Second Grammar School (1818-1914)

ID: 135

Founded in 1818, it was the second grammar school in Habsburg Lviv. Its initial language of instruction, Latin, was changed to German in 1848. From then on, it held the role of the central German-language grammar school in the city.


The Second Imperial and Royal State Grammar School(Zweite k.k. Staatsgymnasium) was founded in 1818 and located in the Dominican Monastery  in Lviv (then called Lemberg). Its original name was thus the Zweyte Lemberger k. k. Gymnasium bey den Dominikanern. After 1848, as in other high schools in Galicia, Latin was replaced in favor of German as the language of instruction. This status remained unchanged until the annexation of Galicia by Poland in 1919. In view of the Polonization of Galician education since the late 1860s and the simultaneous introduction of Ukrainian as the language of instruction at the Academic Grammar School (Академічнa гімназія), this school held the role of the central German-language grammar school of the capital of Galicia. In 1853 the grammar school was moved, it found its new premises "in the converted remains of the shelters of the abraded former ramparts of the town" (Pacholkiv, 2002, 124). A school functions there today as well (2022). In 1919 Polish was decreed as the language of instruction here and its name was changed to Karol Szajnocha II Municipal Grammar School (this lasted till 1939).   

In 1944, the school was reorganized into Lviv Specialized General Education School No. 8 (Львівська спеціалізована загальноосвітня школа № 8). Most recently, in 2018, the school was renamed once again: Lyceum No. 8 of the Lviv City Council (Ліцей № 8 Львівської міської ради). The historical focus on German language education was reintroduced in the recent decades. Therefore, the school's "traditions" were brought to the fore in independent Ukraine. In the following, the multilingual and multicultural history of the school during the time of the Habsburg monarchy will be highlighted.

Everyday Learning

Information about the curriculum, statistics and school events can be found in the annual school reports. Analogous to the obligatory language of instruction, these were published in German until 1913 and in Polish between 1919–1939. German was the dominant language of instruction; except for religious and respective native language tuition. Religious instruction was given to students of Roman Catholic faith in Polish, to those of Greek Catholic confession in Ruthenian, and to Jewish students in German. In addition, the lessons on the history of the country were given in Polish (Jahresbericht, 1881, 59). This reflects the multilingualism of the city. Certain conjunctures of the history of the city had an impact on the school as well, such as the strengthening of the Polish national movement, as will be demonstrated below.

The compulsory subjects included religion, Latin, Greek, German, Polish, Ruthenian, geography and history, mathematics, natural history, physics, natural sciences, and philosophical propaedeutics. The subjects Polish and Ruthenian were "relatively obligatory according to the declaration of the parents", which means that the education officers determined which of these two subjects the pupils had to attend. This was due to the high proportion of Polish and Ruthenian native-speaking children at the school (Pacholkiv, 2002). In addition, electives such as French, Italian, calligraphy, singing, shorthand or gymnastics were offered. It is also clear from the reports that over the years, the curriculum was not subject to any particular changes. In a few cases, the weighting of individual subjects was changed slightly in quantitative terms; however, this manifested itself only in an increase or decrease of one hour per year. For example, the subject of geography and history was covered with three hours in second grade in 1873, and then with four hours in 1875 (Jahresbericht, 1873; Jahresbericht, 1875).

To be admitted to the Gymnasium, students had to pass an examination to confirm their suitability. In 1875, the rate of passing students was still only 69% (Jahresbericht, 1875). This prompted the faculty to develop a solution to optimize this rate:

"After the teaching staff in the final conference of the school year 1876 had once again pointed out the circumstance that many pupils in the entrance examination for the first grade brought with them an insufficient knowledge of the German language from the elementary schools, [...] the establishment of a preparatory class [...] [was] approved, which was then opened without further delay and attended by 32 pupils almost entirely with pleasing success." (Jahresbericht, 1877, 59)

In addition to nine hours of German, religion, Polish, Ruthenian, arithmetic and calligraphy were also taught. In addition, at the beginning of the school year 1906, according to a ministerial decree,

"advanced courses in the Polish language were established for less advanced students. These courses are attended by students who do not speak Polish at all, or who do not speak it well enough to participate in regular classroom instruction. The lessons are obligatory for these students and take place in two courses in special afternoon hours (3 hours a week each)." (Jahresbericht, 1907)

Thus it becomes clear that the Polish language and culture gained importance with increasing numbers of Polish-speaking children at the high school.

School Statistics

In general, it should first be noted that the school experienced two periods with highly increasing in student numbers, but also two periods with significant decreases. In 1872, 381 students were listed at the beginning of the school year; after annually increasing numbers, there were already 721 learners at the beginning of the school year in 1883. After this number had fallen to 359 by 1893, a renewed increase was recorded by 1905. The number of children at the beginning of the school year now amounted to 525. By 1911, the number had dropped again to 417 (Jahresbericht, 1874, 1883, 1893, 1905, 1911).

In 1872, about 47.5% of the pupils indicated German, 27.5% Polish and 22.5% Ruthenian as their mother tongue. In 1883, the number of students had increased sharply, 55% indicated German, 33% Polish and 12% Ruthenian. With reduction of the number of pupils until 1893, the figures amounted to 39.5% with German, 42% Polish and 17% Ruthenian mother tongue. In 1906, the number of German, Polish and Ruthenian native speakers was 35.5%, 47.5% and 16.5% respectively. Since the total number of pupils continuously decreased again until 1911, the following figures can be determined: 36% German, 51% Polish and 11.5% Ruthenian.

After an initial increase in the number of children who reported German as their mother tongue, this number declined steadily over the next few decades. Pupils, who reported Ruthenian as their mother tongue, remained at a relatively constant level, with a slight dip in 1883. These figures may be inaccurate, however, as many Greek Catholic Ukrainians reported Polish as their mother tongue (Pacholkiv, 2002), although this influence cannot be quantified. In any case, the share of the Greek Catholic denomination averaged between 15 and 20%. The greatest change was in the proportion of children with Polish as their mother tongue. Within four decades, this proportion had almost doubled. This can be explained by the Polish dominance in Galicia and the resulting increase in prestige for Polish as an administrative language since the late 1860s. This was followed by a strong assimilatory effect towards Polish culture and language, which reflects itself in the indication of the mother tongue in the annual reports (Ther, 2001)

Rituals & Celebrations — Polish, Ruthenian, German Culture

The multicultural character of the students and teachers was reflected in the festive occasions celebrated by the school. First of all, there were those festivities, which were marked by the Habsburg background of the crownland and celebrated loyalty to the dynasty. For example, the emperor's birthday was celebrated every year with a "festive service attended by all the Catholic students and all the teacher". Funeral services for deceased emperors, for example Franz I and Ferdinand I, were also held. When Franz Joseph I visited Lviv in 1880, "the youth of the II Gymnasium, with the entire teaching staff lined up in trellis, they expressed their homage through cheers" (Jahresbericht, 1881, 54). But also the 150th anniversary of the birth of Friedrich Schiller was celebrated in 1909. The students were separated into two parts, as the school did not have a room that could accommodate all the students.

In 1891 the chronicle of the grammar school for the first time mentioned a festive evening in honor of the Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz. This festive day was celebrated annually until 1913 and was accompanied by music and speeches by students and teachers. In 1909, the Polish commander Stanisław Żółkiewski, who was buried in his family tomb in Żółkiew (Zhovkva), was also honored. A "larger number" of pupils took part in this event under the guidance of some teachers. In 1910 and 1911, the poets Juliusz Słowacki and Zygmunt Krasiński, and the composer Frederic Chopin were also celebrated. Then, in 1912, for the first time, a celebration was held in honor of a person of the nationality that had remained unmentioned until now, namely the hundredth anniversary of the Ruthenian national poet Markiyan Shashkevych.

Likewise, a reading hall in the grammar school, established in 1906, and the clubs it hosted reflected the diversity of the school. This hall was equipped with reading material in Polish, Ruthenian and German. The students organized themselves into clubs under the direction of teachers to pursue certain interests. The literary-German club, the literary-Polish club or the ethnographic club should be mentioned here. A literary-Ruthenian club did not exist.

The teaching staff of the II k. k. Staatsgymnasium consisted of professors, teachers, substitutes, comparable to assistant or substitute teachers. In addition, substitute teachers were employed who were responsible for non-mandatory subjects. The number of teaching staff varied, according to the number of students, from 27 to 43, whilst also taking into account the difference in the native languages of the students and the cultural background that accompanied them. Stanisław Kossowski, for example, who at the beginning of his work at the school in 1906 was also the curator of the Polish School Museum, represented the Polish language and culture at the school. He taught Polish in various classes in the compulsory Polish language course and partly directed the Literary Polish Association since 1909. Even before the association was founded, he gave lectures in the reading hall of the high school. For example, two lectures on medieval Polish literature were held in 1908. Another responsible person within the framework of the Polish Literary Association was Bronisław Kasinowski, who in various years delivered the ceremonial speeches in honor of the three Polish poets Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Słowacki and Zygmunt Krasiński, thus also making his contribution to the mediation of Polish culture. On the Ruthenian side, the well-known writer and literary scholar Vasyl Shchurat should be mentioned, who in his turn stood up for Ukrainian culture (Pacholkiv, 2002, 124). Since 1907, he taught Ruthenian in almost all grades during his time at the grammar school.

The Second Imperial-Royal State Grammar School in the Deutsches Volksblatt für Galizien

By decision of the Federation of Christian Germans in Galicia (Bund der christlichen Deutschen in Galizien), the German People's Gazette for Galicia(Deutsches Volksblatt für Galizien) was founded in 1907. The Federation claimed to represent the interests of Catholic and Protestant Germans and aimed at promoting the spiritual and economic welfare of the Germans of Galicia (Vyrsta, 2021). Its goal was thus to include the Galician Germans, a quantitatively small group scattered in the crownland, into a German nation-building project. The newspaper played a major identity-forming role for all Germans living in Galicia, since it reached German readers, who were not organized in associations (Ptashnyk, 2019).  

In the Volksblatt, German-national forces constructed fear regarding developments at the school in the first decade of the 20th century. There was talk of a "constant suppression of the German element" and a "planned nationalization of the German pupils of this grammar school in the All-Polish sense" (Deutsches Volksblatt für Galizien, 23.02.1912, 2). There was even talk of "persecution and harassment" (Verfolgung und Drangsalierung) and "student incitement" (Schülerhetze) (Deutsches Volksblatt für Galizien, 09.02.1912, 2). The criticism was primarily aimed at the Polish principal, Ferdynand Bostel: "Either the present principal supports the actions of the national teachers or else he turns a blind eye and lets the chauvinist professors do as they please" (Deutsches Volksblatt für Galizien, 23.02.1912, 2). In particular, the role of language at the school is brought to the fore in these complaints. According to them, German, the official language of instruction at the high school, is not even perfectly mastered by the professors, and the requirements for Polish are excessive (Deutsches Volksblatt für Galizien, 9.2.1912) . One article dating from May 1914 even said that students would be "crammed with Polish language, Polish literature, Polish history in a way as if they were the main thing." (Deutsches Volksblatt für Galizien 1.5.1914, S. 1). Even if the fears and concerns of such nationalist authors are in many respects absurd and bristling with exaggerations, it becomes clear that overarching social tendencies continued in the school. Polish culture and language were gaining strength, and this development did not stop at a German-language grammar school. The quantitatively small German-nationalist actors of Galicia were just as interested in language rights as other national movements of the Habsburg Monarchy, and they saw them dwindling in 'their' grammar school. 


Known students and teachers

Prinicipals: Ambros Janowski (from about 1873), Edward Hamerski (from 1881), Emanuel Wolff (from 1892), Ferdynand Bostel (from 1897)
Teachers: Vasyl' Shchurat
Students: Stanisław Lem


  1. Deutsches Volksblatt für Galizien, Nr. 147, Nr. 149, Nr. 150;
  2. Jahresbericht des k. k. zweiten Obergymnasium in Lembergs, 1873–1913.
  3. Svjatoslav Pacholkiv, Emanzipation durch Bildung. Entwicklung und gesellschaftliche Rolle der ukrainischen Intelligenz im habsburgischen Galizien (1890-1914), (Wien, 2002);
  4. Stefaniya Ptashnyk,: "Mediale (Selbst-)Referenzen in der galizischen Presse 1850 bis 1865: Gazeta Lwowska und Lemberger Zeitung im Vergleich", Mediale Selbstreferenzen im Netzwerk der Presse der Habsburgermonarchie und ihrer Nachfolgestaaten, ed. Jozef Tancer, (Wien 2019), 19–54;
  5. Philipp Ther, "Chancen und Untergang einer multinationalen Stadt", Nationalitätenkonflikte im 20. Jahrhundert. Ursachen von inter-ethnischer Gewalt im Vergleich, (Wiesbaden, 2001), 123–146;
  6. Nataliya Vyrsta, "Das Schulwesen in den deutschen Kolonien Galiziens von Anfang des 20. Jh. bis 1939 (am Beispiel der Region Pokutien)", Deutsche in der Ukraine. Geschichte, Gegenwart und zukünftige Potentiale, (Regensburg, 2021), 106–107.
  7.  www.schule8.org.ua/istorija.pdf (last accessed: 30.03.2022).
  8.  "У Львові перейменували 33 школи", Твоє місто, 25.01.2018 (last accessed: 30.03.2022).

By Tom Schlundt

The research was done in the framework of the seminar "Stadtgeschichte Digital" at the University of Halle-Wittenberg, winter term 2021/22 taught by Dr. Martin Rohde