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Yaroslav Hrytsak, Victor Susak

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Yaroslav Hrytsak, Victor Susak

(L’viv National University, Ukraine)

One of the stories often told about the Central and Eastern Europe is an anecdote of a person who happened to live in several different states without leaving his/her city. This is perfectly true in the case of L’viv, the largest city in Western Ukraine, where since 1914 political regimes have been changed for eight times1. There are, however, not that many persons in L’viv who could tell that anecdote as a story of their own life. Only few local families could claim that their ancestors were living in the city before the World War II, not to mention the World War I. Political turnovers were accompanied by dramatic changes of the local population through migration, repatriation, and destruction of its large segments. According to some estimates, in a result of the World War II, L’viv has lost ca. 80 percent of its population2. Those gaps in population were filled with newcomers, that come in large masses from other places of the Soviet Union, and most of all (ca. 60%)3 from neighboring Western Ukrainian rural region. Evidently, those who survived all these architectonic transformations, found themselves in a quite new city. Both survivors and newcomers had to cope with different versions of the city history to determine their own cultural identity and historical ancestry.

The salient issue was to integrate a rural population which had no strong national myths of urban experience. It is believed that communities which have evolved a much more complex, much richer set of myths, may withstand much greater stress and turbulence (political, economic, social, and so on) than those with only a relatively poor set of myths. When two such communities are engaged in a contest, the weaker one may found that some of its members shift their allegiance, that is, assimilate. This is especially true “when a the myth-poor community accepts that upward mobility demands the abandonment of its culture, language and myth-world in exchange for something superior, for a better world. Essentially, this was the aim of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe”4.
And this is exactly what did not happen in L'viv. While most of the urban population in post-war Ukraine prefer the Soviet or Russian historical myths.5, L'viv remains the largest Ukrainian city in Ukraine, both in its language and urban culture. The Ukrainiain national identity in L'vivis highly correlated with the strong anti-Soviet attitudes, in a strong contrast, say, to Donets'k, the largest city in the Eastern Ukraine.6
The "strange politics of L'viv" has attracted a lot of scholarly attention, but most often analysts are focusing on social and political aspects of "nationalization".7 There is no analysis, however, of symbolic codification of contested urban space in national terms. Those practices play a crucial role in the nationalization of urban masses. They have been studied on numerous examples of uses of monuments, architecture and urban planning. This following presentation seeks to take a slightly different turn: it is going to focus on a special set of historical symbols that are characteristic for modern urban culture. Those are street names that refer to certain historical figures and events. They seem to be the most urban widespread symbols, more than monuments or plaques. Willingly or not, people are referring to them everyday by going to work, showing a direction to a foreigner, taking a taxi, etc. They are very important - as the case of L’viv confirms it - for a construction of an image of a national city. They could be read as a text, or rather to say, as a popular textbook that focuses on the most glorious and most tragic periods of a national history, presents heroes who evoke a feeling pride for belonging to a certain national community or reminds of martyrs whose personal sacrifice for a sake of a whole nation is worth of emulation. Paraphrasing Ernest Rennan, they reflect a "social capital", upon which "one bases a national idea" and that is more valuable for conforming strategic ideas for the future than common customs, posts and frontiers.8
The article focuses on the last wave of renamings of city streets that took place in L'viv in 1990-1997. The previous waves (1871-1989) are used mainly for a comparative context, and therefore are not studied in details. Such a focus to a large extent was predeterminated by a state of source bases. Much of the archival documents related to earlier periods of this story, are prerserved in the State Archive of Lviv region (Derzhavnyj Arxiv L'vivs'koji Oblasti),, but they were currently unavailable when the research was made (1999-2001). Therefore in some cases real motives behind early renamings remain to be unknown, and they were speculated by on a base of other documents.
LEMBERG / LwÓW / L'VOV / L'viv:

Shifting names AND IDENTITIES

Throughout its long history, L'viv has undergone deep changes in the structure of its population. During the earliest Ruthenian/Ukrainian (1256-1340) and throughout most of Polish (1340-1772) periods L’viv (Lwów in Polish and Lemberg in German and Yiddish) was inhabited simultaneously by five large ethnic groups (Poles, Ukrainians, Germans, Jews, and Armenians), and hosted five large denominations: Catholics, Orthodox Christians (later split into Byzantine and Roman rites), Monophysists (Armenian Christians) and Jews. It is believed that no other city in medieval and early modern Polish state, and, probably, in the whole Europe, was characterized by such an extreme multicultural diversity9.
The ethnic composition of the city has changed significantly over time. L'viv’s first chronicler, Jozef Bartolemei Zimorovich (1597-1677), divided the city history into three periods: "Leopolis Ruthenica" (Ruthenian/Ukrianian L'viv), "Leopolis Germanica" (German L'viv) and "Leopolis Polonica" (Polish L'viv) depending on what ethnic group dominated the city.10 From the Polish acquisition (1340) till 1550 the German influences were overwhelming: Germans made a majority of burghers, and German was the only official language. A lack of religious and juridical, and, later on, of language differences (with spread of official Latin instead of German and Polish as lingua franca) removed any barriers for intermarriages inside the dominant Catholic community. It led to a gradual cultural assimilation of Germans into the Polish "nation". Foundation of the Ruthenian Ukrainian Greek-Catholic (1596) and the Armenian Catholic (1635) churches that were under supremacy of the Vatican opened the way for a more intensive Catholic/Polish assimilation of those two large groups too. Jews were the only undigested community that challenged the Catholic domination in the city, and by the end of the 16th century, Jews outnumbered both Ukrainians and Armenians.
In the modern times, under the Habsburg rule (1772-1918) and in the interwar Polish period (1919-1939) the ethnic structure of L’viv evolved in a rather stable tripartite division among Poles (ca. 50-55%), Jews (30-35%) and Ukrainians (15-20%). The World War II and its aftermath have erased the previous multiethnic character of the city. The German Nazi occupation (1941-1944) brought to a total destruction of the local Jews (only some 2-3 per cent survived),11 while the Soviet regime (1939-1941 and 1944-1991) deported Poles, repressed pre-1939 Ukrainian elites or made them leave the city, and brought in Soviet ethnic groups (Russians, Soviet Ukrainians and Soviet Jews, Belarusians, Moldavians, and others). L’viv (L'vov in Russian [why here?]) became a predominantly Eastern Slavic city with two large groups, Ukrainians and Russians (which in 1989 made respectively 79% and 16% of the population), and all other groups made no more than 1,5 % (see table # 1).
Other major transformations came with changes in a status of the city. Throughout most of its history L’viv was an administrative center of a poorest and most agriculturally overpopulated region in the Eastern Europe . The city developments felt into a Eastern Europe pattern of “urbanization without industrialization”12. This had, however, some advantages, while lack of industry eliminated an excessive pressure of a large population on urban structures and preserved some harmony between the size and the function of the city. Judging by the criteria of a maximum use of city infrastructure for every day life needs and cultural developments, by the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, L'viv was a real modern city - possibly the only modern city within the realms of former (pre-1772) Polish state.13 [this may be debatable. I do not know if Pawlowski is really an authority. And, to my view, there is no point to compare Lviv with other “Polish” territories as they were, by definition, separated into different states that used different administrative, economic and political measures to foster urbanisation. It makes more sense to talk of similarity with say Prague or Zagreb. And to conclude that in this comparison things did not look so great].
Under Habsburgs, L’viv owed its spectacular growth due to a special role of a capital of the largest province of the Austrian Hungarian empire14. With the fall of the empire (1918) the city has lost its former prestige. To withstand this trend, in the interwar period the local Polish governing elites elaborated special programs that aimed to revive the former capital status of L’viv and its political, economic and cultural importance in the reborn Poland15. Not much, however, came out of it. The only significant change was a creation (in 1930) of a “great L’viv” by including neighboring villages in the city lines16.
The Nazi occupation regime marked a further relegation of L’viv to a status of a provincial city. The Soviet regime in 1946 has announced an ambitious plan to transform L’viv into a big industrial center. Around the old city new Soviet-type quarters were erected (so called New L’viv ) for engineers and workers who came in large numbers to the city from outside regions in a result of a belated industrialization.
As a city with a long history, L’viv had a rich material for a construction of several national myths. Some earliest names of the city streets clearly evoked memories of different ethnic groups who lived there in the past (i.e., Armenian, Jewish, Ruthenian, Serbian streets). The historical records and oral tradition held memories of famous Ruthenian princes, Polish kings, German burghers, Ukrainian Cossacks, Russian tsars, and Jewish rabbis who were related to the medieval and early modern history of the city. In the modern times, the city played a crucial role in shaping of Polish, Ukrainian and Jewish nationalism, on one hand, and was affected by a struggle among superpowers for a dominance in the region, on the other. L’viv was a center of province that was regarded both by Poles and Ukrainians as their “national Piedmonts”, while Jewish historiography presented the city as “mother of Israel”17.
Though L’viv displayed a rich historical material, most of its elements have yet to be selected and transformed to create a coherent image that would legitimate each of national and political projects. The symbols which did not fit into an image had to be downplayed or totally erased, according to the famous Renan dictum, that "forgetting, I would even go so far to say historical error, is a crucial factor in the creation of a nation..."18 As the story with renaming of the streets reveals it explicitly, this was a concern of every political regime that took a control over the city in the 19th and the 20th centuries.


There are only few streets in L'viv that preserved their original name since the XIX century.19 Most of them changed with an every turn of power. This process was triggered - although not introduced - by the first Austrian bureaucrats who came in large numbers to the city after the Habsburg annexation of L'viv and Galicia (1772). In 1772-1825 they started a large scale reconstruction of the city by building a large modern center outside medieval fortifications. It was carried according to a general principle of modern European urban planning which was “to have enough of streets”. The local situation had, however, some peculiarities: a reconstruction of L’viv was introduced much earlier than in Vienna (1857) or Prague (1870)20. A plausible explanation is that the first Austrian bureaucrats, mostly Germans or Germanized Czechs, wanted to create a nice and modern city compensating a necessity for being far away from Vienna21. [Another could be that they simply were true Josephinians who came to civilise this land]
For many bureaucrats who were coming to L’viv the new acquired land looked like a “half-Asia”. They charged local Polish nobility with a direct responsibility for low economic, political and cultural standards of Galicia and considered their mission “to reeducate Sarmatian [Polish nobles] beasts into human beings”22. An implementation of these principles led to a slow Germanization of the city. By 1830s, for a German traveler, L’viv had a total German appearance, and looked like Magdeburg, Nürnberg, or Frankfurt-an-Main. Its “Germanness” stemmed not only from the Magdeburg planning of the old city, but from a feeling of being protected by a just government, from a flawless order, and, last but not a least, from German-like café-houses23.
This German character of the city, however, was not reflected in name of its streets [but they were names IN German!]. New streets have gotten strict technical names: Untere Strasse, Holz Platz, Neue Strasse, Theater Gasse, Herrn Gasse, Wall Gasse, Zeughasse Gasse24. There were, however, few exceptions, that referred directly to the Austrian rule. In 1821 an old fortification trench on an order of the Governor-counselor Reizenheim was covered and turned into a promenade. Accordingly the promenade was called Reizenheimowka /Reizenheimiwka.. Later it was renamed into Governor bulwarks while a Governor office was build there25. Naturally, there were also some names related to the ruling dynasty (Ferdinands Platz)26. None of those names, however, evoked a memory of the past German period in L’viv to legitimize rights of Habsburgs to govern the new acquired land [did the Austrians feel the need to legitimise anything? I think for them it was enough that they came to “educate the beasts into humans”]. Austrian bureaucrats tried to impose a loyalty to the ruling house not a loyalty to a nation. In any case, both the ruling dynasty and state clerks were concerned with the present rather than with the past.
Despite their intentions, they provoked a rise of local nationalisms. The Polish elites felt threaten by the growing Germanization of the city. By the middle of the 19th century the L’viv high society were divided into “party of Schiller” and “party of Mickiewicz” (i.e., the German and Polish parties, after names of the poets who symbolized cultural achievements of each nation [redundant?]). The Polish nationalism did not limited itself to the cultural activity. Actually, for the Polish aristocracy, politics came first. It had a clear political aim which was a restoration of the Rzecz Pospolita in its old (pre-1772) borders. During major international political upheavals – Napoleon offensive in 1809 and the revolution of 1848 – Polish nationalists tried to install their military control over the city. The failure of the national insurrections both in Austrian and Russian empires finally made them to compromise with Habsburgs. The Austrian government in 1860s [not earlier?] was also inclined to come to terms with Polish elites, while it was weakened by a series of military defeats and by inner tensions in the multinational empire. Introduction of self-autonomy in 1860s and Polonization of the province became the sine qua non of Polish elites' loyalty to Habsburgs. According to their plans, L’viv was supposed to become of a leading center of Polish national revival for all three lands (Austrian, Prussian, and Russian) of the partitioned Poland. The Polish image of the city on the eve of the World War I manifested itself on different levels, from a dominance of Polish elites in the local administration to Polish names of the streets.
The endowing of the city streets with Polish names went through the several stages. The first one has started on the next year after the reintroduction of the city self-government in 1870. It has revealed several patterns that would be characteristic for all later waves of Polish renaming. First of all, there was a clear preference for the modern rather than ancient national heroes and cultural figures (i.e., those that were connected with the post-1772 history: Kosciuszki street, Miczkewicza street, Kilinskiego street and others). Secondly, there were a lot of names that referred directly to the city history (Lwa street [this as POLISH name?], Kazimierzowska, street, Zimorowicza street, Fredry street, et al.)27. Both tendencies may be interpreted as deliberate efforts to refer to those historical symbols that might have a stronger impact because they were either relatively “fresh” or directly connected to the local history. [Not sure about deliberate efforts here. They might have simply be local patriots of Polish origin who might have chosen these names because they appealed to their own local sentiments. Hence maybe no nationalism or construction involved in this particular case] Another tendency was a reiteration of the most famous names – they were three streets that were related to the memory of Polish king Jan III Sobieski (Sobieskego street, Sobieszczyzna street, Króla Jana III street) or a street and a square was named after the famous Polish revolutionary Józef Bem.
The rebirth of the Polish state in 1919 did not bring any significant changes in the patterns of renaming. The only major difference was an increase of the number of streets (from 120 to 1000) that came as a realization of the “big L’viv” plan28. It implied, among others, that a larger pool of names could be used and, by definition, a more intensified Polish image of the city could be drawn. Especially worth mentioning is a high frequency of names related to the recent Polish military strivings (1914-1919), especially to the Polish victory in the Polish-Ukrainian war (1918-1919) for a control over L’viv (Dzieci Lwowa, Legionów, Aleja Focha, Hallera, Hallerczyków, Orląt, Obrony Lwowa, Obrońców Lwowa, Obrony dworca). Naturally, the Polish names clearly dominated both in the center and in the outskirts of the city.29
Ethnic minorities were strongly underrepresented. There were 6 streets that carried Jewish names. Four of them were of assimilated Jews who contributed to modern Polish politics (Dr. Emila Byka, Mojzesza Beisera, Hermana Diamanda, Maurycia Rappaporta). Another street was named after the rabbi of the first reformed synagogue in L’viv, who was killed by a fanatic Orthodox Jew (Rabina Kohna). There was only one street that referred to the Orthodox Jews, who made a majority in a local Jewish community (Starozakonna). And significantly, there was no Zionist name, though L’viv was one of the first strongholds of Zionist organizations30. The Jewish names (with the only exception of Diamand) were given to the streets in the Jewish part of the city -- still, they made a minority even there.
The number of Ukrainian names was slightly higher (Iwana Franki, Iwana Kotliarewskego, Mykoly Lysenki, Iwana Mazepy, Petra Mohyly, Ostrogskich Książąt, Ogonowskiego, Hetmana Sahajdacznego, Denysa Szaraniewicza, Markijana Szaszkevicza, Tarasa Szewczenki, Szewczenki Boczna, Iwana Wagilewicza, Wernyhory). Most of them were Ukrainian national builders and their names attained a special meaning as symbols of the Ukrainian national revival. Some of them (like a name of a fictitious Ukrainian Cossack Wernyhora31 or Ukrainian writer of a Polonophile orientation Ivan Wagilewicz) implied a reference to a participation of some Ukrainians in Polish national strivings. Even though the number of streets with Ukrainian names has increased (from 5 in 1916 to 13 in 1938), their ratio declined from 4,5% to 1,3%. 32. Besides that, the “Ukrainian” streets were placed outside of the center, in non-prestigious districts.33 In short, it clearly indicated a status of Ukrainians as a subordinated national minority.
The existence of the “Jewish” and “Ukrainian” streets was a result of more or less pre-1939 liberal political regimes that guaranteed some cultural rights for national minorities. At least there were some legal practices that allowed their leaders to apply to the city power to grant “national” names for some of the streets. Both the Soviet and Nazi regimes have canceled even those limited practices. Starting from the Soviet (1939) and the Nazi (1941) occupation, the new names were given strictly under a command of new authorities. During the German occupation the number of streets with the Polish names was severely reduced. They were changed, however, not into German names, but rather into neutral Alleenstraße, Dichterstraße, Hauptstrßae, Parkstraße The only significant exception referred to Adolf Hitlerring that was given to the central promenade in the city. The number of Ukrainian names was reduced first to six (Frankistrasse, Lysenkistrasse, Ogonowskiegostrasse, Scharaniewiczastrasse, Schewtshcenkistrasse, Wagilewitschastrasse) and then to four (Frankistrasse, Lysenkistrasse, Ogonowskiegostrasse, Scharaniewiczastrasse). In any case, they could not match the numbers of the of Polish names left (56). Surprisingly enough [Ironically enough?], few Jew names were preserved too (Rapoportstraße, Diamandstraße, Starozakonna). Though, judging by new street names, the image of L’viv as of a Polish city was undermined, the city did not get neither German, nor Ukrainian appearance34.
The image of L’viv as an Ukrainian city was introduced by the Soviet rule. This statement requires, however, many qualifications. Throughout 1939-1941 and 1944-1990, the process was conducted with different intensity. During the first Soviet occupation (1939-1941) the renaming did not have a mass character. There were only 39 out of 1000 streets and squares renamed, and all of them were in the central part of L’viv.35 In a contrast, in 1944-1969 there were 1042 streets (85%) renamed, and they covered all the city.36 During all the subsequent waves of Soviet renaimings, Ukrainian names never did made the largest part. During the first wave (1939-1941) among the 36 new street names37, only 5 (14%) referred to the Ukrainian history38. By 1969, they made 20 per cent. In both pre-war and post-war ranamings, the largest group among historical names refered strictly to the Soviet history. (31 % in 1941 and 24 % in 1969). The dominant groups of Soviet and Ukrainian names were followed by a pool of Russian (10%) and other (3%) names. The Soviet image of L'viv were even more pronounced if one takes into an account other, non-historical, street names. A major group (13%) was the one that refered to geography -- but without a single exception, it was the geography of the Soviet Union (including the Soviet Ukraine) and communist Eastern and Central Europe. There was also a group of names (5%) that reflected a new, industrial character of the city, and so implicitly reinforced the Soviet image.
Concerning Ukrainian names, they too? were carefully selected and arranged. In that way on the Soviet maps of L'viv there appeared street with names of 17th century Ukrainian Cossack leaders who fought against Poles for - allegedly - (re)union with Russians (Bohun, Xmelnyc'kyj), of Ukrainian writers who either contributed to the Russian culture (Hohol, Korolenko) or who were known for their sympathy for socialism(Lesia Ukrajina, Franko, Kobylians’ka), etc. Any name from the Ukrainian history that, however, hinted an overt anti-Russian or anti-Soviet attitudes, was excluded. In that way there disappeared a name of Ukrainian cossack leader Ivan Mazepa, a symbol of Ukrainian separatism from Russia, or local XIX century Ukrainian intellectuals Izudor Sharanevych and Omelian Ohonowskyj, known for their conservative and nationalist views.
To be sure, the practices of exclusion created certain problems for the Soviet authorities. Say since?, they badly needed symbols that could embody indigenous roots of their regime. And, as a matter of fact, the Western Ukraine history could provide some names of local Marxist and communist leaders, e.g, of Western Ukrainian Comnunist Party (KPZU). The problem was, however, that these leaders did not fit into the Soviet paradigm. Most of them were accused of nationalist deviations, and the party was disbanded in 1938 by Stalin. Therefore in the Soviet L'viv there was no street of square named after them. Instead of that there were used names of several second rank-and-file members (Kocko), of a non-affiliated worker who felt a victim of the Polish repressions (Kozak), or of some fictitious pro-Communist clandestine organizations conjured up by the Soviet propaganda (Narodna hvardija im. Ivana Franka).
One Ukrainian name, however, was extremely celebrated. This was a name of Ivan Franko (1856-1916), a Ukrainian writer and political activist, who in his youth was an organizer of the first Galician socialist organization and was first to translate Marx into Ukrainian. There were a street, a square, the L’viv university, the L’viv opera house and a central park named after him, and a huge monument in 1960-s
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