Lemkivshchyna. Istoryko-etnohrafichne doslidzhennia [The Lemko region: Historical and Ethnographical Studies], vol. 1, Material'na kul'tura [Material Culture], Iurii Hoshko, editor. L'viv: Instytut narodoznavstva NAN Ukrainy, 1999. Pp. 358.

Scholars in Ukraine have long declared their intent to put together a comprehensive monographic work on Lemkos and the Lemko Region. A detailed plan for the work was prepared by Iurii Hoshko and published in 1991. The first volume of this long awaited work has appeared, and it is a terrible disappointment.
What the Institute of Ethnology of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences has produced is nothing more than the sort of bad scholarship that was typical of the communist era: a pompous tome of blatantly subjective scholarship that narrowly selects and interprets the facts in order to arrive at a preordained goal (in this particular case, the incorporation of the Lemkos into the Ukrainian nationality).
Lemkivshchyna's methodology is clearly determined by the traditional adversarial line taken by some Ukrainian scholars toward Russia and Poland, as well as toward Russian and Polish scholarship. Believing (ironically, just like their former communist foes) that history is unidirectional and predictable, too many Ukrainian scholars have inadvertently ghettoized themselves by continuing to produce studies which insist that all roads lead to Kiev. This tome is just more of the same.
In order to produce such a work as Lemkivshchyna in post-communist Europe, the contributing scholars had to ignore not only the remarkable post-1989 resurrection among Lemkos of a Carpatho-Rusyn (non-Ukrainian) identity, but also the historical development of Carpatho-Rusyn ideology. They also had to ignore the prodigious growth of first-rate scholarship on Lemkos and the Lemko region that has sprung up in Poland during the last twenty years.
These are difficult things to ignore, but Lemkivshchyna's contributors have managed to do it by relentlessly toeing a "patriotic" Ukrainian line ("All Lemkos Are Ukrainians Who Were Duped By Poles Into Thinking They Were Something Else"). Lemkivshchyna uses a methodology and worldview that made it outdated before it was even published. Given the huge gaps in the knowledge of Lemko history (especially the period before 1914), this kind of retrograde waste is maddening. But on to specifics:
It is hard to known where to begin, so let us begin at the beginning, namely, the book's preface. Here we find that the author of the preface, Stepan Pavliuk, accuses Russian scholars of placing the interest of their country before their scholarly honesty (p. 4). Criticism of those perennial "bad guys" - the Russians - seems to be today as de rigueur in some Ukrainian scholarly (and other) works as a quotation by Lenin or Marx once was in communist scholarship. What does the supposed dishonesty of some Russian scholars have to do with Lemkos? Not much, except by an analogy that Pavliuk surely did not intend: some Ukrainian scholars practice that same sort of scholarly dishonesty toward the Lemkos (and Carpatho-Rusyns) as some Russian scholars have exercised toward Ukrainians.
It is time for such Ukrainian scholars to discover new territory beyond their traditional haunts of "Imperial Russia" and "Ukrainophobic Poland." This type of reflexive, heavy-handed prejudice seriously undermines any scholarly work. Encountering it in print can be an unpleasant experience, as when in the preface we encounter the term "Russian wiseacres" [rosiis'ki mudraheli] (p. 4). While such an opinion is perfectly valid in any open exchange of ideas, its presence in the preface of a study the author described as a "fundamental two-volume work" (p. 8), immediately alerts the reader that what follows is likely to be highly subjective, inferior scholarship.
Perhaps the most unpleasant evidence of such bias is the apparent wholesale exclusion of the many high quality academic contributions scholars (including those of Ukrainian and Lemko background) in Poland have made to Lemko studies in the last two decades. It is simply impossible for a "fundamental two-volume work" on Lemkos to make no mention of such other fundamental works as those edited by Jerzy Gajewski (Łemkowie: kultura - sztuka -język [Lemkos: Culture - Art - Language], 1987), Jerzy Czajkowski (Łemkowie w historii i kulturze Karpat [Lemkos in the History and Culture of the Carpathians], two volumes, 1993-1994), and Andrzej Zięba (Łemkowie i łemkowznawstwo w Polsce [Lemkos and Lemko Studies in Poland], 1997); as well as works written by Jarosław Moklak (Łemkowszczyzna w Drugiej Rzeczpospolitej. Zagadnienia polityczne i wyznaniowe [The Lemko Region in the Second Commonwealth: Political and Religious Issues], 1997) and Ewa Michna (Łemkowie - grupa etniczna czy naród? [Lemkos - an Ethnic Group or a Nation?], 1995).
Given this neglect of more recent scholarship on the Lemkos, contributors to this volume have had to reinvent the wheel, and in so doing have not even managed to improve on the original design. Lemkivshchyna is little more than a mere collection of short, encyclopedic-style articles, which (at least in the part of the volume dedicated to history) simply regurgitate knowledge that was already better handled elsewhere.
Perhaps the authors of these particular chapters were aware of this, because they chose to hide their names in the table of contents rather than prominently displaying them at the beginning or at the end of their respective chapters (indeed the author of one section on the ethnonym "Lemko" is nowhere to be found). This sort of low-profile authorship was a hallmark of communist scholarship, in which the political propagandistic intent of the scholarship, and its potential service to "the cause" was deemed more important than individual scholarly responsibility.
Now on to matters of content and editing: Volume One is subtitled Material'na kul'tura [Material Culture] and is divided into three parts: "Z istorii Lemkivshchny" [From the History of the Lemko Region], "Hospodarstvo" [Industries], and "Osnovni haluzi material'noi kul'tury" [Main Components of the Material Culture]. Only the editorial committee knows why a volume dedicated to Lemko material culture offers over a hundred pages on the history of the group. It is true that much of Lemko history still awaits scholarly attention, but Lemko history has never been a strength of Ukrainian scholarship. The materials included here serve as proof of that. In fact, much of the content of the history section is either outside the discipline of history, or inferior rewrites of historical scholarship done better elsewhere.
First of all, half of the history section does not address Lemko history per se, but such other disciplines as geography, physical description of Lemkos, linguistics and onomastics. The chapter on geography is in fact a shorter version of a previously published study by Ihor Stebel'skyi ("Fizychna heohrafiia" [Physical Geography] in Bohdan O. Strumins'kyi, editor, Lemkivshchyna, vol. I, 1988). It is senseless to write a five-page chapter on "Naselennia Lemkivshchyny" [Population of the Lemko Region] when an excellent comprehensive study already exists (Ihor Stebel's'kyi, "Heohrafiia liudyny" [Human Geography] in Bohdan O. Strumins'kyi, editor, Lemkivshchyna, vol. 1, 1988). The same criticism can be made regarding the chapter on physical description of the Lemko people. The author not only ignored the most important study of this issue by Lucja Rozbicka (Charakterystyka antropologiczna Łemków [Anthropological Characteristic of the Lemkos], 1962), but failed to do his own original research or even to site other important works including those by F. Karpinski, ("Łemki z Wierchomli pod względem antropologicznym" [Lemkos from Wierchomla Described from an Anthropological Point of View], Przegląd antropologiczny [Anthropological Review], vol. 13, no. 1 (1939) and Franciszek Wokrój ("Skład antropologiczny Lemków sądeckich z okolic Krynicy" [Anthropological Component of Lemkos from the Vicinity of Krynica], Sprawozdania z czynności i posiedzeń Akademii Umiejętności [Report of the Activities and Meetings of the Polish Academy of Sciences], vol. 50 [1949] ).
The chapter on the origin of the ethnonym "Lemko" is so terse and uninspired that one is not surprised to learn that the author achieved this effect by ignoring fundamental works on the subject by Bohdan O. Strumins'kyi, ("Nazva liudei i kraiu" [The Name of the People and Their Land], in Bohdan O. Strumins'kyi, editor, Lemkivshchyna, vol. 1, 1988) and Vasyl' Tsaplenko ("Pokhodzhennia nazov 'hucul', 'lemko', 'boiko' ta sporidnenykh iz nymy sliv" [The Origin of the Names "Hutsul," "Lemko," "Boiko," and Other Words Associated with Them], Zapysky Naukovoho Tovarystva Im. Shevchenka [Journal of the Shevchenko Scientific Society] 185, Zbirnyk Filolohichnoi Sektsii [Notebook of the Philological Section], 34, 1969). How is it possible that there is no mention of a relatively new theory suggesting that the ethnonym Lemko was derived from the name of an ancient ruler of the Lemkos? This theory was developed in Ukraine and can be found in the writings of Mykhail Khudash ("Pytannia pokhodzhennia etnonima Lemky" [The Origin of the Ethnonym "Lemky"], Movoznavstvo [Linguistics], no. 8, 1985; "Pokhodzhennia nazvy Lemky" [The Origin of the Name "Lemky"], Narodoznavchi zoshyty [Ethnological Notebooks], no. 5, 1995).
The chapter on the linguistic characteristics of Lemko speech (pp. 47-55) is a little more comprehensive than previous chapters, but does not offer anything that has not already been seen in studies by Mykhal Lesiv ("Lemkivs'ky hovirky" [Lemko Dialects] in his Ukrains'ki hovirky u Pol'shchi [Ukrainian Dialects in Polish], 1997). Bohdan Strumins'kyi ("Mova" [Speech] in Bohdan O. Strumins'kyi. editor, Lemkivshchyna, vol. 1, 1988) or numerous contributions to the subject by Janusz Rieger, all of whom - with the exception of just one work by Rieger - were ignored here.
And Lemko history? The contributors offer a very fragmented study of Lemko history (pp. 56-117). If by this point one still needs to ask precisely which fragments of Lemko history were emphasized, then I will go ahead and restate the obvious: emphasis was placed on those fragments which serve the interests of Ukrainian nation-building (surprise!). This makes sense: if all roads must lead to Kiev, then any roads that diverge towards another possible destination must be blocked. Let us have a look at what this type of approach means in scholarly practice:
We find an updated version of a brief work by Ivan Krasovs'kyi on Lemko brigandry (originally published in 1964), in which the author once again cites a passage from Ludwik Kubala (p. 71) describing Lemko support for that pivotal manifestation of early Ukrainian patriotism the Khmel'nyts'kyi Uprising of 1648. Stepan Tomashivs'kyi's view (1897) that suggests otherwise is of course ignored.
After this early "proof of Lemko affinity for a Ukrainian national identity, the authors take us straight into the twentieth century! Twelve pages are then devoted to a description of social, cultural and political activity in the Lemko region. Since this chapter was almost exclusively based on Ukrainian sources (including the newspapers Dilo and Nash Lemko, it comes as no surprise that all significant advances and achievements in the region are credited to Ukrainian organizations and activists.
The large and lengthy presence of Russophile activism in the Lemko region is dealt with in the next chapter, which - just to avoid any misunderstanding regarding who are the good guys and the bad guys - is entitled: "Antynarodna diial'nist' moskofiliv na Lemkivshchvni" [Anti-National Activity of Muscophiles in the Lemko Region].
In a mere three pages, readers arc introduced to several pivotal moments in twentieth century Lemko history: the Talerhof internment camp and the Lemko Republics. In the hands of other authors these critical events received quite a bit more attention (Talergofskii Al'manakh [Talerhof Almanac], four volumes (1924-1932); Bogdan Horbal, Działalność polityczna Łemków na Łemkowszczyźnie 1918-1921 [Political Activity of Lemkos in the Lemko Region, 1918-1921], 1997). Why did Talehof and the Lemko Republics receive so little attention in Lemkivshchyna! Could it be because the road to Kiev does not pass through those places?
Actually, it does, but not in a way that does credit to the Ukrainian national movement. While no mention is made of some Ukrainian activists' participation in the brutal World War 1-era persecutions of Russophile activists and of many "ordinary" non-Ukrainophile Lemkos, the contributors give prominent space to their claim (wholly unsupported by any evidence) that Ukrainian activists did not participate in such persecutions.
The competing Ukrainian and Russophile Lemko Republics received equal attention, which is odd, since the Russophile ("Florynka" Republic endured for more than two years, while the Ukrainophile "Komancza" Republic lasted a little more than two months. Did it matter to the authors that the much longer-lived republic was clearly anti-Ukrainian while the other was Ukrainophile? Let the reader be the judge.
Finally, in the chapter on World War II and the numerous forced population resettlements that troubled the region, the Lemko population's strong pro-communist sympathies and extensive assistance to communist resistance were described in all of one paragraph. One can only long for the pre-1989 days when biased communist scholarship required Ukrainian Soviet authors to write enthusiastically about the communist movement among the Lemkos. (Communist scholarship did not have much to recommend it, but even a stopped clock is correct twice a day. They had this one right: many Lemkos were enthusiastic supporters of the communist partisans.)
In the world of today's independent Ukraine, some scholars now prefer to devote excessive amounts of space to the activity of Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), which here receives several pages in contrast to the aforementioned one paragraph on Lemko procommunist sympathies. This is done despite the fact that the UPA was popular only in the eastern Lemko territories and had to be set up and led almost exclusively by non-Lemkos.
After the Lemkos' exile from their homeland, Lemko history comes to an end, at least in this work. And not a moment too soon! Had they kept on going forward in time, these scholars would have had to account for the disturbing efforts by non-Ukrainian Lemkos to keep alive their distinct identity during Poland's oppressive communist period. It was during this period that Warsaw decreed in the imperious way of communists everywhere that all Lemkos are to be Ukrainian.
Even had they been able to get by these (to them) incomprehensible events, Lemkivshchyna's contributors would then have had to confront the Carpatho-Rusyn identity movement that, following the collapse of communism in Poland, spread like wildfire among Lemkos. Better to pretend that these things never happened, that distinct Lemko history, culture and language died in the Carpathians along with those heroic Ukrainian partisans.
It may be difficult to believe, but something positive can actually be said about two other sections of Lemkivshchyna. The subject matter that is the focus of those sections, "the Lemko way of life and culture," has in fact been well researched by Ukrainian authors. The chapters in this section are more lengthy, richer studies that are more often based on primary sources.
So, to summarize: if the reader wants to familiarize him/herself with outdated scholarship and a pro-Ukrainian bias on Lemko history, he/she should buy this book.

New York Public Library     BOGDAN HORBAL

The Polish Review     vol. XLVI   2001   No. 2
Joseph W. Wieczerzak, Editor-in-Chief
Copyright 2001 by the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America, Inc.



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Originally Composed: January 4th, 2001
Date last modified: February 19th, 2008