Austrian Colonisation of Habsburg-Austrian Galicia:
1773 to 1846 & Austrian-Polish rivalry

In modern Austria, Emperor Joseph II is still an icon of the Age of Enlightenment, stylised as a rational workaholic, tolerant, ambitious, ruthless in his reforms, a great innovator disliked by most people that he ruled forced into modernity. Joseph II aimed to optimise the economic output of his Empire and "equalise" his subjects to a certain extent - enough to make them useful and productive members of a society.

He aimed to achieve this by dissolving hundreds of monasteries, encourage education, link tax to property rather than class, and grant civil rights to non-Catholics (Toleranzpatent, 1781). Despite of his relatively short reign (1780 to 1790 - but with considerable influence as a Prinzregent and Emperor of the HRR since 1764), Joseph II shaped the Habsburg Empire very much. For the development of Galicia, his stern approach to modernising the Empire led to fundamental changes in administration, taxation and education - and thus, a change of both economy and society.

In 1781, Joseph II released the "Ansiedlungspatent" act, through which he supported the transfer of artisans, tradesmen and farmers from the Pfalz (modern Germany). Willing colonists were subsidised with land, a farmhouse, cattle, tools and a stable free of charge. The amount of each of these subsidies depended on the size of the family and the wealth they brought to Galicia. In addition, colonists were free of all duties for ten years and enjoyed other privileges. This was done in an attempt to introduce modern "technologies" to the area. Between 1782 and 1786, almost 15,000 colonists moved to Galicia, where they lived in separate (often newly established) communities.

In late 1781, Joseph II released the "Toleranzpatent" act which granted a limited freedom of religion; the Toleranzpatent had strong consequences everywhere in the Habsburg Empire (for example, many professions were now open for Orthodox Christians, Protestants and Jews). In the religiously diverse Galicia, the Toleranzpatent was applied much more generously than in Austria or other heartlands of the Habsburg Empire and changed the Galician society.

In 1783, a tax reform in Galicia followed. Other reforms divided the previously six districts of Galicia into 18, each chaired by a civil servant. The capital was Lviv (then Lemberg), where the governor resided. Feudal administrative entities and many monasteries were dissolved; their possessions became property of the Habsburg crown. The Polish legal and judicative system was abolished and new courts and laws were established, centrally organised from Vienna. Between 1776 and 1780, the number of Austrian civil servants rose from 724 to 17,135.

Education was improved and decreased illiteracy rates in towns; generally however, it remained high (80 percent even in 1890!). Schooling in rural areas was not well-developed; in many villages, children were taught by priests, assistant teachers or laymen that happened to be more or less able to read and write. Teaching often took place only during the winter, when the children did not have to work in the fields. Unlike in Austria, there was no compulsory education in Galicia. Joseph II donated the "Garelli Library" to the university of Lviv (founded in 1784), which burnt the in the not exclusively metaphorical fire of the revolution in 1848.

Note that many of the reforms resulted in a loss of privileges, property or opportunities for Polish nobility and Polish clergy. This widened the gap between Poles and Ruthenians and generated hostility targeted against the Emperor and his court in Vienna. To take pressure off the Polish nobility, Joseph II elevated their rank above the one of the hereditary nobility in the Habsburg motherlands. Many Polish noble families were made counts, which resulted in tax privileges. Hostility ceased also as a result of economic recovery after the Napoleonic Wars under Emperor Franz I (1768 to 1835), when Galician cities such as Lviv or Brody boomed for the first time since the Renaissance.

Territory in the region was still subject of change in the late 18th and early 19th century: In 1786, the Bukovina became part of Galicia. In 1793, the Second Division of Poland gave Wolhynia and Eastern Podolia to Russia. The Napoleonic Wars and the Schönbrunner Frieden peace treaty of 1809 changed the borders temporarily - with the Congress of Vienna, new / old divisions were established that finally lasted until 1846. As a result of the revolution, the previously independent republican city of Krakow became part of Habsburg-Austrian Galicia in 1849, the Bukovina became an independent Kronland. These post-revolutionary borders finally proved stable until the end of the First World War.

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Further Reading

Studentenverbindung: Fraternities and Burschenschaft

Wikipedia on the Habsburg Empire (Habsburg Monarchy)

Wikipedia on Nationalism

Sources for 19th century History (key to nationalism)