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21 March 2023

Rituals and Power. Traditions of the Riflemen`s Society in Lviv at the end of the XIX - early XX century

Antiquities of Lukomorie
Rituals and Power. Traditions of the Riflemen`s Society in Lviv at the end of the XIX - early XX century

The article is about one of the most influential organizations in Lviv — the Riflemen’s Society. And about the rituals and traditions used by its members to justify their influence on urban policy. Members of the Society often became deputies of the City Council, as well as Presidents and Vice-Presidents of Lviv. This structure was accused of actually usurping power in the city. The Riflemen’s Society had a long history, dating back to the heyday of the Commonwealth. This fact was important during the period of Austrian autonomy (from the 1870s to the beginning of the First World War), when the Lviv City Council declared «the restoration and preservation of Polish culture in the territory of former Poland». Thus, the Riflemen’s Society from the society of armed citizens of the city became an elite club that had a decisive influence on local politics. The article considers several examples that give an understanding of the rituals and traditions of Society. And also it’s place in the public life of Lviv. It describes, in particular, the traditional annual «election of the King of Riflemen», when members of the organization gathered in the Town Hall, marched through the city and organized competitions. And also — the celebration of the 350th anniversary of the Society. As well as the role of the Riflemen’s Society during the emperor’s visits to Lviv or during Polish patriotic anniversaries etc. Since the City Council and Rifleman Society, when it comes to personnel, were very often identical, the whole patriotic image, history, longevity from the Commonwealth and ancient heroic history passed from the Rifleman’s Society to the city council. And the City Council was already engaged in the «revival of Poland» under the conditions provided by the Austrian constitution. The Riflemen’s Society gave local politicians and the City Council several advantages at once. First, they could resolve their issues outside of formal procedures. Secondly, the history of the Rifleman’s Society was an argument in discussions about the history of the city and the presence of Poles in it. The very existence of this society was proof of the «revival of Poland» in Lviv. Third, the Society’s success was proof of the success of a «Polish political project» in Galicia that was able to govern society.

Source: Kis’ N. (2021). Rituals and Power. Traditions of the Riflemen’s Society in Lviv at the end of the XIX - early XX century. Antiquities of Lukomorie. №4: 99-105

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