SGKP Galicia

Geography Maps Slownik Geograficzny Sgkpgalicia

Slownik Geograficzny Translation


This is a translation of excerpts from the article written by Bronislaw Gustawicz for the gazetteer Slownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego. Gustawicz, a teacher at St. Anne's Gimnazjum in Kraków, wrote this about 1880; so it should offer insights into the state of affairs in Galicia at roughly the time our ancestors were leaving it for America. Space limitations precluded printing the whole article much has been omitted. "Galicia, " the standard form in English, is used throughout; in the original the author used the form "Galicya, " and one also sees "Galicja " (common in Polish) and "Galizien " (the German version). The name comes from the Latinized form of Halicz, a town in Ukraine, in the I Ith-12th centuries capital of the Duchy of Halicz and a military center in the 14th-17th centuries.

I.  Location, size, borders. Galicia, since 1772 a crownland [Translator's Note-a kraj koronny, a Polish rendering of the German term Kronland] joined with the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and formerly part of the Commonwealth, lies between 36°36'50" and 44°6'40" east longitude (per the Ferro meridian), and between 47'35'30" and 50'48'20" north latitude. [See note in the East Prussia entry regarding longitudes based on Ferro] ... The country is 531 km. long from west to east at latitude 49°40'.  At its western border it is 91.03 km. wide, at the eastern border about 151.72 km., and in the center of the country 227.58 km.  It is widest, 341.37 km., at longitude 42°35'.

To the west Galicia is bordered by Austrian and Prussian Silesia; to the north and northeast by Russia and, primarily, the Kingdom of Poland, Volhynia, and Podolia; to the southeast by Bukowina; to the south by Hungary... The country is most exposed from the north, toward the Kingdom of Poland, because for a distance of 531 km., from the mouth of the San to the sources of the Zbrucz, there is no barrier in the form of a river or significant elevation.

In these boundaries Galicia covers 1,364.06 square Austrian miles or 78,496.77 sq. km. [1 mila austryacka = about 7.6 km.].  It is the largest of all the monarchy's crownlands represented in the national council. [Omitted: Sections II "Formation," and III. "Hydrography. "]

IV. Climate. Galicia lies in the very center of the northern temperate zone, in the band of summer rains.  Galicia's northermost point lies in the very middle of the Wisla between the village of Chwalowice in Tarnobrzeg powiat and Zawichost in the Kingdom of Poland, at 50°48'20" north and 39°32' east (from the island of Ferro), almost even with Opatów, Checiny, Luck, Zytomierz, Kiev, Brussels, Calais, etc.  Its southernmost point, at the source of the Bialy Czeremosz at 47°45'40" north, is almost even with Komorne and Estergom in Hungary, Hallein in Solny Gród district [now in Slovakia], Zurich in Switzerland, Besançon in France, and Jassy w Multany.   Despite this position its weather is incomparably harsher than in other regions, not only those located at the same latitude as Galicia but also those farther north, especially in the western areas.  This is because the Carpathian Mountains deflect the influence of southern air from Galicia, and to the north and east it is exposed not only to the influence of harsh northern winds but also to the deflection of winds around the Carpathians; for this reason Galicia has a harsher climate than the Kingdom of Poland.

Winter usually begins, as in all of Poland, in mid-November, and lasts to the end of March.  Spring is short and cold; the flora's growth is delayed because of the ground-frosts which usually predominate in April and often in May.  Summer, which is difficult to distinguish from spring except for the lack of frosts, is exceptionally hot in the second half of July and first half of August; it is, however, mostly rainy.   This is because all of Poland is in the summer rain band.  These rains begin around the 8th to 15th of June and last to the end of the month or to mid-July.  In general there are up to 90 rainy days a year; during summer heat the temperature usually reaches +24°C [75°F], and the summer heat from 15° to 20°C [59° to 68°F].  Fall is most often sunny but cool.  In October the temperature falls to +4°C [39°Fl. The strongest frosts usually last from 15 December to 15 January, then diminish; but they return in the first half of February, due to northern winds, and often recur a third time for a few days in the first half of March.

There are, on average, 65 cold days, 25 less cold, and 15 without frost; during the winter there is snow 100-120 days from 1 December to 15 March. In all there can be up to 75 sunny days a year.

The eastern part of Galicia has milder weather.  In the northwest part of the country moist northwest, north, and northeast winds prevail during spring and summer; in the southern part dry eastern and southern winds prevail.

In view of the country's varying elevation above sea level and the various climatic conditions and consequent natural systems, we divide Galicia into three climatic regions: the mountain region, the region of cool and wet Baltic plains, and the region of dry steppe Black Sea uplands.

The first region includes the mountains and foothills with valleys cutting through them. They are characterized by a lower annual average warmth than in the plains; springs are later, cool, and wet; summers are short; summer days are hot and the nights cold; the falls are sunny with morning mists; the winters are early, long, and frosty. There are more cloudy and wet days than clear in the summer, and more snowy ones in the winter. It is a region of forest pasturage. We divide it by elevation into three sections: 1) the Alpine section, of high mountains and mountain meadows (fir and spruce forests; cultivation of oats and potatoes); 2) the section of medium-height mountains (forests with pasturage clearings; cultivation of spring rye and flax); and 3) the section of areas between the mountains-valleys, fairly large rivers, and foothill watersheds (mixed woods and beech trees, cultivation of winter rye, wheat, fruit trees).

The second region includes the whole Baltic flank and the Styr's Black Sea drainage basin. It is characterized by prevailing northwest, north and northeast winds, wet and cool, and wetter and cooler summers than in the third region. It is a land of meadows and forests. The soil here is mainly sandy and poorly drained, divided by fertile clays and dirt. Beneath the surface layer of dirt at various depths are deposits of loams and marl impermeable to water; that is where the bogs, peat-beds, and brownish swamps come from. The overflowing of rivers onto coarse-grain and finer-grain sandy soil leaves rich silt and forest mud and creates fertile soil deposits. On sandy ground pine forests take root, and on clayish ground hornbeam and beech trees mixed with oaks. All this moisture is favorable for pasturage vegetation; the cultivation of rye and potatoes predominates; and wheat can be grown in fertile areas and on clayish soil.

We divide this region into three areas by its various soils: 1) an area of light, unfertile soil with pine and fir forests; 2) an area of sandy soil, bogs, wet forests, fertile riverside spots, poorly drained soil and rubble; and 3) an area of fertile clays.

The third region is formed by the Black Sea flank with the drainage basins of the Dniestr and Danube. It is characterized by prevailing dry winds bringing little moisture, fog, clouds, or rain. Thus the dry, hot summers and cold, sunny winters. Characteristic of this region are: a scarcity of forests-those that do exist consist exclusively of deciduous trees (oaks), and a lack of water sources and less abundant irrigation than in the western and northern plains regions. On the other hand, there is an abundance of grass and broad-leafed green flora. it is a region of agriculture, winter crops, the cultivation of wheat, corn, buckwheat, sugar-beets, hemp, tobacco, anise, and broad-leafed gourd-bearing plants. [Omitted: V. Mining Production, VI. Crop Production; V11. Livestock Breeding.]

VIII. Industry in Galicia is still at a low level. In 1857 Galicia had in all 102,189 industrialists, i. e., factory owners and their working crews; so only 2.2% of the population worked in industry. By 1870 the number had risen to 179,626, or 3.3% of the population. Factory-based industry has begun to grow in recent times. Today Galicia has several dozen major factory plants of various kinds, not counting distilleries and breweries, but there are still too few of them in relation to the production of raw materials. Galician factories cannot consume all the raw material the country produces or satisfy the needs of its craftsmen and inhabitants in general. So a significant portion of this material goes to foreign factories and returns to us as a foreign product, in which process the country obviously loses out, since it sells the raw produce cheaply and buys it back, processed, at a higher price.

Among the more important branches of factory industry, the following are best represented in Galicia: distilling, brewing, sugar production, milling, production of matches and various products from mineral oil and wax. Unsufficiently represented are: production of machinery and paper, tanning, and especially the manufacturing of cloth and fabrics, even though the Galician people has the most aptitude for the latter two branches, and the country supplies an abundance of material. Galician factories process either minerals and non-organic products of the earth, or forest products, or products of agriculture....

The handicraft industry is more developed in Galicia than that of factories. The products of the best craftsmen are in no way inferior to anything foreign, and it is only due to inadequate factory production, which compels them to buy materials from abroad, that they cannot compete with foreigners. The trades best represented are: baking, butchering, hulling, weaving, tailoring, tanning, dyeing, coopering, carpentry, turning, woodworking, masonry, smithing, metalwork, tinsmithing, printing, and the crafts of making candy, cloth, rope, shoes, furs, gloves, saddles and harnesses, brushes, combs, soap, varnish, pottery, cutlery, and jewelry. Clock and watch making are limited to selling and repairing products made abroad and imported. What Galicia has least of is engravers, wood-carvers, sculptors, mechanics and opticians.

IX. Population: According to the 1869 census Galicia had 5,418,016 inhabitants; that is 3,972 souls per square Austrian mila, or 69 per square km. But the western part is more densely populated than the eastern; in the west there are 4,905 people per square Austrian mila, in the east 3,596. The plains are more densely populated than the mountains, and in the mountains the part belonging to the Baltic flank is more populous than that of the Black Sea flank. Finally, the western and eastern ends of the country are more populous than the middle.

A look at the degree of population in individual powiaty gives the following numbers in the northwestern part of the country: Wieliczka 7,444 per square mila, Biala 7,144; Tarnów 6,542; in the eastern part of the country, Sniatyn 6,079, Czortków 5,714 per square mila. The least populous powiaty in western Galicia are Nowy Tag (2,934 per sq. mila) and Nisko (3,303 per sq. mila). In eastern Galicia they are Nadworna (1,618), Kosów (1,811), Lisko (2,122) and Turka (2,154).

The population of Galicia is scattered in 11,373 settlements, of which 6,134 are villages and hamlets, 4,925 are manoral estates, 230 are small towns, and 90 are cities. With annual population growth at 1.49%, by the end of 1880 we would have 6,311,986 souls. Since the last census in 1869 the average growth in population is over 11 years is 893,970. The census taken at the end of December 1880 will soon show the actual population of the country.

In terms of ethnic origin, Galicia's population consists of natives and foreigners. The native or original population consists of Poles and Ruthenians. Poles comprise 45.9% of the country's entire population, Ruthenians 42.6%. The Poles live primarily in the western part, west of the San, and the Ruthenians in the eastern part; however in western Galicia there are Ruthenian settlements in the mountains up to the Nowy Sacz area on the Poprad river, and in the eastern part there are Polish settlements.

The foreign population accounts for about 12% of the whole. Among them are Germans who settled as farmers in colonies scattered in various regions of the country (see Zehlicke's article "Die deutschen Kolonien in Galizien" in the periodical Im Neuen Reich, 1876, vol. I) and in cities as officials, industrial workers, tradesmen, and factory workers. They account for about 1% of the whole population. Next come the Armenians, kinsmen of the Slavs, of whom there are 2,400, settled-besides in Lwów-mainly in Pokucie [Translator's Note: Pokucie, in Ukraine on the upper Pruth and Czeremosz rivers, was the southeastern corner of Poland's territories]. Then there are: the Mennonites, who immigrated from Friesland long ago and settled in the powiaty of Lwów (Einsiedel, Falkenstein, Mostki) and Gródek (Neuhof and Kiernica); the Jews, who comprise 10% of the population and live mainly in the cities and small towns, but in the villages as well; the Karaites, a Jewish agricultural sect in Halicz; and the Gypsies, bands of whom wander the borderlands of Bukowina and Hungary.

In terms of religion the entire population, except for the Jews, Karaites, and Gypsies, is Christian. The Poles are Roman Catholic, the Ruthenians Greek Catholic, and the Armenians have their own Armenian Catholic rite. The Germans are primarily Protestant. The Mennonites are a Protestant sect that left Friesland with the Anabaptists in the 16th century. The Karaites comprise a separate sect of Judaism, rejecting the Talmud and its traditions. The percentage of Catholics is 46%, Greek Catholics 42%, Jews 10%, Protestants .73%, and other faiths about 1%.

In terms of occupation the Galician population is agricultural. Those living by agriculture and from agricultural income comprise 83.5%; those employed in industry and trade 9%; those employed in personal services 4.8%; owners of homes and possessions of pensions 1%; and those supporting themselves on acquired learning and devoting themselves to the sciences only 1.5% (!).

The Galician people, Polish and Ruthenian, are generally well-proportioned, robust, handsome, with engaging facial features and indefatigable strength and endurance. The Galician is characterized by a clear, healthy, inborn intelligence and circumspect courage. By nature possessing more good than evil inclinations when not subjected to depraving influences, he is religious, loyal, obliging, and hospitable. He is attracted to those who have treated him well and knows how to be grateful, but is, on the other hand, rarely vengeful. These good qualities are tarnished by sloth, indolence, a lack of liking for and persistence in work, a lack of education, and the often nasty habit of drunkenness. He only works as much as he must to satisfy his most essential needs, very few in number; he cares little about the elevation and improvement of his farm, about a more orderly, comfortable and healthy dwelling, about saving money or securing grain reserves. Thus when the expected harvest proves disappointing, or a natural catastrophe afflicts the area, he falls victim to need, hunger and illness, incurs usurious debt, and often gets into such a plight that, dispossessed of his house and land, he becomes a proletarian. He preserves old customs and manners, and does not like change of any sort, whether in life style or in the way he runs his farm, and most often rejects with suspicion and mistrust the most salutary advice, allowing himself with child-like gullibility to be exploited by leaseholders and usurers.

Under the influence of different living conditions dictated by nature itself, different styles of living and earning a living, and the influence of neighbors of different ethnic origins and contact with various foreign influences, the Polish and Ruthenian people has divided into many groups differing in dress, customs, and even dialect, and bearing various names, adopted from nature or from the names of their dwellings or from certain characteristic traits of dress or speech, as well as from other circumstances that are hard to make out today. We distinguish two main ethnographic groups, the góral, i. e., the mountaindweller, and the podolak or równiak, the plainsman. The góral peoples are the Zywczaki, Babiogórcy, Rabczanie or Zagórzanie, Kliszczaki, Podhalanie, Nowotarzanie, Pieninski and Sadecki Górnie, Spizaki or Gardlaki, Kurtskis or Czuchoncy (the Lemkes and Rusnaks), Bojkos (Werchowyncy), Tucholcy, and Huculs (Czarnogórcy).  The most prominent peoples of the Galician plainsdwellers are the Krakowiacy, Mazury-including the Grebowiacy (Lisowiski or Borowcy), Gluchoniemcy, Belzanie, Buzanie (Lapotniki and Poleszuki), Opolanie, Wolyniacy, Poberezcy or Nistrowianie. The reader will find detailed descriptions of these tribes under their respective entries.

X. Division of the country. Galicia is divided into 74 powiaty named for the towns which serve as their seats: Biala, Bóbrka, Bochnia, Bohorodczany, Borszczów, Brody, Brzesko, Brzezany, Brzozów, Buczacz, Chrzanów, Cieszanów, Czortków, Dabrowa, Dobromil, Dolina, Drohobycz, Gorlice, Gródek, Grybów, Horodenka, Husiatyn, Jaroslaw, Jaslo, Jaworów, Kalusz, Kamionka Strumilowa, Kolbuszowa, Kolomyja, Kosów, Kraków, Krosno, Lancut, Limanowa, Lisko, Lwów, Mielec, Mosciska, Myslenice, Nadworna, Nisko, Nowy Sacz, Nowytarg, Pilzno, Podhajce, Przemysl, Przemyslany, Rawa Ruska, Rohatyn, Ropczyce, Rudki, Rzeszów, Sambor, Sanok, Skalat, Sniatyn, Sokal, Stanislawów, Staremiasto, Stryj, Tarnobrzeg, Tarnopol, Tarnów, Tlumacz, Trembowla, Turka, Wadowice, Wieliczka, Zaleszczyki, Zbaraz, Zloczów, Zólkiew, Zydaczów, Zywiec. [Omitted: XI. Road systems and XII. Trade].

XIII. Administration. Galicia, as one of the constitutional crownlands of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, has the same administrative institutions as the other crownlands of the Austrian half of the monarchy... The representatives and autonomous authorities are: 1) the national sejm and bureau; 2) the national council and delegates; 3) powiat councils and bureaus; 4) gmina councils and authorities; 5) trade and industrial houses. The Emperor summons the sejm yearly. The sejm's sphere of activity-part legislative, part administrative, part supervisory- includes all matters regarding the crownland ... in general everything connected with the welfare and needs of the country, to the extent it does not infringe on the imperial council. The Galician sejm consists of eight clerical authorities, two doctors from the Universities of Kraków and Lwów, and 141 delegates ... elected for a term of six years; the country's president is appointed from among them by the Emperor himself for the same term.

XIV. Spiritual authorities and institutions. In Galicia, as throughout the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, there is complete freedom of conscience and religion. Every citizen of age is free to convert from one faith to another. Every legally recognized religion can celebrate its rites publicly and administer its own religious affairs independently. The legally recognized religions are: Catholics of all three rites, Greek non-Uniates, Protestants, Unitarians, and Jews. Adherents of every legally recognized religion have equal civic and political rights.  Christian faiths: the Roman Catholic church is under the authority of the Archbishop of Lwów and the three bishops of Kraków, Tarnów, and Przemysl.  The Greek Catholic Church is under the authority of the metropolitan in Lwów and the bishop of Przemysl.  The Armenian Church is under the authority of the Armenian Archbishop.  The Augsburg and Swiss denominations are under the authority of the Galician Superintendent in Lwów, whose jurisdiction also includes Bukowina.  The Augsburg Protestant Superintendent's office is divided into three senioraty: the western (7 parishes), the central (10 parishes), and the eastern (5 parishes), primarily covering Bukowina. The Reformed Protestant Superintendent has four parishes: Andrasfalva, Koenigsberg, Josefsberg, Kolomyja. There is a Greek oriental chaplaincy in Lwów.

The Jewish faith has a national rabbinate in Lwów and 26 powiat rabbinates.   In addition, each Jewish community has its own szkolnik [sexton]....

[Omitted: Sections XV. Education, XVI. Social institutions, XVII. An Overview of Galicya's History, and XVIII. Bibliography.]

[For more information on Galicia see Genealogical Gazetteer of Galicia, Brian J. Lenius (Box 18 Group 4 R.R. #1, Anola, Manitoba, CANADA R0E 0A0], and Gerald Ortell's Polish Parish Records of the Roman Catholic Church, just re-published by the PGSA].


Source: Slownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego - Warsaw [1881, vol. 2, pp. 445-474]


This translation, by William F. Hoffman, first appeared in the August 1996 issue of "Rodziny Journal of the Polish Genealogical Society of America".