The Galician Slaughter, also known as the Peasant Uprising of 1846 or the Szela uprising (German: Galizischer Bauernaufstand; Polish: Rze? galicyjska or Rabacja galicyjska), was a two-month uprising of Galician[a] Eastern European peasants that led to the suppression of the szlachta uprising (Kraków Uprising) and the massacre of szlachta in Galicia in the Austrian partition zone in early 1846. The uprising, which lasted from February to March, primarily affected the lands around the town of Tarnów.
It was a revolt against serfdom, directed against manorial property and oppression (for example, the manorial prisons); Galician peasants killed about 1,000 nobles and destroyed about 500 manors. The Austrian government used the uprising to decimate nationalist Polish-Lithuanian nobles, who were organizing an uprising against Austria.
In the autonomous Polish-Lithuanian Free City of Kraków, patriotic Polish intellectuals and nobles (szlachta) had made plans for a general uprising in partitioned Poland, intending to reestablish an independent Poland-Lithuania. A similar uprising of nobility was planned in Pozna?, but police quickly caught the ringleaders. The Kraków Uprising began on the night of 20 February, and initially met with limited successes.
In the meantime, the recent poor harvests resulted in significant unrest among the local peasantry. The crownland (province) of Galicia was the largest, most populous and poorest province in the Austrian Empire, and was disparagingly known in Vienna as Halbasien ("Half-Asia"), a province the Austrian officials regarded dismissively as "a barbaric place inhabited by strange people of questionable personal hygiene". In 2014, The Economist reported: "Poverty in Galicia in the 19th century was so extreme that it had become proverbial--the region was called Golicja and Glodomeria, a play on the official name (Galicja i Lodomeria in Polish, ie Galicia and Lodomeria) and goly (naked) and glodny (hungry)." Though Galicia was officially a province of the Austrian Empire, Austrian officials always regarded it as a colonial project in need of being "civilized" and Galicia was never seen as a part of Austria proper.
The Kraków uprising was a spark that ignited the peasants' rebellion. The insurgent nobles made appeals to the peasants, reminding them of the popular Polish-Lithuanian hero Tadeusz Ko?ciuszko and promising an end to serfdom. Some peasants indeed sided with the nobles. Narkiewicz and Hahn, among others, note that the peasants around Kraków, many of whom remembered the promises made by Ko?ciuszko and peasant soldiers who fought beside him, were sympathetic to the noble insurgents. Another account is of the peasants in Chocho?ów, who gathered under a Polish-Lithuanian flag and fought against the Austrians.
Most sources agree that the Austrians encouraged the peasants to revolt. A number of sources point to the actions of the Austrian Tarnów administration, in particular an official identified as the District Officer of Tarnów, Johann Breindl von Wallerstein. Wallerstein offered help to peasant leader Jakub Szela. Serfs were promised an end of their feudal duties if they helped to put down the insurgent Polish-Lithuanian noblemen, and were also paid in money and salt for the heads of captured and killed nobles. Hahn notes "it is generally accepted as proven that the Austrian authorities deliberately exploited peasant dissatisfaction in order to suppress the noble (proto-national) uprising". Magosci et al. write that "most contemporaries condemned the Austrian authorities for their perfidious use of the peasantry for counter-revolutionary aims".
It was ironic, as historian Eric Hobsbawm has noted, that the peasants turned their anger on the revolutionaries, whose ideals also included improvement of the peasants' situation. The progressive ideals of the Polish-Lithuanian insurgents in the Kraków uprising were praised, among others, by Karl Marx, who called it a "deeply democratic movement that aimed at land reform and other pressing social questions". As noted by several historians, the peasants were not so much acting out of loyalty to the Austrians, as revolting against the oppressive feudal system (serfdom), of which the Polish-Lithuanian nobles were prime representatives and beneficiaries in the crownland of Galicia. Wolff takes a different stance here, by noting that it is likely that the Austrian authorities held greater sway with the peasants, who saw improvement in their living conditions in the recent decades, which they associated with the new Austrian rule. Scottish historian Tomasz Kamusella proposes that the serfs and the nobles could be interpreted as different ethnic groups, which would explain the events as an act of ethnic cleansing.
Bideleux and Jeffries (2007) are among the dissenters to that view, citing Alan Sked's 1989 research that contends that "the Habsburg authorities - despite later chargers of connivance - knew nothing about what was going on and were appalled at the results of the blood-lust". Hahn notes that during the events of 1846 "the Austrian bureaucracy played a dubious role that has not been completely explained, down to the present day".
The peasants also aided the Austrian army in defeating the insurgents at the battle of Gdów. Peasants attacked the manor houses of the rebel noble leaders as well as of suspected rebel nobles and killed many hundreds of the estate owners and their families; about 90% of the manor houses in the Tarnów region are estimated to have been destroyed. At least 470 manor houses were destroyed. A popular rumor in Galicia had it that the Emperor had abolished the Ten Commandants, which the peasants took as permission to act against the szlachta. Estimates of the number of lives lost by Polish estate owners and officials range from 1,000 to 2,000. Jezierski notes that most of the victims were not nobles (he estimates those constituted maybe about 200 of the fatalities) but their direct employees. Most of the victims had no direct involvement with the Polish insurgents other than being a part of the same social class. (Davies also notes that near Bochnia, Austrian officials were attacked by overzealous peasantry.) Bideleux and Jeffries discuss the total number of victims noting that "more than two thousand lives were lost on both sides", which suggests that most of the victims were from among the Polish nobility.
The uprising was eventually put down by Austrian troops. Accounts of the pacification vary. Bideleux and Jeffries note it was "brutally put down by the Austrian troops". Jezierski notes the use of flagellation by the authorities. Nance describes the arrest and exile of the anti-Austrian peasants in Chocho?ów. Magocsi et al. note that the peasants were punished by being forced to resume their feudal obligations, while their leader, Szela, received a medal and a land grant.
Serfdom, with corvée labor, existed in Galicia until 1848, and the 1846 massacre of Polish szlachta is credited with helping to bring on its demise. The destruction of crops during the hostilities was one of the reasons for the ensuing famine.
For the Polish nobles and reformers, this event was a lesson that class lines are a powerful force, and that peasants cannot be expected to support a cause of independent Poland without education and reform. Soon after the uprising was put down, the Republic of Krakow was abolished and incorporated into Galicia. Estimates of the number of lives lost by Polish estate owners and officials range from 1,000 to 2,000. In Vienna, the result of the Galician slaughter was a sense of complacency as what happened in Galicia was taken as evidence that the majority of the Austrian empire's peoples were loyal to the House of Habsburg. The Austrian authorities were thus taken very much by surprise by the Revolution of 1848.
The massacre of the gentry in 1846 was the historical memory that haunted Stanis?aw Wyspia?ski's play The Wedding. The uprising was also described in the stories "Der Kreisphysikus" and "Jacob Szela" by Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach.
a ^ The nationality of the peasants is a complex issue. A number of sources describe them as Polish. Hahn notes that the peasants in the region affected by the uprising were not Ruthenian, but rather "Polish speaking Catholics". Others, however, note that the peasants had little national identity and considered themselves Masurians; to quote one of the peasants as late as end of World War I: "The older peasants called themselves Masurians, and their speech Masurian ... I myself did not know that I was a Pole till I began to read books and papers, and I fancy that other villagers came to be aware of the national attachment in much the same way." In turn Wolff prefers to talk of "Galician peasants". A famous Ukrainian poet Ivan Franko, whose family were witnesses of the events, depicted the Galician slaughter in a number of works, particularly "Slayers" (1903), in which he describes the peasants as Masurians, as well as "Gryts and the nobleman's son" (1903), where Franko depicts a broader picture, showing both the aforementioned "Masurian slayers", and the Ruthenians, who opposed the Polish anti-Kaiser movement.
Austriacy wraz z polskimi ch?opami zadali powsta?com kl?sk? pod Gdowem 26 lutego 1846, za? ch?opi wymordowali wielu powsta?ców.