 81 "100,000 Ukrainians were subsequently interred in the camps of the ultimately victorious Polish Army. One fifth of them fell to infectious diseases."
  8. ^ a b c Subtelny, Orest (1994). Ukraine. A history. University of Toronto Press. pp. 429–431. ISBN 978-0802071910.
  9. ^ a b Lagzi, Gábor (2004). "The Ukrainian Radical National Movement in Inter-War Poland. The Case of Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN)". Regio - Minorities, Politics, Society - English Edition. VII (1): 201. Burning and damaging property owned by Poles, according to the logic of the perpetrators, maintained the Ukrainians' "revolutionary attitude" and strengthened the OUN’s position in Ukrainian society
  10. ^ a b Mazur, Grzegorz (2001). "Problem Pacyfikacji Małopolski Wschodniej w 1930 r.". Zeszyty Historyczne (in Polish). Instytut Literacki (135): 4–5. ISSN 0406-0393.
  11. ^ Bulutgil, H. Zeynep (2016). The Roots of Ethnic Cleansing in Europe. Cambridge University Press. p. 103. ISBN 978-1107135864.
  12. ^ Crampton, R. J. (1994). Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century – And After. Routledge. p. 50. ISBN 978-0415053464.
  13. ^ Hann, C. M.; Magocsi, Paul R., eds. (2005). Galicia: A Multicultured Land (1st ed.). University of Toronto Press. p. 148. ISBN 978-0802037817.
  14. ^ Paczkowski, Andrzej; Cane, Jave (2003). The Spring Will Be Ours: Poland and the Poles from Occupation to Freedom. Penn State University Press. p. 48. ISBN 978-0271023083.
  15. ^ a b Teich, Mikuláš; Porter, Roy, eds. (1993). The National Question in Europe in Historical Context. Cambridge University Press. p. 309. ISBN 978-0521367134.
  16. ^ Motyka, Grzegorz (2006). Ukraińska partyzantka, 1942-1960: działalność Organizacji Ukraińskich Nacjonalistów i Ukraińskiej Powstańczej Armii (in Polish). PAN. p. 57. ISBN 83-7399-163-8.
  17. ^ Brandon, Ray; Lower, Wendy, eds. (2008). The Shoah in Ukraine: History, Testimony, Memorialization. Indiana University Press. p. 148. ISBN 978-025335084-8.
  18. ^ Piotrowski, Tadeusz (2000). Genocide and Rescue in Wolyn. McFarland. p. 226. ISBN 0-7864-0773-5.
  19. ^ Cordell, Karl, ed. (2000). Poland and the European Union. Routledge. p. 187. ISBN 978-0415238854.
  20. ^ Alexander Motyl. (1985). Ukrainian Nationalist Political Violence in Inter-War Poland, 1921-1939. East European Quarterly, 19:1 (1985:Spring) p.45