A Distant Corner of the Eastern Front, 1914

Two Jews stand disconsolately among the ashes of wooden houses burnt to the ground in their Galician town in 1914, only brick chimney stacks left standing. A photograph that was probably taken in August or September during or shortly after what was known as the Battle of Galicia, which ended in a crushing Russian victory over the Austro-Hungarians.

Today, many would be hard put to say where Galicia was – find Krakow and let your finger run eastwards across the map to Tarnopol (Ternopil). Until 1772 it was in southern Poland, but when Prussia, Russia and Austria set about partitioning that country, it fell to Austria, becoming the northernmost province of its empire. After the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary was established in 1867, Galicia came under the part administered by Austria, though bordering on Hungary to the south. There seem to have been larger numbers of Poles than of Ruthenes – Catholic Ukrainians, as distinct from the Orthodox Ukrainians of the Russian empire – and about 12 per cent of the population were Jews. It was the most populous and the poorest province of Austria, probably also in Europe as a whole.

Read more at History Today: http://www.historytoday.com/roger-hudson/distant-corner-eastern-front-1914

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