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Lemberg (Lwów, L'viv) Architecture, 1772–1918: If Not the Little Vienna of the East, or the National Bastion, What Else?

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image of East Central Europe

The historiography on the nineteenth-century architecture of Lemberg—and, for that matter, on Lwów, Lvov, and L'viv—remains a contested field among different national camps. At the same time, these conflicting historiographic traditions have not been able to treat the complex history of this multiethnic city in an adequate manner. On the one hand, there exists a prevailing tendency to view the Habsburg period in the city's history through a national lens, highlighting only those facts and figures that would confirm the city being—or becoming—a bastion of a particular national culture. Consequently, Polish and Ukrainian literature often neglected entire projects and even time periods, assuming that, prior to Lemberg's municipal autonomy of 1867, the entire urban planning achievement by the Austrian German-speaking bureaucracy was insignificant to the city's history and had therefore no consequence for the later fin-de-siècle developments. On the other hand, superficial assumptions of Lemberg serving as “crossroads of civilizations” and “little Vienna of the East” lacked a critical perspective and often overlooked significant local phenomena that evolved independently from Viennese or other influence. In arguing against these simplistic assumptions, this paper suggests an alternative, syncretic approach that combines entangled history and a careful treatment of the ethnic dimension in Lemberg's history.


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