Volodymyr Kubijovyč

Volodymyr Kubijovyč, also spelled Kubiiovych or Kubiyovych (Ukrainian: Володи́мир Миха́йлович Кубійо́вич, romanized: Volodymyr Mykhailovych Kubiiovych; 23 September 1900, Nowy Sącz, Austrian Galicia – 2 November 1985, Paris, France) was a Ukrainian geographer with a specialty in demography, cartographer, encyclopedist, politician, and statesman. Of mixed Ukrainian and Polish ethnic background, he was an important intellectual supporting the Ukrainian national movement in inter-war Poland, and his scholarly works from this period dealt with the Ukrainian ethnic presence in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Romania, and with the geographical boundaries of ethnographic Ukraine.

Volodymyr Kubijovyč

During World War II he headed the Kraków-based Ukrainian Central Committee which organized social and charitable work among Ukrainians in occupied Poland. Kubijovyč became a main proponent of the cooperation between certain Ukrainian nationalist organizations and Nazi Germany with the ultimate goal of achieving an independent Ukrainian national state. After the war, he retired from political work but became one of the leading scholars of the Ukrainian diaspora in the West. After 1945, and throughout the Cold War, Kubijovyč remained a target of vociferous criticism by the Soviet authorities, focusing on some of his wartime activities, in particular his sponsoring of the Ukrainian division of Waffen-SS.

Early life

Kubiyovich was born in 1900 in Nowy Sącz; his father was an ethnic Ukrainian while his mother was an ethnic Pole, and he was baptized into the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. From 1918, Kubijovyč was educated at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. After the collapse of Austria-Hungary, he served in the ranks of the Ukrainian Galician Army which unsuccessfully fought the Poles for control of the eastern part of the former Austrian province of Galicia. At the end of the Ukrainian–Polish war, he returned to his studies in geography at the Jagiellonian University. During the years 1928 to 1939, Kubijovyč taught at this institution as a lecturer (docent) but in 1939, was denied further tenure under political pressure from the Polish Ministry of War. In 1940, he was appointed professor of the Ukrainian Free University in Prague which managed to preserve a precarious existence under the Nazi occupation. From 1931, Kubijovyč had been a full member of the Galician-based Shevchenko Scientific Society, which had with some difficulty carried on its scholarly work under Polish rule; Kubijovyč headed its geography commission.

Before 1939, Kubijovyč's scholarly works concentrated on the geography and demography of the Carpathian Mountains, especially the eastern Beskids, populated largely by the Ukrainian-speaking minority. At this time, he questioned official Polish statistics concerning the ethnic make-up of the inter-war Polish Republic and maintained that the official numbers on Ukrainians were grossly understated. He was an editor and co-author of the pioneering Ukrainian-language Atlas of Ukraine and Adjacent Lands (1937) and the equally pioneering Ukrainian-language Geography of Ukraine and Neighbouring Lands (1938, 1943).

Second World War

During World War II he headed the Ukrainian Central Committee (UCC) in Kraków which was the officially recognized Ukrainian community and quasi-political organization under the Nazi occupation. It was responsible for social services, veteran affairs, education, youth and economic activities. For example, after a flood and famine in Transcarpathia, the Committee was able to save and resettle 30,000 children. By late 1943 it operated 1,366 kitchens and was able to feed 100,000 people. When the Germans began to kill Ukrainian peasants in the Zamosc region for alleged resistance, Kubijovyč's protest to Hans Frank was able to halt that slaughter. The Committee was also able to build student residence housing for 7,000 students, provided scholarships worth 1.35 million zlotys, and organized over 100 youth groups, camps and sports clubs.[1]

After Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Kubijovyč worked with the Germans in the creation of the Galicia Division (1st Ukrainian), and took a leading role in its organization. The division was organized after the battle of Stalingrad as part of the German program of creating foreign formations of the Waffen-SS to fight on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union and was to be commanded by German officers. These foreign units were formed mainly with volunteers recruited from nations that suffered enormously under Soviet rule: Estonians, Latvians, Ukrainians, and Russians (the Russian Liberation Army). The proponent and formal organizer of the division was SS Brigadeführer Otto Wächter, the Nazi governor of the newly created Galicia District and former governor of Kraków. The proposal was made to Heinrich Himmler on March 1, 1943, and the division was publicly inaugurated on 28 April.[2] With the examples before him of the Polish and Ukrainian legions formed in Austria-Hungary during the First World War, Kubijovyč was hoping to influence its essence and structure as the core of a future national army which would defend the interests of the Ukrainian people after the defeat of Germany and the chaos that was expected to ensue. However, the Germans would not allow the use of the name "Ukrainian" in the division's name and the end of the Second World War turned out to be quite different from what was expected.

During the war, on more than one occasion Kubijovyč protested to the German authorities against the rough treatment of the local Ukrainian population. Some of this material was later brought up as evidence at the famous Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals.[citation needed]

According to some Ukrainian sources, during the war Kubijovyč used his official position to ameliorate Ukrainian-Polish tensions in Galicia and in 1944 called for a halt to the fierce armed underground conflict between the two sides.[3] These sources also credit him with saving some three hundred people, "basically Jews", from persecution by the Nazi authorities.[3]


In 1944, Kubijovyč, moved to Germany where he at first settled in the American occupation zone in West Germany, and then later moved to France. In Germany, he reorganized the Shevchenko Scientific Society as an émigré institution. He was its Secretary General from 1947 to 1963, and, from 1952, President of its European branch.

In exile, Kubijovyč became the chief editor of the Ukrainian-language Encyclopedia of Ukrainian Studies (Entsyklopediia ukrainoznavstva, ten volumes, 1949–84), the largest scholarly project undertaken by Ukrainian émigrés during the Cold War. While written largely reflecting Kubijovyč's own strong Ukrainophile views, his encyclopedia, was meant to preserve Ukrainian national heritage which, at that time, was intentionally neglected and downgraded by the Soviet Russian-speaking regime in Ukraine. Kubijovyč's Entsyklopediia continues to be a valuable source of reference to this day.

Kubijovyč later became the chief editor of Ukraine: A Concise Encyclopædia published in two volumes (1963–71), an English translation of the thematic part of the Entsyklopediia ukrainoznavstva. A new revised and expanded English-language edition of the great ten-volume alphabetic part was published under the title Encyclopedia of Ukraine in Canada in the 1980s and 1990s, and was only completed after Kubijovyč's death. It is presently being put on-line.

During his exile in France, Kubijovyč enjoyed considerable prestige as the most prominent Ukrainian scholar in the free world. He also enjoyed the respect of the influential Polish intellectual, Jerzy Giedroyć, another resident of Paris, and who wrote in his autobiography that he thought that Kubijovyč had behaved honourably during the war ("Zachowal się świetnie"). In 1991, after Ukraine declared independence from the Soviet Union, scholars in Ukraine began reprinting Kubijovyč's major works, especially his encyclopedias, making them available to a wider readership in the home country for the first time.

In his later years, Kubijovyč published three volumes of memoirs describing his experiences in interwar Poland and in the Second World War, and émigré scholarly life in Germany and France during the Cold War. The most wide-ranging of these was the Ukrainian-language volume titled I am 85 Years Old (Paris-Munich, 1985).

Volodymyr Kubijovyč died on 2 November 1985 in Paris.

Modern legacy

Volodymyr Kubijovyč on a Ukrainian postal stationery item.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the hostile Soviet propaganda line on Kubijovyč lost its official status, and was replaced by a nationalist line. His works, including his encyclopedias, were published in Ukraine where they are now in wide circulation. In 2000 a pre-stamped envelope was issued by the Ukrainian postal service honouring the hundredth anniversary of Kubijovyč's birthday.


  • Kubijovyč, Volodymyr (ed.) (1963). Ukraine: A Concise Encyclopædia. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-3105-6.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • "Kubijovyc, Volodymyr". Encyclopedia of Ukraine. II. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 1988. p. 697.
  • Shablii, Oleh (1996). Volodymyr Kubiiovych: Entsyklopediia zhyttia i tvorennia (Volodymyr Kubiyovych: Encyclopedia of Life and Creativity) (in Ukrainian). Paris-Lviv: Feniks. A sympathetic and detailed account of his life and work in Ukrainian written by a professional geographer.
  1. Myroslav Yurkevich. (1986). Galician Ukrainians in German Military Formations and in the German Administration. In Ukraine during World War II: history and its aftermath : a symposium (Yuri Boshyk, Roman Waschuk, Andriy Wynnyckyj, Eds.). Edmonton: University of Alberta, Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press pg. 69
  2. Basil Dmytryshyn, "The Nazis and the SS Volunteer Division 'Galicia'", American Slavic and East European Review, Vol. 15, No. 1. (Feb., 1956), pp. 3-6.
  3. Dovidnyk z istoriï Ukraïny, 3-Volumes, Article "Kubiiovych Volodymyr" (T. 2), Kyïv, 1993-1999, ISBN 5-7707-5190-8 (t. 1), ISBN 5-7707-8552-7 (t. 2), ISBN 966-504-237-8 (t. 3).