Austrian - Polish Conflicts in Habsburg Galica:
Nationalism & Polonisation of Galician Education

The reforms of Maria Theresia in the educational system of Galicia that followed the First Division of Poland in 1772 were nothing compared to the drastic and rather ruthless modernisation measures of her son, Emperor Joseph II: Instead of limiting the influence of the Jesuits on educational matters, he dissolved the order altogether and confiscated its vast possessions; he also dissolved innumerable educational facilities, ranging from cathedral schools to academies of higher education and replaced them by few, but centralised universities, run by the state and controlled centrally from Vienna. Emperor Joseph II made German the administrative language for all provinces and declared it the lingua franca of the Habsburg Empire - with the sober sense for realist policies typical for his "enlightened absolutism":

"Ich bin Kaiser des Deutschen Reiches…Wäre das Königreich Ungarn die wichtigste und die erste meiner Besitzungen, so würde ich die Sprache desselben zur Hauptsprache meiner Länder machen. So aber verhält es sich anders." ("I am Emperor of the German Empire...If the Kingdom of Hungary was the most significant and primary of my possessions, I would make the language of it the main one of my lands. As it is, things are different.")

Joseph II to a Hungarian nobleman that had asked for the use of Hungarian in legal texts.

This created a strong Austrian dominance and a German-speaking elite at Galician universities, the starting point for a gradual Polonisation that would develop over 150 years. Like elsewhere in Europe, Polish national identity was kick-started by the Napoleonic Wars: Romantic ideas now gained a political dimension, only to be fuelled by the Greek struggle for independence. Polish revolts against Prussia, Russia and most importantly for Galicia, against the Habsburg Empire became a fashionable thing to do: 1830, 1831, 1836, 1846, 1848.

The rise of nationalism is reflected on the level of Galician universities most obviously in the language of instruction. One historian summarised the development over the course of the Habsburgian reign by investigating courses at the University of Lviv: After 1784, the primary language of instruction was Latin. Exceptions were lectures on German literature and culture (obviously held in German) and certain divinity classes as well as lectures on Polish literature and culture (all held in Polish). Medical courses were held in German and Polish. After 1824, Latin courses were changed to German (except for Classics lectures, which continued to be done in Latin). In 1827, studies of Polish language and literature were strengthened by the creation of a chair for these fields.

In September 1848, "Privatdozenten" (university lecturers with no chair or permanent post at the university) were permitted to teach in Polish - an attempt to take of pressure from the Galician universities that failed miserably. In November, open fighting occurred between Austrian military and the "Academic Legion Lviv" on the university grounds (note the destruction of the Garelli Library mentioned before). As a result, the central government in Vienna made German the only language of instruction in December 1848 (one week after Franz Joseph I had become the new Emperor), with few exceptions (such as Ruthenian, see below). This only fuelled nationalist feelings; the Galician Universities were made icons in the struggle for Polish self-determination.

Nevertheless, it was the Ruthenians who were the first to benefit from liberal reforms regarding the permission of non-German lectures with the endowment of Ruthenian chairs in 1849 (see below) and in 1862, when two Ruthenian professors of law started to teach at the University of Lviv. The legal base for this was a reform act issued by the central government in Vienna in early 1861, after the Empire′s defeat at Solferino in 1859 had weakened its standing and indirectly supported the national-liberal cause.

Polish lectures followed in the next years, and the tide turned with a series of reforms, the Austrian-Polish Ausgleich in 1867 and a "Allerhöchste Entschließung" (act by the central government in Vienna), which formalised the Polish dominance at the University of Krakow. Now Polish had become the primary language of instruction and examination.

Another step followed in 1871, when lecturers who spoke neither Polish nor Ruthenian were excluded from permanent posts (Lehrkanzeln). Discrimination of Polish and Ruthenian lectures was prohibited. In 1872, Emperor Franz Joseph II founded the Polish Academy of Science in Krakow. In 1879, the administrative language (forms, diplomas, publications) of Lviv University was changed from German to Polish. With these moves, most of the remaining Austrian / German lecturers left the University of Lviv and moved to Prague or Chernivtsi.

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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)