November Uprising in Lviv, 1918

Image - Lviv during the Ukrainian-Polish War in November 1918. Image - Lviv during the Ukrainian-Polish War in November 1918.

November Uprising in Lviv, 1918 (Lystopadovyi zryv). The first stage of armed conflict in the Ukrainian-Polish War in Galicia, 1918–19. The proclamation of the Ukrainian National Rada on 18 October 1918 concerning the founding of an independent Ukrainian state initiated preparations on the part of Ukrainians for taking power in eastern Galicia. The Rada originally hoped to establish a Ukrainian administration with the support of the Austrian authorities (Viceroy, K. Huyn), but when those hopes were only partially fulfilled, it decided to act unilaterally. It then empowered the Ukrainian Military Committee under Captain Dmytro Vitovsky to oversee the entire operation. The seizure of Lviv was planned originally for 3 November 1918. It was to be carried out by the Ukrainian soldiers who constituted the majority of the Austrian troops garrisoned in the city as well as by a brigade of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen (USS) garrisoned in Bukovyna. The creation in Cracow of the Polish Liquidation Commission (28 October 1918), which announced that it would transfer to Lviv, compelled the Ukrainian politicians to move up the date of the operation.

On 1 November 1918 between 3:30 and 4:00 a.m. the Ukrainian soldiers occupied the public utility buildings and military objectives in Lviv without bloodshed. Ukrainian flags were raised, and proclamations issued announcing the emergence of a Ukrainian state. The Austrian authorities were interned, and Huyn handed power over to Volodymyr Detsykevych, the vice-director of the governor-generalship, who recognized the supreme authority of the Ukrainian National Rada. The Austrian military commander of the city called on his subordinates to recognize the Rada. Colonel Mykola Marynovych now became commandant of Lviv, and the newly promoted Colonel Dmytro Vitovsky became commander in chief of the Ukrainian force (numbering 60 officers and 1,200 soldiers).

The Ukrainian uprising met with armed resistance from the city's Polish residents, who constituted about 60 percent of its population. Polish activity before noon on 1 November 1918 was spontaneous and unorganized. Groups of young people assembled in various parts of the city and were directed by members of Polish paramilitary associations. In the afternoon Capt C. Mączyński assumed control of the opposition forces. The Poles managed to obtain arms and ammunition from a police garrison in the Horodok suburb, and in the evening a Polish detachment over 100 strong captured part of the Novyi Svit district.

On the night of 2 November the Poles captured a large ammunition depot in the railway station. At the same time the Ukrainian General Command (from 18 November known as the High Command) was unable to bring into the city detachments of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen: the detachments encountered strong Polish resistance in the Klepariv suburb and only partly managed to break through into Lviv, on 3 November. The failure brought about a crisis in the Ukrainian command, and Dmytro Vitovsky was replaced by Col Mykola Marynovych.

Until 4 November, battles were waged in different parts of the city, notably near the Sienkiewicz School, the Technician's Center, the Uhlan barracks in Vilka, Hora Strachennia, the post office, and Saint George's Cathedral, as well as in the Klepariv and Zamarstyniv suburbs. During that time the Poles (numbering approx 1,000) were able to consolidate gains in the western parts of the city and establish, by 5 November, a north–south dividing line.

The outbreak of combat in Lviv mobilized Ukrainian public opinion in Dnieper Ukraine under German occupation and the Hetman government of Pavlo Skoropadsky. Local political organizations (the Ukrainian National Union, the Kyiv-based Batkivshchyna society) issued appeals for rapid assistance for their Galician brethren. The first Dnieper detachments arrived in Lviv on 12 November 1918.

On 5 November the function of chief commander was taken over by Hryhorii Kossak, who initiated attacks to oust the Poles from the center of the city. The fiercest battles were conducted around the barracks in Vilka. On 9 November the Poles initiated their only offensive, in the area of Saint George's Cathedral. It was unsuccessful, and the Poles remained largely in defensive positions from that time.

On 9 November another change occurred within the Ukrainian high command, which was now entrusted to Col Hnat Stefaniv. He delivered a series of blows in the northern and southern parts of the city in order to break through the Polish front line. On 10 November the Ukrainian detachments attacked the building of the railway directory and then occupied the Ferdinand barracks. From 11 to 13 November a battle was waged for the village of Sokilnyky, and on 13 November the Ukrainian forces commenced an assault along the Vilka road. On 14 November an effective Ukrainian offensive on Zamarstyniv and Klepariv pressed hard on the Polish positions in the north. On 15 November another attack was launched against the Cadet School, and two days later the Polish front line in that region was temporarily broken.

In spite of local victories in such skirmishes the line of the front essentially did not change. On 18 November an armistice was signed, originally for two and then for three days. The Ukrainians tried to bring in auxiliary troops from Stanyslaviv, Ternopil, and Stryi, and the Polish authorities in Warsaw made final preparations for an operation intended to seize Lviv. That operation was entrusted to an assault group led by Major J. Stachiewicz, which on 11 November captured Peremyshl. On 20 November a Polish detachment commanded by Col M. Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski (consisting of 140 officers, 1,228 soldiers, and 8 artillery guns) reached Lviv. On 21 November it began an assault with the intention of encircling the Ukrainians. Though repelled, the assault persuaded Col Hnat Stefaniv to order a retreat, and most of the detachments left town at night. The next day Lviv was in Polish hands, although Ukrainians surrounded the city on three sides. (See also Ukrainian-Polish War in Galicia, 1918–19.)

Próchnik, A. Obrona Lwowa od 1 do 22 listopada 1918 roku (Zamość 1919)
Kuz’ma, Oleksa. Lystopadovi dni 1918 r. (Lviv 1931; 2nd edn, New York 1960)
Skrzypek, Józef. Ukraińcy w Austrii podczas wielkiej wojny i geneza zamachu na Lwów (Warsaw 1939)
Hutsuliak, Mykhailo. Pershyi Lystopad 1918 roku na zakhidnikh zemliakh Ukraïny zi spohadamy i zhyttiespysamy chleniv komitetu vykonavtsiv lystopadovoho chyna (New York 1973)
Kozłowski, Maciej. Między Sanem a Zbruczem: Walki o Lwów i Galicję Wschodnią 1918–1919 (Cracow 1990)
Kuchabsky, V. Western Ukraine in Conflict with Poland and Bolshevism, 1918–1923 (Edmonton–Toronto 2009)

Andrzej Chojnowski

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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