|History of Tluste/Tovste
from a Polish Perspective
The following pages give an overview of the history of Tluste/Tovste
and of the region in which it is situated from the perspective
of the Polish population, one of three principal ethnic groups
that co-existed there. Jewish and Ukrainian perspectives each
receive their own treatment elsewhere in dedicated overviews
while the section ‘Tluste - Life
and Times’ attempts to give an overall impression of what
the town was like between 1880 and 1930.
While their histories are necessarily intertwined, a case
can be made for presenting these ethnic perspectives separately.
Although they lived side-by-side for many centuries, persistent
tensions among these communities ensured that they maintained
distinct identities and separate affiliations throughout their
Each of these overviews is a work in progress. They will
be supplemented by additional information as it comes to light.
Indeed, there are many rich sources of historical information
already at hand, waiting to be translated into English from
the original Hebrew, Polish or Ukrainian texts. While no claim
is made that the information presented here is comprehensive,
it should nonetheless give a fairly good sense of the social
interactions, over time, among these three communities.
The ancient history of the region in which Tovste is located
is rife with conflict, foreign invasion, and battles for territorial
control. Among the main participants in this struggle – which
lasted from at least the tenth through thirteenth centuries
– were the “Lekhs”, the tribes that gave rise to Polish ethnicity,
and the “Ruthenians”, forbearers of the Ukrainian people.
There was extensive interpenetration and intercrossing of
Polish and Ruthenian populations in the region in the twelfth
The land then known as Halicz, after the latinized name of
the principality’s capital, was effectively under the control
of Kievian princes. However their domination was challenged
by both internal and external threats, which eventually brought
about the dissolution of the Kievian state. Invasions from
the east – by the Pechangs, the Turkic-speaking Polovtsy,
and ultimately the (Mongol) Tartars – undermined the Kievan
princes’ ability to govern (2).
In the second half of the thirteenth and during the fourteenth
century, the south-eastern areas were largely denuded of their
population owing to these numerous Tartar incursions (3).
In 1325, the Halicz nobility, or boyars, called to the throne
a Polish prince who upon his death in 1340 was succeeded by
the Polish King Casimir the Great. With the death of the two
remaining Kievian princes, around the middle of the fourteenth
century, the territory was up for grabs. The neighbouring
powers of Poland, Lithuania, and Hungary were well positioned
to share the spoils. Several decades of rivalry among them
followed, with renewed incursions of Tartars thrown in for
A rearrangement of the borders in 1366 saw the territory
west of the Seret river, which included Tluste, come into
Polish possession (4).
Under Wladyslaw II Jagiello, the newly elected king of Poland,
Ruthenia was recovered from Hungary in 1387. In 1399, the
Tartars defeated Lithuanian forces at the River Vorskla, but
at the cost of a weakened offensive Tartar threat. As for
the Lithuanians, the defeat in battle effectively ended the
ambitions of Lithuanian ruler, Vytautas, to extend his influence
over southern Russia
These events set the stage for Tluste, as it was known then,
and the surrounding region to become an integral part of the
vast Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The town was situated
at the westernmost extremity of the province of Podolia, just
west of the Seret river, bordered to the north by the province
This relatively stable territorial
configuration lasted for 450 years from the fourteenth
century until 1772, when Russia, Prussia, and Austria
partitioned Poland in the first of three territorial
Austria acquired the regions of Little Poland (Malopolska)
south of the Vistula River, western Podolia, and the
rest of an area that subsequently became known collectively
as Galizien or Galicia.
Click on map
Eastern Galicia, which was to remain in Austrian hands for
150 years, was granted extensive autonomy and was said to
have retained its Polish character despite Austrian attempts
to subvert it. “[C]enturies of incorporation in the
Polish Commonwealth left a lasting legacy. In the eastern
part of Galicia the princes, nobles, and gentry – owners of
land and for centuries wielders of power – were either of
Polish extraction or, if Ukrainian, had for the most part
become thoroughly Polonized. That is, they had accepted the
language, culture, religion, and way of life of their Polish
Writing in 1948, Skrzypek (6)
“Immediately after the Austrian troops had entered Galicia
in 1772, the Emperor Joseph II. forbade the wearing of Polish
national costume, and soon afterwards an intensive colonization
of the land with Germans was begun. All the administrative
posts were occupied by Germans. The Polish language was
forbidden in schools, and the ancient University of Lwow
was transformed into a German university in 1794. The Austrian
authorities also did their utmost to provoke hatred between
the Polish and Ruthenian peoples, who hitherto had lived
in harmony together.
But Austria's internal weakness brought the attempts to
Germanise Poles to nothing, and, in the end, Vienna was
obliged to restore some degree of national liberty in Galicia,
though later than in other parts of the monarchy.
The only achievement of which Austria could boast was the
stimulation of a Ukrainian movement. As late as the middle
of the 19th century there was still no great difference
between the Poles and Ruthenians in Eastern Galicia; they
constituted one organism. Educated Ruthenians spoke Polish,
the sons of the Ruthenian clergy and intellectuals took
part in the Polish secret organizations for independence,
and many of them marched side by side with Poles in the
1831 and 1863 risings. The Greek Catholic bishops wrote
their pastoral letters in Polish, and the Greek Catholic
professors of theology at the Lwow University lectured in
Polish, against the wishes of the Austrian authorities.
Not until the latter half of the 19th century did a Ukrainian
movement begin to develop, and even then it could not compete
with the Polish influence. When during the "constitutional
era" Galicia was granted autonomy in 1860, the Regional
Seym in Lwow and all the other public institutions at once
acquired a Polish character. The Polish element was so strong
in the country that when, in 1861, steps were taken to reform
Lwow University, it was transformed into a Polish institution.
Other high educational institutions in Lwow (the Technical
College and the Veterinary College) used Polish as the language
Polish influences shaped the cultural features of the Ruthenian
population. This was also the case in the language sphere;
the Polish language strongly influenced the development
of the Ruthenian (Ukrainian) language, which contains a
large proportion of words of Polish origin. In their social
and civil ideas and customs the Ruthenian population was
greatly influenced by Polish examples.”
In Tluste and its immediate vicinity, however, census
figures between 1880 and 1930 reveal that the Polish population
was a distinct minority. Poles never constituted more than
about 12 percent of the population of Tluste during that time,
and less than 25 percent of the combined population of Tluste
and the surrounding villages of Holowczynce, Rozanowka, Tluste
Wies, Korolowka, and Angelowka (listed in order of size).
Nevertheless, Poles were said to occupy a very significant,
disproportionate percentage of the posts in the town’s administration
The development of eastern Galicia as a whole was clearly
influenced by Austrian policy. According to Skrzypek (8),
Austria deliberately impeded the development of industry in
Galicia, following the partitions of Poland, fearing the loss
of a market for its own products. As a consequence, in spite
of its rich mineral resources, the territory was relegated
to the role of a corn producer and retained a markedly agricultural
character. This is consistent with a strategy outlined early
on, in secret report of the Austrian Commission of 1791:
“The real interests of the Austrian monarchy require that
this [Polish] nation should be slowly transformed into a
German population; that its customs and mode of thought
and prejudices should be changed; in a word, that it should
be denationalised. The surest guarantee against a desire
to return to the [Polish] Republic will be the introduction
of differences in behaviour, national customs, and speech,
between Galicia and Poland.” (9)
The century and a half of Austrian rule and influence would
end with the onset of World War I. In the second half of 1914,
Tluste came under Russian occupation and remained so until
September 1915, when the Russians were forced out by the Austrian-German
armies. Russian troops again returned to Tluste in June 1916
and remained there until July 1917. (10).
After the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Austria’s
defeat, political control was transferred to a Ukrainian committee.
On 31 October 1918, Ukrainian political leaders declared a
“Western Ukrainian National Republic”, and Ukrainian forces
occupied Lvov on 1 November. Within days, armed conflict began
between Poles and Ukrainians over rival claims to territory.
Lvov was subsequently recaptured by Polish forces on or about
22 November 1918. (11)
On 25 June 1919, a decision of the Allied Supreme Council
authorized Polish armed forces – then at war with Soviet Union
– to extend their operations eastward to the river Zbrucz
In the course of the following month of July, Polish forces
regained control over the whole of Galicia.
Poland and the Soviet Union agreed a truce in October 1920.
On 18 March 1921 the Treaty of Riga was signed between Poland,
Russia and Ukraine, whereby Poland retained eastern Galicia.
Two years later, on 15 March 1923, a Conference of Ambassadors
recognized the frontiers of Poland as including the eastern
part of Galicia, whilst confirming that that territory’s “ethnographical
conditions necessitate an autonomous regime”(13).
Ukrainians in Poland were indeed a minority with a strong
sense of national separateness and far-reaching national aspirations;
nevertheless, it is claimed that they were given considerable
freedom to develop their own political, cultural and economic
The Polish constitution of 1921 granted Ukrainian people the
same rights as were granted to Poles, and a law of 31 July
1924 was supposed to assure Ukrainians the right to use their
own language in their relations with local authorities, in
courts and legal documents.
|The reality was probably rather different.
The photograph, opposite, of a large demonstration in
front of Tluste city hall in 1930, during the period of
Polish “pacification”, most likely had its roots in Ukrainian
discontent of the current state of affairs.
There was evidence, for example, of dissatisfaction with
the school system, where the primary language of instruction
was Polish. The Polish authorities discouraged learning the
Ukrainian language, instruction of which was limited to one
hour per week, and often found reason to substitute the lone
Ukrainian class for something else, such as physical training
In December 1930, parents submitted declarations demanding
introduction of Ukrainian as language of instruction in Tluste
Four years later, in 1934, Poland denounced the Treaty for
the Protection of Minorities, citing its unequal application
by various States, whilst claiming that the rights of its
minorities would remain unaffected (17).
In the period of Polish rule, a number of Ukrainian political
parties garnered public support, among them the moderate Ukrainian
National Democratic Union (Ukrainski Natsionalno-Demokratichne
Obyedinienie), known as UNDO. Immediately prior to the outbreak
of the Second World War, on 24 August 1939, UNDO issued a
manifesto calling for Ukrainians to carry out all their duties
towards the Polish State in the event of Germany declaring
war. Skrzypek notes further that Ukrainians voluntarily joined
the army and fought alongside the Poles to resist the Nazi
Skrzypek contrasts UNDO’s consensual approach with the hard-line
stance of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN),
which he branded an ‘instrument of German policy’, receiving
material support from the Germans for acts of sabotage and
terrorism. (Membership of OUN was eventually made illegal
and an offence under the Polish State, which only further
inflamed Polish-Ukrainian relations.)
Aside from these political dimensions, what did eastern Galicia
look like during the interwar period? Overall population statistics
for eastern Galicia suggest an increase in the Polish population
relative to Ukrainians although, as was pointed out elsewhere,
Poles in Tluste and surrounding villages were always a minority.
A number of contributing factors have been cited for the increase:
a higher rate of mortality among Ukrainians, a higher rate
of emigration of Ukrainians to European countries and the
Americas, as well as an influx of Poles from the western part
of Galicia – partly in response to agrarian reform and redistribution
of land (i.e. larger, mainly Polish, estates). These included
professionals, workers attracted to a newly developing oil
industry, and rural inhabitants in search of more fertile
The Polish population was said to be a very heterogeneous
group (i.e. peasantry, urban inhabitants and intellectuals)
engaged in a broad range of activities, including agriculture/forestry,
crafts and industry, trade and communications, as well as
public services and education. This contrasted with the Ukrainian
population, whose occupational structure was more uniform
and was, in the majority, associated with the agricultural
sector; and the Jewish population which was mainly involved
in trade and communications, as well as crafts and industry
Interestingly, as a sign of rapprochement between the Ukrainian
and Polish communities, statistics for 1927 show that 16.2
percent of the total number of marriages contracted in eastern
Galicia were of mixed Polish-Ukrainian ethnicity (21).
Eastern Galicia continued to be an important source of agricultural
production, at the expense of industrial output. Statistics
from 1936, quoted by Skrzypek (22),
reveal that field crop production from eastern Galicia represented
16 percent of Poland’s total production, reflecting the following
individual percentages: rye (10.9), wheat (27.2), oats (18.3),
barley (17.8) and potatoes (14.9). Tobacco production was
especially prolific (45.9 percent) in Stanislwow and Tarnopol
provinces. The territory also contributed 20 percent of Poland’s
export of butter, 62 percent of the eggs and poultry, 12 percent
of the meat and bacon produce, and 40 percent of the timber.
The relative percentage of production of livestock in Eastern
Galicia in 1938 was as follows: horses and cattle (17.7),
pigs (10.4) and sheep (11.4).
End of Polish administration
The potential for further economic development under a Polish
regime was soon to be curtailed, as Poland’s control over
Galicia came to an end with the onset of the Second World
War. In September 1939, citing the disintegration of the Polish
State and Government, the Soviet Union announced its intention
to occupy Western Ukraine (23).
The so-called Ribbentrop-Molotov Agreement of 28 September
1939, between Germany and the Soviet Union, formalised the
incorporation of eastern Galicia into Soviet territory (24).
Soviet forces soon occupied towns such as Tluste, Zaleszczyki
and Horodenka, bringing to an end the association of this
territory with the Polish State.
According to Skrzypek (25),
“all political life died out, the editors of the various periodicals
disappeared, and Ukrainian politicians and leaders were treated
exactly like the Poles – they were arrested and condemned
to forced labour in concentration camps as ‘enemies of the
people’.” A new chapter in Ukrainian history was about to
(1) Pawlowski, S. cited in Skrzypek, S. The Problem of
Eastern Galicia. London, 1948. p. 19.
(2) Kowalski, S. “Jazlowiec: The Town Lost in History”. Chapter
(3) Skrzypek, S. The Problem of Eastern Galicia.
London, 1948. p. 20.
(4) Kowalski, S. “Jazlowiec: The Town Lost in History”.
Chapter II. http://www.aerobiologicalengineering.com/wxk116/sjk/jazlow.html.
(5) Hryniuk, S. Peasants with Promise: Ukrainians in
Southeastern Galicia 1880-1900. Edmonton, 1991. p. 1
(6) Skrzypek, S. The Problem of Eastern Galicia.
London, 1948. p. 31.
(7) Pawlyk, J. pers.comm.
(8) Skrzypek, S. The Problem of Eastern Galicia.
London, 1948. p. 36.
(9) Ibid. p. 30.
(10) Pawlyk, J. History of Tovste. Chortkiv, 2000.
(11) Skrzypek, S. The Problem of Eastern Galicia.
London, 1948. p. 4.
(12) Ibid. pp. 4, 65.
(13) Ibid. p.5, 74.
(14) Ibid. p. 44.
(15) Kurilyuk, E. pers. comm.
(16) Central State Historical Archives of Ukraine, Lviv:
Fond 179, Opus 2, Sprava 3383.
(17) Skrzypek, S. The Problem of Eastern Galicia.
London, 1948. p. 55.
(18) Ibid. pp. 45-47.
(19) Ibid. pp. 20-26.
(20) Ibid. pp. 27-29.
(21) Ibid. p. 23.
(22) Ibid. p. 37.
(23) Ibid. p. 75.
(24) Ibid. p. 10.
(25) Ibid. p. 57.