The Cultural Forum “Transcending Borders: GaliciaKult”
Lecture and discussion program

Kharkiv | 01.10.2016-31.10.2016

Over the past decades, Galicia has become extremely fashionable. It has been explored, described in novels; it is an object of nostalgia and interest to the past, brand and label – its name is used to call yogurts, juices, law firms, media and political parties. There is so much of it in different cultural, political and commercial projects that it seems to be eternal and real existence. 

In fact, Galicia as a particular administrative unit – the Habsburg’s crown land – existed since 1772 to 1918. This short time was enough for the occurrence of at least four myths of Galicia. The Austrian myth about the formation of multi-Galician community land inhabited by Poles, Ukrainians, Jewish and other nations sunk into oblivion together with the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Jewish myth about friendly land, a ward for all nations of Caesar, among them Jews, dispersed with the First World War and found its place in literature. Polish myth of Galicia as Polish Piedmont ceased to be relevant after the establishment of the Polish state and only briefly revived in socialistic Poland.  

The most enduring myth about Galicia was Ukrainian. More than a century it nurtured faith in primordial Ukrainian nation and strengthened the stereotype of old Galicia as the “most Ukrainian Ukraine”, that caused antagonism between the “westerners” and the “easterners” in Soviet Ukraine and later. This myth got a new force and interpretation in independent Ukraine, which barely could cope with the Soviet heritage and formation of a new Ukrainian identity. In this situation imaginary Galicia remained a bastion of Ukrainian identity, besides, it gained a new value of European identity. 

It was pulled out the complicated and tragic history of the region and its image was branded as the “little Galician paradise” and “outpost of Western culture”.  This myth was significantly reinforced by the preserved facades of “Western” architecture of the former Galician cities and towns. This constructed Galicia became a cause for pride of many local residents and part of their regional identity. It still attracts and fascinates people from other parts of Ukraine. Hopefully, its attractiveness will gradually weaken, depending on how Ukraine will change by building an inclusive society and political nation.

Why this apparent Galicia was so important for the Ukrainians in XIX-th and XX-th centuries, and today is widely used in cultural, political and commercial spaces? What challenges and dangers does myths creation and the desire to hide difficult and tragic history behind a beautiful image of an idealized past bring us? How threatening are such historical myths and which positive features do they have for modern Ukrainian society? During the ten meetings, the invited historians, political scientists, ethnologists, linguists and literary critics will talk about the real and imaginary Galicia; about the invention, design and branding of Galicia; about the tragic history of this region, whose territory in the XIX-th and XX-th centuries had been a home to different ethnic communities, had been a part of four states, survived two world wars, three occupations, ethnic cleansings, deportations, Holocaust and became mono-ethnic and mono-cultural. 

The program was attended by lecturers not only from different cities of Ukraine, but also from Austria, Poland and Sweden.




  • Iryna Matsevko

    Iryna Matsevko

    Historian, specialist in public history programs. At the time of the forum – Deputy Director of the Centre of Urban History in Lviv and project manager of public history, academic and scholarship programs, coordinator of public projects of the Centre. Now she is an independent curator of historical and cultural projects and lives in Kharkiv. She works, in particular, with the projects "The Fifth Kharkiv" (curator of the program) and "Kharkiv School of Photography: from Soviet censorship to new aesthetics" (coordinator of research authors’ works).

Events within the program(10)

All events (28)

Video of the project(9)