Pacification of Ukrainians in Eastern Galicia

Eastern Lesser Poland / Eastern Galicia (Lwów, Stanisławów and Tarnopol Voivodeships), Second Polish Republic - territories inhabited by the Ukrainian minority in Poland and affected by the pacification

The Pacification of Ukrainians was the punitive action by police and military of the Second Polish Republic against the Ukrainian minority in Poland (in Eastern Galicia — against the Ukrainian majority) in September–November 1930 in response to a wave of more than 2,200 acts of sabotage against Polish property in the region. It took place in 16 counties of southeastern provinces of the country, or eastern Galicia. This area was in the interbellum part of the eastern Lesser Poland province. Therefore in Ukrainian and Polish literature this event is also called "Pacification in Eastern Galicia" (Ukrainian: Пацифікація у Східній Галичині) and "Pacification of Eastern Lesser Poland" (Polish: Pacyfikacja Małopolski Wschodniej), respectively.

Collective punishment meted out on thousands of mostly innocent peasants resulted in exacerbation of animosity between the Polish state and the Ukrainian minority.[1]


Eastern Galicia was incorporated into the Polish republic after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire and the defeat of the short-lived Western Ukrainian People's Republic in 1919. From the outset the Polish government adopted the policy of assimilation and repression of Ukrainian minority in these lands. Many Ukrainian organizations continued close contact with the Weimar Republic, later the Nazi party while others kept in contact with the new Soviet government to the east. The use of Ukrainian language was banned in government agencies in 1924 and support was steadily withdrawn from Ukrainian schools. Polish-Ukrainian relations deteriorated during the Great Depression, which led to much economic disruption, felt particularly hard in the rural areas. In this atmosphere radical Ukrainian nationalists propagating active resistance to Polish domination found a ready response from Ukrainian youth.[2]

On 12 July 1930, activists of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), together with Ukrainian Military Organization, began the so-called sabotage action, during which Polish real estates were burned, roads, rail lines and telephone connections were destroyed. Financing was provided and weaponry was illegally smuggled with Nazi support. The OUN used terrorism and sabotage in order to force the Polish government into reprisals so fierce that they would cause the more moderate Ukrainian groups ready to negotiate with the Polish state to lose support.[3] OUN directed its violence not only against the Poles, but also against all those Ukrainians who wished for a peaceful settlement of the Polish - Ukrainian conflict.[4] In the course of time, local Ukrainians, many of whom saw the Poles as occupiers of their land, joined the action. Offices of the Polish paramilitary organization Strzelec were burned, as were the stands of the popular trade fairs in Lwów (Lviv). Government offices and mail trucks were attacked. This situation lasted until September, with some sporadic incidents taking place as late as November. The terror action was limited to Galicia, and did not take place in Volhynia.[5]

In response, Polish authorities decided to pacify the turbulent province. The decision to carry out the action was made by Marshall Józef Piłsudski in his capacity as Prime Minister of the Second Polish Republic. Recognizing that terrorist actions carried out by the OUN did not amount to an insurrection, Piłsudski ordered a police action, rather than a military one, and deputized the Minister of Interior, Felicjan Sławoj-Składkowski with its organization. Sławoj-Składkowski in turn ordered regional police commanders to prepare for it in the Lwów Voivodeship, Stanisławów Voivodeship and Tarnopol Voivodeship. The commander of the planned action was Lwów Voivodeship's chief of police, Czesław Grabowski.

Before the action commenced, around 130 Ukrainian activists, including a few dozen former Sejm (Polish parliament) deputies were arrested.[6] The action itself began on 14 September 1930, in several villages of Lwów Voivodeship, where the cavalry unit of 14th Regiment of Jazłowiecki Ułans was directed, even though the detailed plan for the action was not established until 18 September.

Forces used in the action

From 20 to 29 September, 17 companies of police (60 policemen each) were used. Of these, 9 came from the police academy in Mosty Wielkie (Velyki Mosty), 3 from Lwów Voivodeship, 2.5 from Stanisławów Voivodeship, 2.5 from Tarnopol Voivodeship (a total of 1041 policemen and officers).

The main operations with the participation of military units took place in the first half of October.

Overall, the action affected:

Or in total 494 villages. Timothy Snyder and other sources give the figure of 1000 policemen used in the operation, affecting 450 villages.[7]

Nature of the action

The operation was carried out in three stages. First, a basic edict was issued authorizing a particular action. Second, police units were brought in. Third units of the regular army carried out "operational maneuvers".

The pacification involved the search of private homes as well as buildings in which Ukrainian organizations (including the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church) were based. During the search, the buildings, belongings, and property of Ukrainians was destroyed and the inhabitants often beaten and arrested. Several Ukrainian schools (in Rohat, Drohobycz, Lwów, Tarnopol and Stanisławów) were closed and the Ukrainian Youth Scout organization Plast was delegalized. On 10 September, five deputies of Ukrainian National Democratic Alliance were arrested.

The pacification was carried out by first surrounding a village with police units, then calling out the village elder or an administrator of the village. He in turn was informed about the purpose of the operation, and was ordered to give up any weapons or explosives hidden in the village. All villagers were to remain in their houses. Subsequently, the houses of those suspected of cooperation with Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists were searched, which included the tearing up of floors and ceilings. During the course of the search the furniture and property inside the houses were often destroyed.[8] Policemen found about 100 kilograms of explosives and weapons (1287 rifles, 566 revolvers, 31 grenades).[7] Also, during the searches, physical force was used and many people were publicly whipped.[8] According to Polish historian Władysław Pobóg-Malinowski, there were no fatalities,[9] while, according to Ukrainian historian P. Mirchuk, 35 Ukrainian civilians died during the pacification. S. Horak estimates the number of victims at 7.[10] Additional punishments included laying special "contributions" on the villages and stationing regiments of cavalry in the village, which had to be fed and quartered by the villages.

A committee of the League of Nations in its response to Ukrainian-Nationalists protest regarding the "pacification" action, while not approving the methods used, stated that it was the Ukrainian extremists themselves who were to be blame[11] for consciously inviting this response by their sabotage activities and maintained that it was not governmental policy of persecution of the Ukrainian people.[12]

Effects of the action

One of the unintended consequences of the action, from the point of view of Polish authorities, was that previously moderately oriented Ukrainians became radicalized, and even those who had previously felt loyalty to the Polish state began supporting separation.[13]


  1. Orest Subtelny. Ukraine. A history. University of Toronto press. 1994. ISBN 978-0-8020-7191-0. pp 430-431
  2. Orest Subtelny. Ukraine. A history. University of Toronto press. 1994. ISBN 978-0-8020-7191-0. pp 429-430
  3. Eastern Europe in the twentieth century By R. J. Crampton, page 50
  4. Galicia By C. M. Hann, Paul R. Magocsi, page 148
  5. Sketches from a secret war, by Timothy Snyder, page 157 "In 1930, as the OUN terrorized the Galician countryside, and as Volhynia remained comparatively peaceful..."
  6. Andrzej Paczkowski, Jane Cave, "The spring will be ours: Poland and the Poles from occupation to freedom", Penn State Press, 2003, pg. 48,
  7. 1 2 Timothy Snyder, "Sketches from a Secret War", Yale University Press, 2007, pg. 76,
  8. 1 2 Mikuláš Teich, Roy Porter, "The National question in Europe in historical context", Cambridge University Press, 1993, pg. 309,
  9. (Polish) G.Motyka, "Ukraińska partyzantka, 1942-1960", PAN, 2006, p. 57
  10. Ray Brandon, Wendy Lower, "The Shoah in Ukraine", Indiana University Press, 2008, pg. 148,
  11. Orest Subtelny. Ukraine. A history. University of Toronto press. 1994. ISBN 978-0-8020-7191-0. p. 430
  12. Tadeusz Piotrowski.Genocide and rescue in Wołyń. McFarland. 1998. ISBN 0-7864-0773-5 p. 226
  13. Karl Cordell, "Poland and the European Union", Routledge, 2000, pg. 187,
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