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April 1915: When Western Ukraine Welcomed the Russian Tsar as Liberator

In the first stage of WWI Russian army forced a retreat of the Austro-Hungarian army from the western Ukrainian region of Galicia, as Russian Tsar Nicholas visited its largest city - Lviv - he received a warm welcome 

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This article originally appeared at Irrussianality

One hundred years ago today (22 April 1915 new style, 9 April 1915 old style), Tsar Nicholas II visited Lvov, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia. The Russian Army had seized the city in summer 1914 in the early stages of the First World War.

The capture of the Austro-Hungarian fortress of Przemysl in March 1915 finalized the Russian conquest of Galicia, and the Supreme Commander of the Russian Army, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, persuaded the Tsar to visit Lvov to mark this achievement.

According to the chief of the Tsar’s personal guard, Aleksandr Spiridovich, the local population gave Nicholas a warm reception. On arrival in Lvov, the Tsar inspected a guard of honour and met his sisters, Grand Duchesses Olga and Ksenia, the first of whom was working in the city as a nurse.

Nicholas II and Grand Duchesses Olga and Ksenia, Lvov
Nicholas II and Grand Duchesses Olga and Ksenia, Lvov

Next, the Tsar attended a church service presided over by one of the senior bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Evlogy.

Despite instructions from the Grand Duke to keep his sermon apolitical, Evlogy refused to do so and proclaimed that the people of Galicia viewed the Tsar as a liberator.

He then spoke of his ‘joy at seeing Russian eagles over the Carpathian Mountains.’ After the service, Nicholas reviewed a march-past of Russian soldiers, then retired to the Viceroy’s palace for dinner.

Nicholas II reviews a parade of Russian troops, Lvov
Nicholas II reviews a parade of Russian troops, Lvov

After dinner, the Tsar went out on a balcony and spoke a few words to the assembled crowd. According to Spiridovich, he received a ‘rapturous welcome.’

The French military attaché, the colourfully named Brigadier General Pierre Adolphe Henri Victurnien Marquis de Laguiche, Comte de Sivignon, agreed with Spiridovich.

In a telegram to the French Minister of War, he remarked that the Tsar had been received, ‘de la part de la population avec manifestations [de] sympathie très marquées, notamment à Lemberg où [l’]Empereur a été vivement acclamé.’ (‘by the population with very marked demonstrations of warmth, notably in Lemberg [Lvov] where the Emperor was enthusiastically acclaimed.’)

Nicholas II in Lvov
Nicholas II in Lvov

Nicholas was delighted with the welcome in Lvov. On leaving he gave Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich a diamond-studded ceremonial sabre inscribed with the phrase ‘На освобождение червонной Руси’ (‘On the liberation of red Rus’, i.e. Galicia).

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