"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, May 30, 2016

The City with Five Names

Lviv/Lwow/Lemberg/Leopolis/Lvov is the major city in Western Ukraine of which I have the fondest memories from my time there in the summer of 2001. It is a fascinating combination of Habsburg influence (see, e.g., the opera house) smack in the middle of what was, 15 years ago, still incredibly underdeveloped and impoverished areas both in the city and especially in the countryside whose sorry state--thanks to Soviet influence--reminded me of nothing so much as 19th century rural America bereft of all the modern amenities we take for granted today. The city has long been a crossroads, and given changing borders in the past century alone, has been part of Austrian Galicia, Poland, the USSR, and since 1991 a free and independent Ukraine.

As I am getting read to go to a conference in June on the pseudo-synod of Lviv of 1946, the city has again much been on my mind.

Two recent books look at the competing influences on this city, which has long been the strong-hold of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church, and a place of encounter between Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox--to say nothing of Latin Catholics, Jews, and others: Tarik Cyril Amar, The Paradox of Ukrainian Lviv: A Borderland City between Stalinists, Nazis, and Nationalists (Cornell University Press, 2015), 368pp.
About this book the publisher tells us:
In The Paradox of Ukrainian Lviv, Tarik Cyril Amar reveals the local and transnational forces behind the twentieth-century transformation of one of East Central Europe's most important multiethnic borderland cities into a Soviet and Ukrainian urban center. Today, Lviv is the modern metropole of the western part of independent Ukraine and a center and symbol of Ukrainian national identity as well as nationalism. Over the last three centuries it has also been part of the Habsburg Empire, interwar Poland, a World War I Russian occupation regime, the Nazi Generalgouvernement, and, until 1991, the Soviet Union.
Lviv's twentieth-century history was marked by great violence, massive population changes, and fundamental transformation. Under Habsburg and Polish rule up to World War II, Lviv was a predominantly Polish city as well as one of the major centers of European Jewish life. Immediately after World War II, Lviv underwent rapid Soviet modernization, bringing further extensive change. Over the postwar period, the city became preponderantly Ukrainian—ethnically, linguistically, and in terms of its residents’ self-perception. Against this background, Amar explains a striking paradox: Soviet rule, which came to Lviv in its most ruthless Stalinist shape and lasted for half a century, left behind the most Ukrainian version of the city in history. In reconstructing this dramatic and profound change, Amar also illuminates the historical background to present-day identities and tensions within Ukraine.
A second book, also released late last year, takes a similar approach: Christoph Mick,  Lemberg, Lwów, L'viv, 1914-1947: Violence and Ethnicity in a Contested City (Purdue U Press, 2015), 480pp.

About this book we are told:
Known as Lemberg in German and Lwów in Polish, the city of L’viv in modern Ukraine was in the crosshairs of imperial and national aspirations for much of the twentieth century. This book tells the compelling story of how its inhabitants (Roman Catholic Poles, Greek Catholic Ukrainians, and Jews) reacted to the sweeping political changes during and after World Wars I and II. The Eastern Front shifted back and forth, and the city changed hands seven times. At the end of each war, L'viv found itself in the hands of a different state. While serious tensions had existed among Poles, Ukrainians/Ruthenians, and Jews in the city, before 1914 eruptions of violence were still infrequent. The changes of political control over the city during World War I led to increased intergroup frictions, new power relations, and episodes of shocking violence, particularly against Jews. The city’s incorporation into the independent Polish Republic in November 1918 after a brief period of Ukrainian rule sparked intensified conflict. Ukrainians faced discrimination and political repression under the new government, and Ukrainian nationalists attacked the Polish state. In the 1930s, anti-Semitism increased sharply. During World War II, the city experienced first Soviet rule, then Nazi occupation, and finally Soviet conquest. The Nazis deported and murdered nearly all of the city’s large Jewish population, and at the end of the war the Soviet forces expelled the city’s Polish inhabitants. Based on archival research conducted in L’viv, Kiev, Warsaw, Vienna, Berlin, and Moscow, as well as an array of contemporary printed sources and scholarly studies, this book examines how the inhabitants of the city reacted to the changes in political control, and how ethnic and national ideologies shaped their dealings with each other. 
For those who want a wider context for understanding the city of Lviv and its regional place and significance, including its central place in Galicia, now is the time to bring to your attention again a book that has been out for more than a decade, but is still a wonderful and fascinating read: Christopher Hann and Paul Robert Magocsi, eds., Galicia: A Multicultured land.

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