Part II: Bukovina and Czernowitz/ Cernauti/ Czernowtsy/ Chernivtsi
"... because we are followers of the gigantic German culture."(Benno Straucher)

When the Austrians assumed dominion over Bukovina, it was a territory that had been depopulated by war and its future capital Czernowitz was an insignificant backwater32. The new rulers were by no means favorably disposed to Jews, keeping them in line rather by means of expulsions33. It was only in the wake of the annexation to Galicia in 1785 with the implementation of Joseph II's policies of tolerance that the Jews experienced some relief. In the following section, we will concentrate on the historical phase after 1849 during which Bukovina was a separate crown land. 

Bukovina comprised a mere 10,500 km2. Prior to World War I, it bordered on Romania and Russia, as well as on the Hungarian half of the Hapsburg Empire. Since it was a land in which the coexistence of various ethnic groups unfolded in a seemingly peaceful manner, and since it is a land that no longer exists today but has rather become a synonym for wasted chances for the peaceful coexistence of different peoples in one land, various mythologies have been retrospectively woven around this part of Eastern Europe. For example, it has been labeled as "Europa Minor" and has been characterized as a "microcosm" of the Monarchy, the Hapsburg Empire in miniature a juxtaposition of various ethnic and religious groups. During the final decades of the Hapsburg Monarchy, the Jews of Bukovina were an important pillar supporting the "German" character of Bukovina34

Karl Emil Franzos was born in the Eastern Galician town of Czortków in 1848. His grandfather and father were followers of the Enlightenment and utterly rejected Orthodoxy and Chassidism. Religion retained little significance in his family, whereas the feeling of attachment to German Kultur was paramount: "the German national feeling that comes over me, which I have also actively pursued my entire life, has been instilled in me since my early childhood. When I was just a lad, my father said to me: 'Your nationality is not Polish, not Ruthenian, nor Jewish you are a German.' But just as often, he said to me: 'As to your religion, you are a Jew.'" 35 

Raised as a "German by choice" and a "Jew by obligation," Franzos and his family moved to Czernowitz following the death of his father in 1859 and he attended high school there as had been specified in his father's will. The city and the school offered an environment for upbringing and education in which he felt at home: "Here, I was no longer an outsider, but rather a German among Germans." 36 

The results of the Austrian censuses begun in 1880 provide an idea of the relative dimensions of the various ethnic groups based upon statistics gathered regarding language of everyday use: to the north along the border to Galicia, the demographically largest linguistic group, the Ruthenians, dominated; the Romanians were strongest in the south. The German- speakers were the third most populous group. Then, far behind, came the smaller linguistic groups, the Poles and "Magyars." 

 
Table 3: Language of Everyday Use in Bukovina 1880-1910, Resident Population Possessing Austrian Citizenship
 
Language 1 8 8 0
1 8 9 0
1 9 0 0
1 9 1 0
1930
Ruthenian (Ukrainian)
239,690
42.16%
268,367
41.77%
297,798
41.16%
305,101
38.38%
32.9%
Romania
190,005
33.43%
208,301
32.42%
229,018
31.65%
273,254
34.38%
41.1%
German 
108,820
19.14%
133,501
20.78%
159,486
22.04%
168,851
21.24%
11.0%
Yiddish
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
8.7%
Polish
18,251
3.21%
23,604
3.68%
26,857
3.71%
36,210
4.56%
3.3%
Hungarian
9,887
1.74%
8,139
1.27%
9,516
1.32%
10,391
1.31%
 
Bohemian-Moravian-Slovakian
1,738
0.31%
536
0.08%
596
0.08%
1,005
0.12%
 
Slovenian
38
0.01%
28 
 
108
0.02%
80
0.01%
 
Italian-Ladin
24
 
18
 
119
0.02%
36
   
Serbo-Croatian
0
 
1
 
6
 
1
   
TOTAL
568,453
642,495
723,504
794,929
(97.0%)
[n=854,000]
Source: Emil Brix, Die Umgangssprachen in Altösterreich zwischen Agitation und Assimilation, Vienna-Cologne-Graz 1982, p. 449; Enciclopedia Romaniei, Bd, 1, Bukarest 1938, p. 152.
 
Whereas only one or two languages were dominant in most of the other crown lands, Bukovina as an administrative district with three relevant linguistic groups personified a multicultural ethnic mixture37. Upon closer examination of the situation in Czernowitz, it becomes evident that the linguistic mix there included four relevant groups: German dominated with nearly half of the total, followed by the most widespread regional languages, Ruthenian and Romania, and thereafter the Polish language group, which displayed an unusually high share in comparison to the rest of the province more than a third of all Polish-speakers in Bukovina lived in Czernowitz. 
Table 4: Population Possessing Austrian Citizenship According to Language of Everyday Use, 1910,
 
Language
Czernowitz
%
German 
41,360
48.4
Ruthenian
15,254
17.9
Polish 
14,893
17.4
Romania
13,440
15.7
Bohemian-Moravian-Slovakian
411
0.5
Hungarian
57
-
Slovenian
29
-
Italian-Ladin
13
-
Serbo-Croatian
1
-
TOTAL
85,458
100.0
Source: Die Ergebnisse der Volks- und Viehzählung vom 31. Dezember 1910 im Herzogtume Bukowina nach den Angaben der k.k. statistischen Zentral-Kommission in Wien (Mitteilungen des statistischen Landesamtes des Herzogtums Bukowina, 17. Heft), Czernowitz 1913, S. 54 f., 80 f.
 
 
These statistics of language of everyday use were of enormous importance in the multiethnic Hapsburg state since they served as a measure of the "nationalist standard of living" and were incorporated as a standard in a wide variety of legislation. Following the Ausgleich (settlement) with Hungary in 1867, the Hapsburg Monarchy functioned according to the principle of nationality. No longer was German the unifying official language of the state; rather, the languages which were customarily used in individual provinces assumed preeminence in political and administrative dealings. Whereas in Galicia, this development gave the green light to the process of Polonisierung, German could retain its hegemonial predominance in Bukovina. 

We have consciously chosen to use the term "German-speaking" since this linguistic group was divided into two segments: Jews who designated German as their language of everyday use and the so-called speakers of Buchenlanddeutsch who, under Austrian rule, were settled into the easternmost provinces of the Hapsburg Empire. Buchenland was the German name for Bukovina. The principle of nationality which was accepted in the Austrian half of the Empire recognized the Jews only as a religion and not as a nationality. The consequence of this view was that the Yiddish language was not taken into account in censuses since this would have disrupted demographic polling according to the principle of nationality. It was not until the late 19th century and particularly following the turn of the century that the Jewish nationalist and Zionist movements drew attention to this shortcoming and demanded the right to designate Yiddish. The Austrian bureaucracy reacted with repression, punishing those who insisted upon their right to enter Yiddish on official state census forms38

The Jews of Bukovina were a substantial force in support of German since, even in the last census in 1910, 95.6% cited German as their language of everyday use, and 54.4% of all German-speakers were members of the Jewish religious community. How large the proportion of Yiddish-speakers had actually been remains a matter of speculation. The census conducted under the Romania government in 1930 can provide at best a reference value: according to these results, 75% of the Jews in Bukovina spoke Yiddish39. In attempting to apply this figure to prior circumstances under Hapsburg rule, it must be taken into account that intervening events may well have accounted for a large increase after 1918. In the wake of Austria-Hungary's collapse, thousands of Jews had left Bukovina; a disproportionately high number of them were those who felt a close attachment to the sphere of German culture and set off to find a new homeland in Vienna or in Germany. In contrast to Austrian polling, the Romanian statistics were based on mother tongue. Furthermore, a wave of immigration of Yiddish-speaking Jews from the east, above all from Bessarabia, has taken place in the meantime. 

The Jewish population of Bukovina was thus by no means as homogenous as the census statistics based upon language of everyday use would suggest. They were also sharply divided in their attitudes toward the Jewish religion and Enlightenment ideas into "blacks" and "whites" as the reformed Jews put it. These designations, often used by secular Jews, refer to the dark clothing worn by Chassidim, while those with a worldlier orientation indulged in the elegance of fashion. In Sadagura, where the dynasty of Rabbi Israel Friedman resided amid splendor after having fled from Russia in 1842, in Bojan and in the Carpathian Mountains in Wischnitz, where Rabbi Mendel Hager of Kossov settled in 1850, Bukovina was the headquarters of significant Chassidic communities, whose circle of followers extended far beyond the province's borders. The accuracy of the claim that a quarter of all Jews in Bukovina were Chassidim is a matter that has yet to be subjected to more painstaking investigation40

Thus, a significant amendment must be made to the impression left by statistics suggesting that three or four languages dominated among the populations of, respectively, Bukovina and Czernowitz both figures must be increased by one to include Yiddish. For Czernowitz, this means that German would have to give up a portion of its leading share in favor of Yiddish. The statistics, used to force implementation of proportional national standards, fail to take into account the reality of multilingual life which characterized Bukovina to a very high extent. And this was particularly true for Jews, since both relationships in everyday life as well as matters of business demanded of both sides a knowledge of one another's language41


© 1996 Lichtblau & John, Jewries in Galicia and Bukovina, in Lemberg and Czernowitz
 
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