Lemkos (Ukrainian: Лeмки,
Polish: Łemkowie, Lemko: Лeмкы,
translit. Lemky; sing. Лeмкo, Lemko) is/was a small ethnic sub-group inhabiting an area of the Carpathian Mountains known as Lemkivshchyna.
The term "lem" is a neologism of the 20th century, by which "lem" means "only" in its language.
Many Lemkos identify themselves as a minority of Ukrainians. Ukraine has signed but not honored the Copenhagen agreement granting self-identified Lemkos minority rights in Ukraine.
The spoken language of Lemkos is uncodified. It has been variously described as a language in its own right or a dialect of the Ukrainian language.
The Lemkos' homeland is commonly referred to Lemkivshchyna (Ukrainian: Лeмкiвщина, Lemko: Lemkovyna (Лeмкoвина), Polish: Łemkowszczyzna).
Up until 1945, this included the area from the Poprad River in the west to the valley of the Oslawa River in the east. These areas were situated primarily in present-day Poland, in the Lesser Poland and Subcarpathian Voivodeships (provinces). This part of the Carpathian Mountains is mostly deforested, which allowed to run an agrarian economy.
The Lemkos' region became a part of Poland in Medieval times. Later in 1772, Lemkos were made a part of the Austria province of Galicia. This area was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until its dissolution in 1918, at which point the Lemko-Rusyn Republic (Ruska Lemkivska) declared its independence. However, the independence did not last long and the Republic was incorporated into Poland in 1920.
As a result of the forcible deportation of Ukrainians from Poland to the Soviet Union after World War II, the majority of Lemkos in Poland were either resettled from their historic homeland to the former German territories in the North-Western region of Poland or to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Only those Lemkos living in the Prešov Region in present-day Slovakia continue to live on their ancestral lands, with the exception of some Lemkos who resettled in their homeland in the late 1950s and afterward.
Lemkos are/were neighbours with Slovaks, Carpathian Germans and Lachy sądeckie (Poles) to the west, Pogorzans (Poles) and Dolinians (a Rusyn subgroup) to the north, Ukrainians to the east and Slovaks to the south.
The Lemko-Rusyn Republic (1918-1920)
There was the Lemko-Rusyn Republic in the Galician Florynka (near Grybów), which lasted from December 1918 to March 1920. Its self-administration initially proclaimed unity with Russia, then aimed to join Czechoslovakia.
The leaders of the Republic were arrested by Polish troops in February 1919. Afterwards, the entire region was under Polish control in early 1920.
The flag of the Lemko-Rusyn Republic is depicted in the picture above.
Lemkos as a sub-ethnic group is/was characterized in different spheres of life. On the one hand, its features inherent traits of other eastern Slavs. On the other hand, Lemkos have lost their archaic features. The differences were caused especially by the Polish and Slovakish neighborhood. It is noteworthy that contacts with Poles and Slovaks influenced Lemkos' culture enormously.
Lemkos are renown for their strict piety and morality. They are people who live in silence, far from the storms of life and passion, constrained by their faith. This folk finds refuge and its life wisdom in church. Lemkos like a rite to build churches and bring willingly their work in order to sacrifice to church.
Lemkos' religious spirit is also reflected in their daily life and customs. They begin and end every work with God. Due to this it is clear why Lemkos have so little crime.
Church has played a major role in Lemkos' ethnic unity with the Ukrainian folk. As a result, Greek Catholic Church came to the forefront.
By the end of the 18th century Lemkos built exclusively wooden churches. Later they used brick and stone. Asymmetrical composition with a distinct decline in elevation from west to east laid at the heart of Lemkos' churches. The main difference Lemkos' type of Slovak and Polish is that churches were with pyramidal shaped ceiling over the central and eastern constructions.
The architectural structure of traditional Lemkos' church, which was started at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, was divided into three parts: altar, nave and babinet. This corresponded to the notion of the separation of the Universe into three parts:
- the Divine Heavens,
- the world of people who seek God
Lemkos' altar of churches was usually in square or octagonal shape.
Another common borrowing was the construction of the bell tower from the west rather than the construction of a separate building.
The 19th century brought even more specific features of Lemkos' church architecture. They were developed in a design of the roof. Also a clear separation between the pews and the altar disappeared. At the same time, a rectangular tower as an Austrian architectural element began to penetrate into Lemkos' churches.
Typs of Lemkos' churches
There is also a more detailed division of architectural types inherent Lemkos' churches.
For example, the Northwest type is the Classic Lemkos' type. It is featured by a three part design laid out of three squares. The nave is wider and higher than other parts. The tower above the pews is with sloping walls.
The North type of churches is characterized by a two and a three part design. Faceted altar having a protruding sacristy. Dominant tower with sloping walls surrounded by wooden dams, which crowned tent's top pews, altar and nave.
The Northeast type is distinguished by variations without or with a tower including baroque decorative upper end.
The South type stands for churches with a two part design. Elongated rectangular nave with internally dedicated pews. Columnar construction of a tower.
The Southeast type is to be found in Carpathian Rus. Churches have a two part design, a bell tower with straight walls.
Information and pictures are taken from the following websites:
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