The province which since the late 1700's is known as Galicia is one of the historical regions of Poland, especially its western part (west of the San River), traditionally called Malopolska, i.e. Little Poland (as opposed to Greater Poland around Poznan). Its most important city, Kraków has long been the seat of Polish kings. The eastern part of Galicia was previously called Ruthenia and originally inhabited by Ruthenians (now split into Ukrainians and Belarussians). Due to the Polish influence since the 14 century more and more Poles settled in Ruthenia and also many Ruthenians adopted the Polish language and culture.
During the Partitions of Poland in 1772 and 1795 the Austrian Empire annexed Little Poland and Ruthenia. The Austrians invented a name Galicia for these new areas (in 1815, northern regions of it were ceded to Russia and became part of the Kingdom of Poland dependent on Russia). Between 1815 and 1846 the city of Kraków together with a small surrounding area was a quasi-independent Republic of Kraków (shown in green on the map below). In 1846 this territory was incorporated into Galicia (thus becoming part of Austria). In the 19th century, about 50% of the Galician people were Polish Catholics, who were the majority in the western districts and about one-third in the eastern regions. 40% of the inhabitants, mostly in the eastern part, spoke Ukrainian and were Byzantine Catholics. The Jewish minority (about 10%) lived mostly in small cities ('shtetls') A small German minority was also present.
After WWI, the territory of Galicia became part of independent Poland. During WWII, the Nazis murdered most of the Jewish inhabitants of the province. After the war, the former Galicia was divided between Poland and Ukraine (within the Soviet Union). Most of the Poles living east of the new border re-settled to Poland, whereas the Ukrainian-speaking population of the territories which remained Polish were either expelled to Ukraine or dispersed to other parts of Poland.
The map shows the territory of Galicia before WWI. The pink line is the post-WWII border between Poland and Ukraine. For the present Ukrainian part, Ukrainian names of towns are provided also, if significantly different from the Polish ones. The regions of Spis and Orava, adjacent to Galicia are marked in yellow and the red line shows their division between Poland and Slovakia in 1920.
Other selected topics and supplementary material:
Comprehensive lists of existing vital records for the Province of Galicia.
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