Eastern Borderlands (1918-1939)

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Ukrainian Life In the Eastern Borderlands

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the term Rusin referred to the Ukrainian people living in Galicia, the sub Carpathians and Bukovina. Within the Second Polish Republic, a portion of the Ukrainian population declared themselves to be Rusins – these were a large group of manly uneducated rural people, identifying themselves deeply with their villages (they were distinguished by their Slavic dialects and their Greek-Catholic religion). These people lived in the provinces of Polesie, Stanislawow, Wolyn, Tarnopol, and Lwow.

In large measure these were peasants, and only a small number of them lived in the cities. Farms were generally fragmented; larger properties were in the hands of a small number of landowners located in Wolyn province. The primary factor in building up Ukrainian national consciousness and a sense of separateness was their Church. They had a well-developed and organized social life: a wide network of organizations, cooperatives, as well as educational, cultural, economic, religious and sports associations. The organizations that were the most influential in the formation of a national identity were: the Taras Szewczenko Educational Society, “Proscita” Cultural and Educational Society, and “Ridna Szkola” Ukrainian Pedagogical Society. Within the Second Polish Republic, the following Ukrainian economic institutions were active: the Landed Mortgage Bank, the Central Cooperative Bank, the Dniester Society of Assurance, and the Village Farmer Society. Ukrainian youth were involved in organizations such as „Płast”, „Sokół”, „Łuck”.
During the Second Polish Republic, relations between Poles and Ukrainians were very tense, and Ukrainian separatism became a growing threat leading to increasing animosity between the two sides. The Ukrainian Military Organization (UWO) was formed after the 1921 Riga Treaty – it carried out terrorist actions, demanding the sovereignty of Western Ukraine. From 1930, the Polish government increased its repression of the Ukrainian minority by limiting and eliminating their organizations and institutions. The repressions included limitations on the use of the Ukrainian language in schools, as well as limitations regarding Orthodox churches and large estates. They also placed limitations on the activities of political and economic organizations, as well as cultural and educational ones.