The Congress of Ruthenian Scholars

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The Congress of Ruthenian Scholars was the first ever congress of Ruthenian (Ukrainian) intellectuals. It took place in Lviv on October 19-26, 1848, during the Spring of Nations. Initiated by the poet Mykola Ustyjanovych, it was organized by the Ruthenian liberal intelligentsia and supported by the leaders of the Supreme Ruthenian Council. The event aimed to resolve the issue of the Ruthenian language, to set a program for the development of Ruthenian culture and to establish cooperation among the Ruthenian intelligentsia. It sought to reorganize the Halytsko-Ruska Matytsia into a leading secular cultural institution of the Ruthenians in Galicia. The Congress was the first large-scale cultural forum held in Lviv. It became a platform for the expression of various ideas and views prevailing in Ruthenian society.

This publication is a part of the Spring of Nations in Lviv project.


The Congress of Ruthenian Scholars was the first ever congress of Ruthenian (Ukrainian) intellectuals. It took place in Lviv on October 19-26, 1848, during the Spring of Nations.

Initiated by the poet Mykola Ustyjanovych, the Congress was supported by the leaders of the Supreme Ruthenian Council. Its chief organizers were liberal Ruthenian intellectuals who sought to weaken the defining influence of the highest ranks of the Greek Catholic Church on Ruthenian culture.

One of the congress's main tasks was to solve the pressing language issue of that time: to discuss the condition of the then Ruthenian language, the fields in which it was used, and to determine the further direction and guidelines for its development. In addition, the Congress sought to set a program for the development of Ruthenian culture in general and to establish cooperation among the Ruthenian intelligentsia. In practice, this was to result in the reorganization of the Halytsko-Ruska Matytsia into a leading secular cultural institution of the Galician Ruthenians.

The Congress became the first large-scale cultural forum held in Lviv. For the Ruthenians, it was one of the first attempts to demonstrate their presence in the cultural life of the city. At the same time, it became a platform for the expression of various ideas and visions — concerning the language, history, place of Ruthenians in the world, etc. — that existed at that time in Ruthenian society.

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The idea to convene a congress of the Ruthenian intelligentsia arose in July 1848 and belonged to Mykola Ustyjanovych, a priest and a poet. It was thеn that he addressed such a proposal to the Supreme Ruthenian Council, the central representative institution of the Ruthenians in Galicia during the revolution of 1848, which was headed by the leading figures of the Greek Catholic Church.

As early as the beginning of the 1830s, Ustyjanovych was an active supporter of the Ruthenian Triad while studying at the Greek Catholic seminary. He became one of the first poets in Galicia to start writing in simple vernacular. Those young poets were then subjected to certain disciplinary oppression by the conservative church leaders due to their excessively free-thinking views. Like most of his "colleagues" of his young years, Ustyjanovych was in church service far from Lviv at the time of the revolution. Although he was the pastor of Slavske in the Carpathians, he supported the revolutionary demands of the Polish activists in the early days of the demonstrations in Lviv. He even translated their petition text into Ruthenian on March 18 and sent it to the Stauropegean Institute; however, the highest hierarchy of the Greek Catholic Church blocked this publication.

Therefore, the leaders of the church (and of the Supreme Ruthenian Council at the same time) were generally quite restrained and cautious about the ideas and suggestions coming from people of such a background. "Among the heap of various political affairs," they simply did not pay attention to it at first. Ustyjanovych reminded the Council of his idea again, in a letter on August 15. His proposal received support from Ivan Borysykevych, a Lviv lawyer and the deputy chairman of the Council. It was with his help that the Council agreed and set up a committee to organize a congress, and Borysykevych himself became its chief organizer. On September 1, the Zoria Halytska, the Council's official periodical, published an appeal on behalf of the committee inviting everyone interested to come to Lviv on October 19 for the congress.

In addition to Ustyjanovych and Borysykevych, the organizing committee also included two secretaries of the Council — Teodor Leontovych, an employee of the Credit Society in Lviv, and Mykhailo Malynovskyi, a priest and the editor of the Zoria Halytska. Lawyer Antin Paventskyi, Fr. Ivan Zarytskyi and several others were also included. In fact, the congress was organized by the Supreme Ruthenian Council's liberal wing, which sought to weaken the influence of the conservative church leaders on the Ruthenians' cultural life. A congress of intellectuals could be a good platform for doing this.

All educated Ruthenians were invited to participate in the congress regardless of their political views or even denomination. This was somewhat contrary to the usual policy of the Council, which accepted only Greek Catholics from Galicia. Political issues were removed from the competence of the congress. According to the organizers, the congress was to become a national cultural forum. Its main purpose was to solve the problem of the Ruthenian language and writing, to give scholars the opportunity to get closer and to start working together, and to form, like other Slavic peoples of the empire, their own Halytsko-Ruska Matytsia.

The organization with this name had already existed in Lviv since June 1848, operating, though, under the management of the consistory (the governing body of the Greek Catholic Church), with its activities limited to the preparation of church books. The congress organizers wanted instead to give it a more secular character, involving secular elements in the management, and, most importantly, to expand the scope of its activities. Matytsia was to become the principal cultural institution of the Galician Ruthenians, taking care of public education and the development of science and literature.


Another side, which was not very happy about the preparations for the congress and even tried to oppose it, were the Poles. Participants in the Polish movement saw Lviv as the capital of their national province for which they sought autonomy from the empire. Any mass event organized by "competitors" from the Ruthenian camp potentially undermined the exclusively Polish character of the city and the region. The Ruthenians themselves understood this, so the congress, in spite of everything, had a demonstrative political mission and provoked a corresponding reaction.

Count Agenor Gołuchowski, the vice-president of the governorate, warned Mykhailo Kuzemskyi with a letter not to open the congress or it would be disbanded by the National Guard. This was a  paradox — a conservative and a government official, whom the Polish radicals considered a "collaborator," threatened another conservative, loyal to the government, by using a guard that consisted largely of the Polish radicals. The interests of the two opposing Polish camps united in resistance to a congress organized by Ruthenians. Whether real or imagined, a threat to the national cause outweighed internal political divisions.

The congress organizers got outraged. They asked if this meant that it was now the guards who were now the source of power in the province and sent a deputation to the city's military commander, General Wilhelm Hammerstein. The latter guaranteed the congress' security.


Language Issue in Galicia


The main problem that ran through all the sessions of the Congress was the language issue, which became especially acute during the revolution.

A petition prepared by Polish activists, who collected the signatures of 12,000 Lviv residents on the first day of the revolution, called for the introduction of the Polish language in education and administration in Galicia. A Ruthenian petition, in contrast, called for the widest possible use of the Ruthenian language in the region as well.

This requirement, however, would have inevitably encountered a number of objective obstacles.

First of all, the Ruthenian language was not fully developed and codified at that time. In Galicia, the official language of administration and education was German. The secular sphere was dominated by Polish. It was used in everyday life even by most Ruthenian intellectuals, including the clergy.

It is noteworthy that at the very first meeting of the Supreme Ruthenian Council, the participants decided to "speak among themselves in Ruthenian", this, apparently, being a conscious political decision, not a common habit. The ritual language of the Greek Catholics and the traditional language of Ruthenian literature was Church Slavonic.

The local vernacular had so far been used only at the level of a few primary public schools in the country; only several textbooks and manuals for peasants had been published in it. It was not until the 1830s, in the wake of Romanticism, that a circle of writers, the Ruthenian Triad, emerged and began to purposefully create new literature based on folk dialects. At the same time, some representatives of the Polish insurgent movement began to use it in poetry and appeals, trying to involve peasants in their national cause.

Both the Ruthenian "awakeners" and the Polish "conspirators" addressed the people in the same vernacular although using different scripts. The former used Cyrillic, and the latter — Latin. Besides, they did this with different political purposes in mind.


The Ruthenian language itself had many "internal" problems. It lacked a grammar and a dictionary, so the language did not have a clear grammatical and lexical framework. It was possible to use rich folk vocabulary for everyday speech without any problems. But abstract and scientific vocabulary had to be taken from elsewhere. Polish was a politically "hostile" language, yet the closest and most accessible to all Galician Ruthenians. Church Slavonic, the traditional and somewhat archaic language, was another possible option. The third option was to create something new by combining existing patterns.

In addition, there was the issue of writing and spelling. The Latin script that had been used earlier by the Polish insurgents and by the Ruthenian Polonophiles from the Ruthenian Congress during the revolution, was no longer considered. However, even within the Cyrillic alphabet there were options between etymological and phonetic orthography. The first preserved the historical roots of words in writing but made it difficult to read them for those who had less education. The second reproduced the actual sounding of words in the vernacular but disregarded their ancient roots. 

Discussions took place about making a choice between these options. Ruthenians divided their views on the language issue between the two poles. Extreme linguistic "conservatives" supported church vocabulary and etymological writing while extreme linguistic "radicals" defended the vernacular and phonetic spelling.

The language question became even more relevant in the conditions of the revolution.

The constitution, issued by the emperor on April 25, guaranteed cultural rights of the peoples of the empire. Implementing the constitutional presuppositions in late September, the Austrian Ministry of Education decided to introduce the Polish language into use in the universities and gymnasiums of Galicia — "in anticipation of the higher development of the Ruthenian language". To ensure this "higher development", it was announced at the same time that the first ever department of the Ruthenian language and literature at the Lviv University would be established.

A special regional body, the Galician School Council (Rada Szkolna Krajowa), was set up in early October in order to take care of schooling in the region. This happened shortly before the congress was due to start. However, it came under the control of the Polish movement. Only a few representatives of the pro-Polish Ruthenian Congress from the Ruthenian side were included in it.

The chair of the Ruthenian language at Lviv University remained vacant, and was claimed by different forces. Leaders of the Greek Catholic Church and the Supreme Ruthenian Council initially saw Fr. Ivan Zhukovskyi (pastor of the church of Sst. Peter and Paul at Lychakiv) in this position, Ruthenian liberals from the same Council recommended Yakiv Holovatskyi, while Ruthenian Polonophiles belonging to the Ruthenian Congress promoted, with the support of the regional school council, the candidacy of Ivan Vahylevych.

The last two candidates were close friends in their young years and both belonged to the Ruthenian Triad. They were widely known as first-class experts in the vernacular language and culture. Both applied now for the same position but from different political forces. Zhukovskyi's candidacy soon became irrelevant due to his lack of authority and popularity, so it was between Holovatskyi and Vahylevych that the real competition for the position unfolded.

The recent events demanded that the language issue be resolved as soon as possible. Polish had already become the language of secondary and higher education in the region, potentially threatening the "Polonization" of Ruthenian youth. Ruthenian language could de jure compete with Polish, but de facto its literary norm had to be developed first. The newly formed university department would do this professionally, but it still remained to be determined who was to head it and how it was to work.

Correspondingly, the convened congress of the Ruthenian intelligentsia had to fulfill several functions at once. Firstly, it had to affirm the Ruthenian presence in the regional capital, which the Ruthenians considered their own, though being a minority there. Secondly, it had to develop a single position within the Ruthenian camp on the language issue. Thirdly, it had to "legitimize" this position as the program for the future university department.


The Course of the Event


The first meeting of the Congress of Ruthenian Scholars opened on Thursday, October 19, in the museum hall of the Greek Catholic seminary between ul. Szeroka and ul. Sykstuska (now vul. Kopernika and vul. Doroshenka respectively). The Supreme Ruthenian Council had been sitting in the same building for the last six months; all the meetings of the congress also took place there in the following days. The congress participants, who had come from throughout the province, probably settled for the time of the congress in this building as well.

More than 110 participants from all over the region arrived to take part in the congress. Most of them were priests, with members of the Stavropegean Institute (Lviv residents) and primary and secondary school teachers (both from Lviv and the province) prevailing among the laity.

According to the memoirs of Vasyl Ilnytskyi, a participant, who was the pastor of a village near Kolomyia at that time and became the first director of the Ruthenian gymnasium in Lviv later, there was a symbolic throne of the emperor decorated with a wreath in the middle of the meeting room, with portraits of several Ruthenian princes on both sides; the room itself was decorated with blue-and-yellow flags and cockades.

The congress was opened by the de facto chairman of the Supreme Ruthenian Council, canon Mykhailo Kuzemskyi, a member of the consistory. He greeted the congress participants, made a small historical excursion, recalling the ancient "glory of the Rutheno-Galician people" of the time of Yaroslav and Danylo (appealing, perhaps, to the portraits hanging in the room), long years of oppression and persecution, when "alien rule" was established and the Ruthenian language was pushed under the peasant straw roof, and finally urged to use the opportunities provided by the "word of His Majesty," giving equal rights to all Austrian peoples.

After that, Fr. Ivan Zhukovskyi read and explained the program of the congress to the audience. Then the congress initiator Mykola Ustyjanovych delivered an inspired speech. He focused on the Ruthenian language, glorifying its beauty and richness. In the end, Fr. Lev Treshchakovskyi, the pastor of the village of Rudno near Lviv, called on the participants to pay attention, in addition to culture, to the economic needs of the people.

It was around this time that the chairman of the meeting was warned that the cavalry units of the National Guard were "taking out their horses", but there was nothing to worry about, as "the general command had taken appropriate countermeasures."



On the second day of the congress, the participants were divided into eight thematic sections in which they worked for the next few days: the sections for theology, law, philosophy and natural sciences, economics, schooling, history and geography, Ruthenian language and literature, and Slavic literature. Meetings of each section took place at different times, so that participants could participate in different sections if they so desired.

The work of most of those sections was reduced to the language issue: to the functioning of the Ruthenian language in some areas in general, such as theology, science, and law, or to the increase of publications in this language in other areas, for example, in education, economy, and history.

Thus, the theology section decided that all theological subjects in the seminary and university should be taught in Ruthenian starting from the beginning of the new academic year. It was also decided to publish a new prayer book for lay people, where most of the prayers, except for a few basic ones, such as "Our Father" or the Nicene creed, should be translated into the vernacular.

Similarly, the section for philosophy and natural sciences determined that philosophy and natural sciences should now also be taught in Ruthenian.

The law section was engaged in translating the legislation into Ruthenian. Its two leaders, Yulian Lavrivskyi, a court clerk from Sambir and later a well-known politician, and Ivan Konstantynovych, a police officer in Lviv, were ​at that time also members of a special ministerial commission for translating laws into local languages. Lavrivskyi was translating the civil code, while Konstantynovych was working on the penal code.

The economic section decided to allocate an additional two pages in the Zoria Halytska newspaper for publications on agriculture. Besides, three Ruthenian books on economic topics published in recent years were noted: "On Manure," "A Guide to Gardening," and "On Tobacco Planting."

The history and geography section called on all admirers of the past to collect ancient Ruthenian artefacts, chronicles and documents, and accepted Mykhailo Kuzemskyi’s proposal to publish a short textbook on Ruthenian history for schools as soon as possible. According to one of the recommendations, the presentation of history should begin with Little Rus' (Malorus).

The largest section was that for schooling. It gathered 38 participants who discussed the organization of education, a program and methods for teaching children. Its participants unequivocally agreed that children's education should be in the vernacular and decided to publish a primer, a grammar, a reading book, a catechism, a gospel and biblical stories, arithmetics, a brief economy and a civil law book for schools in it.

At the same time, the section for Slavic literature, in order to provide the population with knowledge of ancient Ruthenian literary monuments, also decided to publish a grammar and a dictionary of the Church Slavonic language and a small textbook in it.

The most important was a joint section for the Ruthenian language and literature (according to the initial plan, two separate sections were to be dedicated to language and literature issues), which was to resolve the main problem of the congress. It was the only section to meet every day during all the days when the sections worked, its meetings lasting the longest.

The tone of the discussions was set by an essay written by Ivan Zhukovskyi, the pastor of the church of Sst. Peter and Paul at Lychakiv, who was one of the candidates for the head of the Ruthenian language department at the university. He supported vernacular and phonetic writing, while paying attention also to etymology. He finally called for adapting the orthography of the Ruthenian language to the dialect that would provide the basis for the literary language in the best possible way.

Promoters of folk vocabulary and phonetic writing constituted the majority. The opposition, consisting of supporters of the church language and etymology, was quite strong nevertheless. Some, like Rudolf Mokh, advocated a radical reform of orthography, proposing not only to eliminate unnecessary letters ы and ъ, but also to write the endings of verbs according to the common pronunciation ("був" instead of "былъ"). Others instead, such as Yosyf Levytskyi, a professor at the seminary in Przemyśl and the author of the first Grammar of the Ruthenian Language, defended etymology as a bridge to the understanding of ancient Ruthenian scriptures.

Discussions between the "yorophiles" and the "yoroclasts" (as supporters and opponents of the etymology based on the letter ъ ("er" or "yor"), which became a symbol of these spelling battles, were called) ended in a compromise. The majority voted for the popular basis of literary language and phonetic spelling. Still, adherents of the "church language" and etymology were allowed to publish, especially scientific and theological works, in their own way.


Subsequent Meetings

After the work in the sections was over, the congress participants had three more general meetings, where they heard various speeches.

At the first of those meetings, on October 24, Yakiv Holovatskyi delivered a lecture "on the South Ruthenian language and its dialects" (published in a separate paper later). On the same day, a letter was read from the Ruthenian Congress requesting information on the goals and tendencies of the scholars’ forum so that representatives of the Congress could join it. To this request they decided to answer that the Ruthenians' intention was to maintain their people's rights and to develop education.

At the meeting on the penultimate day, October 25, the "Society for the Public Education" was established, which actually was to become the governing body of the Halytsko-Ruska Matytsia.

On the last day a few more speeches were heard. Finally, Mykhailo Kuzemskyi briefly summed up the results of the congress. Mykola Ustyjanovych made a farewell speech with the same inspiration as earlier, blessing the participants for their hard and conscientious work, and sent them his "hundred-voiced, loud, unanimous, holy Ruthenian Mnohaya lita! ["Many years!"]." The congress was then closed.

Ideas and Visions


The Congress of Ruthenian Scholars became the first cultural forum of Ruthenians in Galicia, which was common to the whole people. Organized by the liberals, it became a platform for the expression of various ideas and visions nurtured among Ruthenian intellectuals at that time. Those ideas often contradicted one another and became the basis for deep divisions in Ruthenian society in the following decades.


First of all, the main issue of the congress — the language one — was resolved in October 1848 by a compromise, leaving, though, a wide field for interpretation and actually postponing the final solution of this issue for several decades.

Most participants agreed on the need to develop the Ruthenian language on a folk basis, but in the subtleties of vocabulary and orthography opinions often differed radically. Supporters of neither position had a decisive advantage over their opponents; often their own position was rather ambiguous.

Even such unequivocal admirers of vernacular speech as Ustyjanovych and Holovatskyi still agreed that the vernacular in its pure form was not appropriate for scientific activity and saw the source of abstract vocabulary in the ancient church language.

For example, at the meetings of the section for philosophy Yakiv Holovatskyi argued that the Ruthenian language is suitable for science and philosophy. He presented manuscripts of ancient lectures on logic and metaphysics, which took place at the end of the previous century in the so-called Studium Ruthenum at the Lviv University and were based on the church vocabulary.

In his introductory speech at the congress, Mykola Ustyjanovych called for drawing knowledge of the vernacular from the "gold-bank Ukraine," that is, from the writings of Kotliarevskyi, Osnovyanenko, Shevchenko, as well as from "our unforgettable Shashkevych." However, responding to allegations that were made behind his back and claimed that the Ruthenian language lacked abstract vocabulary, he recalled the richness of the church language, in which he saw "a majestic future for the Ruthenian language."

For them, the use of elements of the church language was organically combined with the focus on local or even Dnieper Ukraine’s folk patterns and was perceived not as an acceptance of something foreign but as a continuation or even revival of their own centuries-old intellectual tradition.

This attitude of the leaders of the "populist party" gave rise to the fact that in the next decade, after the end of the revolution and the return to absolutism, while conservative sentiments were strengthening in society, elements of the church language not only did not disappear from Ruthenian literature but started to push aside the folk elements in it, forming the so-called "iazychie."


Another divergence that emerged at the congress was that everyone agreed to work for the good and development of the Ruthenian people, but their place in the world was sometimes seen quite differently.

Thus, on the one hand, Antoniy Petrushevych, the head of the historical and geographical section and a well-known historian, who adhered to Russophile views later, spoke of a close connection that united the Galician Ruthenians "with our brothers in blood and faith" until the mid-14th century. Then, after a long period of the "vile Polish years" there was an almost complete transformation of our "true Russian character, under the strong influence of the West."

On the other hand, Henryk Jabłoński, a Ukrainophile Pole from the Russian Empire who studied at Lviv University, wrote poetry in the Ruthenian language using Latin characters and collaborated with the pro-Polish Ruthenian Congress, spoke passionately about the greatness and importance of the Ruthenian people, his arguments for it including its good geographical location in the very "heart of the Slavic lands," the richness of its folk culture and the special historical mission of the Ruthenians to protect the Christian world from "wild Asian hordes."

The idea of ​​a common ancient Ruthenian spiritual space and the destructive influence of the West was opposed here by the idea of ​​the unity of all Slavic peoples (including Western, Catholic ones) and the Ruthenians' defense of the Western civilization from the wild East.

Both positions were the two extreme poles that placed the Ruthenians on either side of the imagined civilizational rift between East and West. On the eastern side of the "barricades," there were the first individual supporters of Russophile ideas, which were then just beginning to emerge, but dominated the Ruthenian intellectual elite through the following few decades. On the western side, there were supporters of Polonophile ideas, which at that time were already rapidly losing popularity among the Ruthenians. However, later, with the emergence of the populist movement, this "pro-Western" position would become an important component of the Ukrainophile worldview, which would finally win among the Galician Ruthenians in the late 19th century.


The main idea of ​​the future Ukrainophile movement was voiced in one of the key speeches at the congress, namely, in that of Yakiv Holovatskyi. Based on the latest linguistic research, he argued that the "South Ruthenian" language is a separate, independent Slavic language along with Russian and Polish; from this, accordingly, it logically followed that the "South Ruthenian" people speaking this language was a separate independent people among other Slavic peoples of Europe.

For Holovatskyi, it was language rather than spiritual or civilizational ties that was proclaimed the main criterion for defining the boundaries of a people; in this regard, he kept pace with most of the then national movements in Europe originating in the previous era of Romanticism. In 1848, which was the culmination of this era, this view also prevailed, though briefly, among Galician Ruthenian intellectuals. Its chief spokesman, Holovatskyi, was massively supported by the intelligentsia for the position of professor of the Ruthenian language; however, he moved to Russophile positions within a few years.


Conclusions and Consequences


In addition to representing various positions, the congress of scholars showed several other important trends.

First of all, the congress was the first attempt to broaden the institutionalization of Ruthenian public life. In fact, one of the reasons for convening the congress was the creation of a leading cultural institution. In addition to the newly created (or reformatted) Matytsia, the relevant sections considered proposals to create Ruthenian historical and economic societies.

The first attempts revealed the main shortcomings of this process among the Ruthenians. Almost half of the members of the Society for Public Education, created at the congress, did not even join the Matytsia, which they were supposed to manage. So after the defeat of the revolution and the general decline in activity among the population, the Matytsia, which was to become the main practical result of the congress, failed to grow into the leading cultural institution as it had been conceived by its initiators.

In 1850, the Ruthenians held another congress of intellectuals, the so-called Second Congress of Ruthenian Scholars, which lasted only three days and gathered far fewer participants. It also discussed cultural issues and gave a commission to design a new charter for Matytsia. Congresses of intellectuals actually turned into general meetings of the Matytsia, although individuals who had nothing to do with the organization also took part in them.

However, the second congress was the last one as the next general meeting of the Matytsia took place only in 1864, after the restoration of the constitution. It was held according to a similar pattern as the first two, but the name "Congress of Scholars" was not used.


The congress was also one of the first attempts to secularize Ruthenian cultural life, limiting the decisive influence of the conservative church leaders.

Partially, this process had begun earlier. Thus, even before the congress, due to the influence of the liberal intelligentsia, the leaders of the church and the Council supported Holovatskyi's candidacy for the head of the university department, although initially they had nominated their own candidate. It was at the congress that Holovatskyi received massive support from the participants, thus becoming the only candidate from the Ruthenian camp.

Also, the reformatted Matytsia, in contrast to its previous "clerical" version, got active secular figures in its governing bodies. Though canon Mykhailo Kuzemskyi remained the head of the organization, his deputies became two lawyers: Ivan Borysykevych, the organizer of the congress, and Yulian Lavrivskyi. It was then that secular persons received, for the first time, an equal influence with the higher clergy on the development of Ruthenian culture, the organization of education, and so on.

Lavrivskyi withdrew from the membership as early as the summer of the same year after a disagreement with the conservative and anti-Polish policy of the leaders of the Supreme Ruthenian Council and cooperated with the pro-Polish and liberal Ruthenian Congress for some time. Now, in October, when this organization had already been absorbed by the Polish National Council, he found a place for himself in an all-Ruthenian forum organized by the liberals. His only former colleague from the Ruthenian Congress, who also took part in the congress, Henryk Jabłoński, could not belong to the Supreme Ruthenian Council, even if he so wished, because he was a Roman Catholic from outside Galicia; it was at the congress that he became one of the most prominent figures.

Vasyl Ilnytskyi mentioned that the consistory, having agreed to hold the congress, wanted to make it "a tool of reaction against the revolutionary aspirations of the Poles." In fact, however, the congress became a platform for Ruthenian liberals as all speeches there "breathed with freedom and patriotism." In one such speech, for example, the aforementioned Yosyf Levytskyi sharply criticized the church leaders for persecuting patriotic youth in recent years for their literary activities and efforts to develop the vernacular; besides, the church management did not issue any directive to local priests in Ruthenian, using only foreign languages. The priest, who was a professor at the seminary, criticized the representatives of the church management in their presence at the event taking place under their auspices.

According to Ilnytskyi’s memoirs, the free-thinking nature of the congress was manifested even in the decoration of the meeting room as "nothing black and yellow could be seen" next to the national blue and yellow colours. The imperial colors were associated with loyalty to the throne, and this was one of the main accusations against the metropolitanate and the movement led by it. Like the Ruthenian Congress, the Congress of Ruthenian Scholars was an attempt to secularize Ruthenian life, but, in contrast to the former one, under the slogans of complete national separation of the Ruthenians and without focusing on Polish political and cultural models.


Finally, the congress became one of the first large-scale attempts by Ruthenians to demonstrate their presence in the cultural space of the city and the region as a whole (later, in the 1880s, this function was taken over by political rallies).

The leaders of the congress were quite aware of its demonstrative function. At the last meeting, summing up the general results, Mykhailo Kuzemskyi stated: "They accused us of not having bright men, the so-called intelligentsia. Come, opponents, see and be ashamed! Show us men from among you whom ours would not be equal to."

However, such a clear appeal to the Polish side had no answer. In the Polish press, the Congress of Ruthenian Scholars went virtually unnoticed (or perhaps deliberately ignored). In those days, the main focus of Polish newspapers was on the events in Vienna: in October, an uprising continued in the capital of the empire. Just on the day the congress closed, troops stormed the rebel-held capital and regained control of the city four days later.

The news from Vienna was relevant for Lviv, where political tensions between Polish radicals and the government increased in October. Just five days after the congress closed, on November 1, an uprising also broke out in the city, culminating in the bombing of Lviv by troops, the imposition of a state of emergency and the disbanding of most revolutionary or disloyal organizations.

After the victory over the revolutionaries belonging to the Polish camp, the government supported some demands made by Ruthenians. It disbanded the Polish-controlled Galician School Council and appointed Holovatskyi, supported at the congress of scholars, as the head of the Ruthenian language department at the university.

The Congress of Ruthenian Scholars was "lucky" to become one of the final events of the Spring of Nations in Lviv. For the city, the Congress of Ruthenian Scholars became the first such cultural forum, which was attended by all those who so desired and which combined the functions of discussion, organization and even demonstration.

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Vul. Doroshenka, 41 – university building (former Greek Catholic seminary)

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Mykola Ustyjanovych — a poet, a priest, the initiator and inspirer of the congress
Ivan Borysykevych — a lawyer, an attorney in Lviv, deputy chairman of the Supreme Ruthenian Council, one of the main organizers of the congress
Mykhailo Kuzemskyi — a priest, a canon of the metropolitan consistory, deputy chairman of the Supreme Ruthenian Council, chairman of the Halytsko-Ruska Matytsia, a participant in the congress
Yakiv Holovatskyi — a scholar, a priest, a former participant in the Ruthenian Triad, a participant in the congress, head of the section for Ruthenian language and literature, a candidate for and laterprofessor of the Department of Ruthenian language and literature at Lviv University
Ivan Zhukovskyi — a priest, a pastor of the church of Sst. Peter and Paul at Lychakiv in Lviv, a participant in the congress, a candidate for the position of professor of the Department of Ruthenian Language and Literature at Lviv University
Yulian Lavrivskyi — a lawyer, head of the law section at the congress, latera well-known politician, one of the leaders of the populist movement
Henryk Jabłoński — a poet, a student of Lviv University, supporter of the Ruthenian Congress, a participant in the congress
Antoniy Petrushevych — a priest, head of the section for history and geography at the congress, latera well-known historian of Russophile views
Vasyl Ilnytskyi — a teacher, a participant in the congress, laterdirector of the Academic Gymnasium in Lviv
Antoniy Paventskyi — a Lviv lawyer, editor of Zoria Halytska, a member of the congressorganizing committee
Teodor Leontovych — an employee of the Credit Society in Lviv, secretary of the Supreme Ruthenian Council, a member of the congressorganizing committee
Yosyf Levytskyi — a priest, author of A Grammar of the Ruthenian Language, a professor atthe theological seminary in Przemyśl, a participant in the congress who defended etymological writing
Rudolf Mokh — a priest, a poet, a participant in the congress who advocated a radical phonetic reform of writing
Wilhelm Hammerstein — a general, commander of the military garrison in Lviv who guaranteed the security of the Congress



  1.  Jan Kozik, The Ukrainian National Movement in Galicia: 18151849, (Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 1986);
  2. Богдан Сокіл, "Питання української мови на з’їзді українських учених", Наукові записки ТНПУ. Серія: Мовознавство, Вип. ІІ (30), 2018, 78-85;
  3. Олександр Седляр, "Галицько-руська матиця": завдання, організація, члени товариства (1848-1870)," Україна: культурна спадщина, національна свідомість, державність, 21/2012, 668-692;
  4. "Історія політичної думки галицьких українців 1848-1914" на підставі споминів написав д-р Кость Левицький, (Львів, 1926), 41-44;
  5.  Яков Головацкий, Историческій очерк основанія Галицко-руской матиці и справозданье первого собору ученых руских и любителей народного просвіщенія, (Львів, 1850), XXIX—XLIV;
  6. John-Paul Himka, "The Construction of Nationality in Galician Rus’: Icarian Flights in Almost All Directions," Intellectuals and the Articulation of the Nation, Edited by Ronald Grigor Suny and Michael D. Kennedy, (The University of Michigan Press, 1999), 109-164;
  7. Andriy Zayarnyuk, "Obtaining History: The Case of Ukrainians in Habsburg Galicia, 1848-1900," Austrian History Yearbook 36 (2005), 121-147.

By Roman Melnyk
Edited by Vasyl Rasevych
Translated by Andriy Masliukh