This article considers the politicization of urban green areas as an under-researched aspect of urban spatial politics in the Habsburg Monarchy and in the specific case of Lemberg. Municipal concern with the maintenance of old private parks and the establishment of new green areas was continuous throughout Habsburg Lemberg's history. Lemberg's parks possessed a kind of privacy that permitted much more flexible use than that of the streets for various informal, non-official and, often, nationalist celebrations. As clusters of true "public spheres" and, at the same time, commemorative sites of diverse and conflicting codings, they became a kind of testing ground for subsequent mass street politics. Although at the fin de siècle the municipality grew increasingly Polish nationalist in its rhetoric, in practice it espoused a conglomerate of imperial and local values, as seen in its erecting a monument to Agenor Goluchowski, rather than to Tadeusz KoŚciuszko.
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.
East Central Europe is a peer-reviewed journal of social sciences and humanities with a focus on the region between the Baltic and the Adriatic, published in cooperation with the Central European University. The journal seeks to maintain the heuristic value of regional frameworks of interpretation as models of historical explanation, transcending the nation-state at sub-national or trans-national level, and to link them to global academic debates.
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