Red Ruthenia

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Red Ruthenia
Ruś Czerwona  (Polish)
Червона Русь (Ukrainian)
Historic Region
Red Ruthenia (without Podolia) on contemporary borders
Red Ruthenia (without Podolia) on contemporary borders
Region Eastern Europe (Poland, Ukraine)
Ducal seal "Ladislaus Dei Gracia Dux Opoliensis Wieloniensis et Terre Russie Domin et Heres" (c. 1387)
The 1507 Lesser Poland and Red Ruthenia Map (Polonia Minor; Russia) by Martin Waldseemüller [1]
Ruthenian Voivodeship of 1635 in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

Red Ruthenia, Red Rus or Red Russia (Latin: Ruthenia Rubra or Russia Rubra; Ukrainian: Червона Русь, Chervona Rus, Polish: Ruś Czerwona, Russian: Червоная Русь, Chervonaya Rus) is a historic term used since the Middle Ages for southeastern Poland and Western Ukraine.

First mentioned in a 1321 Polish chronicle, Red Ruthenia was the portion of Rus' incorporated into Poland by Casimir the Great during the 14th century. Its name reportedly derives from the old Slavonic use of colours for the cardinal points of the compass. That is, the pre-Christian totem-god Svetovid had four faces: his northern face was white, his southern face was black, his eastern face was green and his western face was red. (Critics of this theory point out that Black Ruthenia is west of White Ruthenia.) According to another theory, many place names in the area feature the prefix cherv- (Черв-; czerw-) – which in many Slavic languages means "red". These include the so-called Cherven Cities.

From the 14th century, after the disintegration of Rus', Red Ruthenia was contested by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (the Gediminids), the Kingdom of Poland (the Piasts), the Kingdom of Hungary and the Kingdom of Ruthenia. After the Galicia–Volhynia Wars, for about 400 years most of Red Ruthenia became part of Poland as the Ruthenian Voivodeship. The historic Red Ruthenia, reaching Przemyśl and Sanok in the southwest, has been primarily inhabited for nearly a millennium by Ruthenians – a term which, in this context, refers to both ethnic Ukrainians and Rusyns.

The first known inhabitants of Red Ruthenia were Lendians,[2] with Boykos and Lemkos on its perimeters. Later Walddeutsche, Jews, Armenians and Poles also made up part of the population.[3] According to Marcin Bielski, although Bolesław I Chrobry settled Germans in the region to defend the borders against Hungary and Kievan Rus' the settlers became farmers. Maciej Stryjkowski described German peasants near Rzeszów, Przemyśl, Sanok, and Jarosław as good farmers. Casimir the Great settled German citizens on the borders of Lesser Poland and Red Ruthenia to join the acquired territory with the rest of his kingdom. In determining the population of late medieval Poland, colonisation and Polish migration to Red Ruthenia, Spiš and Podlachia[4] (whom the Ukrainians called Mazury—poor peasant migrants, chiefly from Mazowsze[5]) should be considered.

During the second half of the 14th century, the Vlachs arrived from the southeastern Carpathians and quickly overspread southern Red Ruthenia. Although during the 15th century the Ruthenians gained a foothold, it was not until the 16th century that the Wallachian population in the Bieszczady Mountains and the Lower Beskids was Ruthenized.[6] From the 14th to the 16th centuries Red Ruthenia underwent rapid urbanization, resulting in over 200 new towns built on the German model (virtually unknown before 1340, when Red Ruthenia was the independent Duchy of Halych).[7]


Lemkos in folk costumes from Mokre, near Sanok
Pogórzanie folk costumes

During the Middle Ages, the region was part of the Ruthenian Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia. It came under Polish control in 1340, when Casimir the Great acquired it.[8][9] During his reign from 1333 to 1370, Casimir the Great founded several cities, urbanizing the rural province.[10]

The name Ruś Czerwona (translated as "Red Ruthenia") has been used for the territory extending to the Dniester, centring on Przemyśl (Peremyshl). Since the reign of Władysław Jagiełło the Przemyśl Voivodeship was called the Ruthenian Voivodeship (województwo ruskie), centring on Lwów. The voivodeship consisted of five regions: Lwów, Sanok, Halicz (Halych), Przemyśl (Peremyshl), and Chełm. The town of Halych gave its name to Galicia.

In October 1372, Władysław Opolczyk was deposed as count palatine. Although he retained most of his castles and goods in Hungary, his political influence waned. As compensation, Opolczyk was made governor of Hungarian Galicia. In this new position, he contributed to the economic development of the territories entrusted to him. Although Opolczyk primarily resided in Lwów, at the end of his rule he spent more time in Halicz. The only serious conflict during his time as governor involved his approach to the Russian Orthodox Church, which angered the local Catholic boyars. Under Polish rule 325 towns were founded from the 14th century to the second half of the 17th century, most during the 15th and 16th centuries (96 and 153, respectively).[11]

Red Ruthenia (except for Podolia) was conquered by the Austrian Empire in 1772 during the First Partition of Poland, remaining part of the empire until 1918.[12] Between World Wars I and II, it belonged to the Second Polish Republic. The region is currently split, with its western portion in southeastern Poland (around Rzeaszów, Przemyśl, Zamość and Chełm) and its eastern portion (around Lviv) in western Ukraine.

Administrative division (14th century to 1772)

During the 1340s, the influence of the Rurik dynasty ended; most of the area passed to Casimir the Great, with Kiev and the state of Volhynia falling under Lithuanian control. The Polish region was divided into a number of voivodeships, and an era of German eastward migration and Polish settlement among the Ruthenians began. Armenians and Jews also migrated to the region. A number of castles were built at this time, and the cities of Stanisławów (Stanyslaviv in Ukrainian, now Ivano-Frankivsk) and Krystynopol (now Chervonohrad) were founded. Ruthenia was subject to repeated Tatar and Ottoman Empire incursions during the 16th and 17th centuries and was impacted by the Khmelnytsky Uprising (1648–1654), the 1654–1667 Russo-Polish War and Swedish invasions during the Deluge (1655–1660); the Swedes returned during the Great Northern War of the early 18th century. Red Ruthenia consisted of three voivodeships: Ruthenia, whose capital was Lviv and provinces were Lviv, Halych, Sanok, Przemyśl and Chełm; Bełz, separating the provinces of Lviv and Przemyśl from the rest of the Ruthenian voivodeship; and Podolia, with its capital at Kamieniec Podolski.

Open-air museum in Sanok
Village of Markowa, about 150-200 km southeast of Kraków. Its 18th- and 19th-century Upper Lusatian houses evoked the mountains of Saxony.[13]

Ruthenian Voivodeship

Szeroki Wierch from Tarnica
  • Przemyśl Land (Ziemia Przemyska), Przemyśl; Its area was 12,000 km2. and in the 17th century it was divided five smaller regions (county, powiaty).
    • Przemyśl County (Powiat Przemyski), Przemyśl
    • Powiat of Sambor, (Powiat Samborski), Sambor
    • Powiat of Drohobycz, (Powiat Drohobycki), Drohobycz
    • Powiat of Stryj, (Powiat Stryjski), Stryj
  • Sanok Land (Ziemia Sanocka), Sanok
    • Sanok County (Powiat Sanocki), Sanok: Intensive settlement occurred from the 13th to 15th centuries in an area flanked by the Wisłok, San and Wisłoka Rivers. The Vlachs primarily engaged in agriculture; moving west, they established a number of villages during the 15th century. In Sanok Land were six Jewish communities, with synagogues and kahal organizations. Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Jewish Communities were also autonomous in criminal law.[citation needed]

Bełz Voivodeship

Bełz Voivodeship coat of arms
Sanok County coat of arms

World War I and Polish-Ukrainian War

During World War I, Galicia (Red Ruthenia) saw heavy fighting between Russia and the Central Powers. Russian forces overran most of the region in 1914, after defeating the Austro-Hungarian army in a chaotic frontier battle during the war's opening months; this gave Russia the opportunity to invade Germany from the south. In 1918 western Ruthenia became part of the restored Republic of Poland, and the local Ukrainian population briefly declared independence fpr eastern Galicia as the West Ukrainian People's Republic. These competing claims lead to the Polish–Ukrainian War.

In western Red Ruthenia, Rusyn Lemkos formed the Lemko Republic in 1918 in an attempt to unite with Russian Soviet Republic instead of Ukraine. This proved impossible, and they later attempted to unite with Rusyns from south of the Carpathians to join Czechoslovakia as a third ethnic entity. This effort was suppressed by the Polish government in 1920; the area was incorporated into Poland, and the republican leaders were acquitted by the Polish government.

Unlike the contemporaneous Lemko Republic to its west, the Komancza Republic planned to unite with the West Ukrainian People's Republic in an independent Ukrainian state. Unification of the Komancza Republic and West Ukraine was suppressed by the Polish government as part of the Polish–Ukrainian War.

World War II

Soldiers posing next to a group of peasant women
German and Slovak soldiers with Ukrainian civilians in Komańcza, 1939

In 1939 the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht approved Fall Weiss, detailing the invasion of Poland. According to the plan, Galician military brigades would act as a fifth column, attacking and demoralizing the Polish Army in the rear if Polish resistance was stronger than expected.[15] After September 17, 1939, all territory east of the San, Bug and Neman Rivers (approximating Red Ruthenia) was annexed by the USSR and divided into four oblasts (Lviv, Stanislav, Drohobych and Ternopil, the latter including portions of Volhynia) of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

In 1940–1941, Soviet authorities conducted four mass deportations from the eastern part of the Second Polish Republic inhabited by Ukrainians, Belarusians, Jews, Lithuanians, Russians, Germans, Czechs, Armenians and Poles. Approximately 335,000 Polish citizens were deported to Siberia, Kazakhstan and northeastern European Russia by the NKVD. According to General Vasily Khristoforov, director of the FSB archives in Moscow, 297,280 Polish citizens were deported in 1940.[16]

After June 22, 1941, although Sovietisation ended when Germany occupied eastern Ruthenia during Operation Barbarossa and formed the District of Galicia, the evacuating Soviets killed many prisoners awaiting deportation.[citation needed] Conflicts in Ruthenia and Volhynia between Poles and Ukrainians also intensified during this time, with skirmishes between the Polish Home Army (AK), the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), the Wehrmacht and Soviet partisans. These conflicts included massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia and revenge attacks on Ukrainians in Ruthenia. Many Ukrainian Galicians joined the UPA and supported its anti-Soviet and anti-Polish activities; others joined Germany in its fight against the USSR, forming the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Galician) commanded by German and Austrian officers Walter Schimana and Fritz Freitag.

After the war

The new Polish-Soviet border, with majority-Polish-speaking areas in the west and Ruthenian Ukrainians in the center and east, was recognized by the western Allies at the Yalta Conference. However, there were large minority populations on either side of the new frontier; in 1947's Operation Vistula, Polish Communist authorities moved about 200,000 ethnic Ukrainians to the former eastern territories of Germany.

See also


  • "Monumenta Poloniae Historica"
  • Akta grodzkie i ziemskie z archiwum ziemskiego. Lauda sejmikowe. Tom XXIII, XXIV, XXV.
  • Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego (Digital edition)
  • Lustracja województwa ruskiego, podolskiego i bełskiego, 1564-1565 Warszawa, (I) edition 2001, pages 289. ISBN 83-7181-193-4
  • Lustracje dóbr królewskich XVI-XVIII wieku. Lustracja województwa ruskiego 1661—1665. Część III ziemie halicka i chełmska. Polska Akademia Nauk - Instytut Historii. 1976
  • Lustracje województw ruskiego, podolskiego i bełskiego 1564 - 1565, wyd. K. Chłapowski, H. Żytkowicz, cz. 1, Warszawa - Łódź 1992
  • Lustracja województwa ruskiego 1661-1665, cz. 1: Ziemia przemyska i sanocka, wyd. K. Arłamowski i W. Kaput, Wrocław-Warszawa-Kraków. 1970
  • Aleksander Jabłonowski. Polska wieku XVI, t. VII, Ruś Czerwona, Warszawa 1901 i 1903.


  1. „Karte von Germania, Kleinpolen, Hungary, Walachai u. Siebenbuergen nebst Theilen der angraenzenden Laender“ von des „Claudii Ptolemaei geographicae enarrationis libri octo“, 1525, Strassburg
  2. Andrzej Rozwałka (2008). "Pobuże region as an object of research and protection of the archaeological heritage from the period of Early Middle Ages". In Maciej St. Zięba (ed.). Our Bug. Creating conditions for development of the border areas of Poland, Ukraine and Belarus through enhancement and preservation of natural and cultural heritage (PDF). John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. p. 109. The cultural unity of the area had been disturbed, if we look at it from the perspective of the whole Smaller Poland, after the basin of upper and middle Bug and of upper Wieprz rivers had been taken over in 981 (or 979) by Ruthenia, with its rich culture of urban character, the fact that can be seen in such places as Czermno, Chełm, or Gródek on Bug . This way a new boundary had divided the former community of Lendians living in the basins of rivers San, upper Bug, Styr and probably upper Dniester, who subsequently were absorbed in majority by the eastern Slavic element.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "were mainly Germans, Poles, Armenians and Jews, but also Karaims, Tatars, Greeks or Wallachians [in:] "Kwartalnik historii kultury materialnej: t. 47, PAN. 1999. p. 146
  4. Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte, 1992
  5. M. H. Marunchak. The Ukrainian Canadians, 1982
  6. Czajkowski, 1992; Parczewski, 1992; Reinfuss, 1948, 1987, 1990
  7. Kwartalnik historii kultury materialnej: t. 47, PAN. 1999. p. 146
  8. H. H. Fisher, "America and the New Poland (1928)", Read Books, 2007, p. 15
  9. N. Davies, God's playground: a history of Poland in two volumes, Oxford University Press, 2005, pp. 71, 135 [1]
  11. A. Janeczek, Town and country in the Polish Commonwealth, 1350-1650, in: S. R. Epstein, Town and Country in Europe, 1300-1800, Cambridge University Press, 2004, p. 164
  12. K. Kocsis, E. K. Hodosi, Ethnic Geography of the Hungarian Minorities in the Carpathian Basin, Simon Publications, 1988, p. 84
  13. Franciszek Kotula. Pochodzenie domów przysłupowych w Rzeszowskiem. "Kwartalnik Historii Kultury Materialnej" Jahr. V., Nr. 3/4, 1957, S. 557
  14. "Lew wspięty w koronie, herb najważniejszego nabytku terytorialnego Kazimierza Wielkiego — Rusi Czerwonej, wywodzi się od poświadczonego już w drugiej dekadzie XIV w. godła napieczętnego książąt halicko-włodzimierskich Andrzeja i Lwa." [in:] Polskie herby ziemskie: geneza, treści, funkcje. 1 93. p. 14
  15. Sergei Berets. Ukrainian Legion - allies of Nazis, rivals of Bendera.. BBC World Service - Russian Service, 02/09/2009.
  16. "Prezentacja książki "Deportacje obywateli polskich z Zachodniej Ukrainy i Zachodniej Białorusi w 1940 roku"" [Book launch "The deportation of Polish citizens from Western Ukraine and Western Belarus in 1940"]. 30 March 2004. Archived from the original on 2011-05-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>