What is Galicia?

Galicia is a historical and geographical region in central-eastern Europe, today divided between western Ukraine and eastern Poland.

Galicia as a geopolitical entity was created in 1772 with the establishment of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, the Austrian Empire’s most eastern crownland. The capital of the province was Lemberg (today Lviv). A century and a half later, Galicia was wiped from the world’s maps, with the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Though relatively short-lived as an administrative unit, Galicia as a historical region with a distinct cultural, linguistic, and architectural heritage lives on.

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While located on Ukrainian ethnolinguistic territory, for centuries Galicia was inhabited, in addition to Ukrainians, by Poles, Germans (including Austrians), and Jews. Generally Poles and Jews made up the majority of the population of the region’s cities and towns, while Ukrainians predominantly lived in the countryside. The region’s complex history, the proximity of different ethnic groups and religions, and the changing rulers shaped this corner of Europe into a distinct and culturally rich region. In the major cities of Galicia, especially in Lviv, the traces of these different ethnic groups as well as of different administrations and periods are still visible today, in both the urban landscape as well as in the cultural heritage.

Etymology & Timeline

The Habsburgs named Galicia after the medieval principality of Halych. One of the more widely accepted theories is that “Halych” derives from the Slavic word for “jackdaw”— “halka.” The jackdaw was featured on the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria.

A timeline of the territory of Galicia:

1199–1245: Principality of Galicia-Volhynia
1245–1349: Kingdom of Galicia-Volhynia
1349–1569: Kingdom of Poland
1569–1772: Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
1772–1918: Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, a crownland of the Austrian Empire
1918–1939: Republic of Poland
1939–1941: Soviet Occupation
1941–1944: Nazi German Occupation
1945–1991: Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (and Polish People’s Republic)
1991– Independent Ukraine (and Poland)