Ormianie polscy czy ukraińscy? O sposobie pisania historii Ormian na ziemiach dzisiejszej Ukrainy Zachodniej
Polish or Ukrainian Armenians ? On the means of recording the history of Armenians settled in the territories of the present-day Western Ukraine
Contemporary Ukrainian historiography consistently applies the term Ukrainian Armenians in its description of the Armenians of the former Polish Kingdom, subsequently Galicia, and ultimately the eastern provinces (województwo) of interwar Poland. Equally in the international literature on the subject this designation competes with the traditional name for this group that had earlier been used widely and to this day is still current in Polish historiography. This being: Armenians in Poland, or Polish Armenians, something that also reflects the traditional designation in Armenian itself — Lehahayer. The Polish historiographic tradition is in accordance with the tradition of the group itself. Its eminent chroniclers (Franciszek Zachariasiewicz, Sadok Barącz) have perceived their history through the prism of contacts with Poland. The term Ukrainian Armenians started to be widely applied following the inclusion of these areas within the composition of Soviet Ukraine, in which the former Armenian settlement had been concentrated (1939, 1944). This refers to the actual nationality and falsifies historical reality. This onomastic treatment was especially propagated by Jaroslav R. Dashkevych. This Ukrainian historian was responsible on the one hand for greatly enhancing knowledge about the history of Polish Armenians though equally on the other hand, his Ukrainian patriotism and conviction as to the rights of Ukrainians to the lands of former Eastern Galicia meant that he strove to prove theses on the insignificance of the Polish state in the history of the Armenian diaspora, on conflicts between Armenians and Poles, the persecution of the latter by Poland and their natural alliance with the Ukrainian people. Yet at this time when the Armenians settled in the Polish Kingdom (the 14th to the 18th centuries) the Ukraine as a state, and even as an idea did not exist and the Kingdom was to be their place of refuge, point of reference and an important factor conditioning economic and cultural development. The Polish authorities were the issuers of the privileges that enabled the maintaining of group identity, the creation of parish and church organisations, the preservation of their own legal system. Nothing is known — besides hypotheses — as to the analogical guarantees from pre-Polish times i.e. Ruthenian. The relations between Armenians and Ruthenians (the term Ukrainian becoming only widely used towards the end of the 19th century) were complex and frequently encumbered with the imprint of competition as well as conflict. It is enough to state that the creator of the concept of a separate Ukrainian Ruthenian state, Bohdan Chmielnicki, the leader of the Cossack uprising against Poland (1648), carried out massacres of all those ethnic groupings associated with the Polish state. Besides the killing of the gentry, the Catholic clergy and Jews, he murdered also Armenians. A similar fate was to befall and unite Poles and Armenians during the Second World War when they fell victim to organised killings at the hands of Ukrainian nationalists (1943–1945). Indisputable is also the final direction in the acculturation of Armenians. Together with integration into Polish society — to a large degree with its elites (the gentry) — they adopted Polish as a language, cultivated a sense of loyalty towards their new homeland, and when travelling abroad would present themselves as Lehc‛ik‛, in other words as Poles. Here one could enumerate many members of the clergy and in particular the figure of Simeon Lehac‛i, one of the best known intellectuals of this group from the 17th century. The exceptionally strong material footing of Armenians in Poland, the result of an almost total monopolization of Poland’s trade with the Orient, manifested itself in the form of influence exerted on the significant cultural change referred to as the Orientalization of Polish culture in the period from the 16th to the 17th century. Group memory blotted out episodes of conflict and created an extremely strong myth of Poland as a second homeland, which meant that Armenians resettled alongside Poles within the new borders of the post-1945 state, while their contemporary activists keenly strive to regain the right to their history and reject the Ukrainian historiographic usurpation of their past.
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