Wartime Lemberg, Lwów, L’viv: City of Contested National Violences
In the recently published Lemberg, Lwów, L’viv, 1914–1947, revised and abridged from the 2010 German edition, Christoph Mick examines the city’s history through the lens of contested nationalities during the age of total war. While the volume does not focus on war itself, Mick does offer a meticulous examination of how the repercussions of two world wars transformed the multiethnic provincial capital of Galicia, the easternmost province of the Habsburg Empire, into a predominantly ethnically Ukrainian regional center on the Soviet Union’s western border. Mick argues that ethnicity and religion were the primary markers of identity in Lviv in the first half of the twentieth century, and consequently provided structure to individual war experiences. The work serves as a fascinating and thorough overview of the entangled multiethnic interactions among three major ethnic communities – Polish, Jewish, and Ukrainian – during a period of severe and widespread violence; however, Mick fails to examine how nationalistic fervor and interethnic hatred were disseminated among the broader population. Tracing the spread of violence along rigid national boundaries, Mick discounts the increasing brutality that adhered to cultural, economic, and social delimitations, and involved a nationally indifferent population with a blurred national identity.
The first chapter of the book traces “how nations went to war,” depicting in great detail the transformation of hostile but lawful national communities into belligerent armies [End Page 363] by the close of World War I. While any number of savage incidents did occur during the prewar period, including the 1908 assassination of Polish governor Andrzej Potocki, and the murder in 1910 of Ukrainian student Adam Kocko, the city did not experience any large-scale interethnic violence. It was with the onset of war that the boundaries between ethnic communities became more clearly defined, and conflicts began to erupt, often in public spaces. Mick outlines a series of external factors, including the November 5, 1916, proclamation of the Kingdom of Poland, the Russian February Revolution, and the 1918 Brest–Litovsk treaty, that triggered competition among communities and resulted in the creation of national states, and would eventually lead to war for the control of Eastern Galicia in 1918–1919. In this manner, multinational Lviv became a locus of military engagement for the advancement of mutually exclusive Polish and Ukrainian national projects. Yet, the reluctance of some groups – Polish demobilized soldiers and officers, among others – to participate in the conflict warranted further explanation, as well as indicating acknowledgment that divergent military experience, regardless of national affiliation, played a crucial role in shaping local identities and significantly influenced the dynamics of interethnic rivalry. In addition, Mick mentions the extensive involvement of the local population – the young in particular – in the fighting, but does not further develop the issue of the general brutalization of the civilian population, which often prompted outbursts of indiscriminate and violent behavior.
While the Polish–Ukrainian rivalry dominates the first part of the book, Mick also recounts internal and external factors that gave rise to an emerging anti-Semitism in the years prior to 1918. He notes that during the 1914–1915 Russian occupation, Cossack formations in the tsarist army were particularly rife with anti-Semitism. Yet, faced with the relentless hardship brought on by open warfare, local Polish and Ukrainian populations also directed their anger toward Jews, accusing them of cooperation and collaboration with the enemy. Mick identifies the motivation for this increasing anti-Semitism as predominantly economic in character: “many Poles and Ukrainians blamed Jewish traders for their rises in prices and the problems with supplies” (P. 75). By war’s end, ethnically defined violence had escalated, finally peaking in a pogrom carried out between November 22 and 25, 1918. Mick argues that the central reason for the pogrom, which resulted in seventy-three deaths, was “anti-Jewish resentment [that] had increased during the war and had taken on a racist [End Page 364] hue” (P...