Red Ruthenia (Latin: Ruthenia Rubra or Russia Rubra, , Polish: Ruś Czerwona, Ruś Halicka) is a historic term used since medieval times to refer to the area known today rather as Eastern Galicia or Western Ukraine; first mentioned in Polish historic chronicles in the 1321, as Ruthenia Rubra or Ruthenian Voivodeship (1366–1772).
Ethnographers explain that the term was applied from the old-Slavonic use of colours for the cardinal points on the compass. The ancient totem-god Svetovid had four faces. The northern face of this totem was white, the western face red, the southern black, and the eastern green. However some inconsistency exists to the theory such as the fact that nothing is known about the Green Ruthenia and the Black Ruthenia is located to the west from the White Ruthenia. Another theory suggests that the name could have arise from already established polity of the Red cities (locally Czerwień Grody, Czerwień). Numerous cities in the area carry names related to the color of red.
Since the 14th century and after the disintegration of the Ruthenia the area was contested between numerous historical states such as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (Gediminids), Kingdom of Poland (Piasts), Kingdom of Hungary, Kingdom of Ruthenia, and others. After the Galicia–Volhynia Wars most of the Red Ruthenia for some 400 years became part of Poland, incorporated as the Ruthenian Voivodeship. The historic Red Ruthenia, reaching on its south-west to Przemyśl and Sanok, has been inhabited for nearly the last ten centuries mostly by the Ruthenian population.
The traditional population of Red Ruthenia was Lendians, Boykos, Lemkos and of a Silesian-German group of so-called sylvan Germans (Walddeutsche) between the Dunajec and the San rivers, denationalized back in the 16th to 18th centuries, and among several other people.
Marcin Bielski claimed that Bolesław I Chrobry had settled some Germans in the region to defend the borders against Hungary and Kievan Rus', however, they turned to farming. Maciej Stryjkowski mentioned Germans peasants near Przeworsk, Przemyśl, Sanok, and Jarosław, describing them as good farmers. While evaluating the size of the population of late medieval Poland, one should take into account the development of internal colonisation and the migration of Polish people to Red Ruthenia, Zips, Orava and Podlasia, whom Ukrainians called the "Mazury", poor peasant migrants, chiefly from Mazowsze.
It was in the second half of the 14th century that a new wave of settlers i.e. the Vallachians, came from the South-eastern Carpathians and quickly spread all over Red Ruthenia. From the 15th century, however, the Ruthenian element began to prevail. Nevertheless, it was not until the 16th century that the Vallachian population in the Bieszczady Mountains and the Lower Beskid was completely Ruthenized.
Between the 14th and the 16th c. the area in question underwent a rapid urbanization process, resulting in the founding of over 200 new towns built in the so-called German model (iure Theuthonico), which had been virtually unknown in Red Ruthenia when it was an independent state (Duchy of Halych, before 1340).
Originally it was related to a certain territory between Bug and Wieprz rivers. Its name derived from Cherven ("Cherv" means "red" in Slavic languages), a gord that existed there, possibly in the present village of Czermno. In early medieval times Red Ruthenia was settled by tribes of Western Slavs - Wiatycze Vyatichi and Radymicze Radimichs. According to the Nestor - Primary Chronicle tribe of Vyatichi and Radimichs were 'Lachy' (Lendians). From the mid-950s onward, the Lendians were politically anchored in the Bohemian sphere of influence. Cosmas of Prague relates that the land of Krakow was controlled by the Přemyslids of Bohemia until 999. His report is buttressed by the foundation charter of the Archdiocese of Prague (1086), which traces the eastern border of the archdiocese, as established in 973, along the Bug and Styr (or Stryi rivers. Abraham ben Jacob, who travelled in Eastern Europe in 965, remarks that Boleslaus II of Bohemia ruled the country "stretching from the city of Prague to the city of Krakow".
At one point in the 970s, the region seems to have been taken over by Mieszko I of Poland. This may be inferred from the Primary Chronicle which reports that Vladimir I of Kiev conquered the "Cherven towns" from the Poles in 981 (actually, in 979). It is first attested in A.D. 981, when Vladimir the Great of Kievan Rus' took over the Red Ruthenian strongholds in his military campaign on the border with the land of Lendians. Nestor reports in his chronicle that: "Vladimir marched upon the Lyakhs (k Lyakbotri) and took their cities: Peremyshl (modern Przemyśl), Cherven (modern Czermno), and other towns."
In 1018, it was retaken by Poland, in 1031 annexed to Rus. The Rus'ian expedition against Poland (1030–1031) had as their object not only the recovery of territories previously lost (1018); they were also designated as a powerful blow at the Polish Metropolis of Slavonic rite. In 1031 Harald and his men reached the land of the Kievan Rus, where they served the armies of Yaroslav I the Wise, the Grand Prince of the Rus, whose wife Ingigerd was a distant relative of Harald. In the spring 1031, where he became chief of Yaroslav's bodyguard jointly with Eilifr, son of that Rognvaldr who had originally come to Novgorod with Ingigerd. Harald served a military apprenticeship, fighting in the Polish campaign of 1031, and against to Leasir people.
It came under Polish control in 1340, when Casimir III of Poland recovered it Since these times the name Ruś Czerwona is recorded, translated as "Red Ruthenia", applied to a territory extended up to the Dniester River, with priority gradually transferred to Przemyśl (Peremyshl). Since the times of Władysław Jagiełło, the Przemyśl Voivodeship was called the Ruthenian Voivodeship ("województwo ruskie"), with the priority eventually transferred to Lwów (Lviv). It consisted of five lands: Lwów, Sanok, Halicz (Halych), Przemyśl (Peremyshl), and Chełm (Kholm). The city of Halych gave the name to Galicia.
In October 1372 Władysław Opolczyk was unexpectedly deprived of the office of Count palatine. Although he retained most of his castles and goods in Hungary, his political influence was significantly decreased. As a compensation, he was made Governor of the Hungarian Galicia–Volhynia. In this new position, the Duke of Opole successfully contributed to the economic development of the territories entrusted to him. Władysław mainly resided in Lwów, but at the end of his rule he spent more time in Halicz. The only serious conflict during his time as Governor was related to his approach to the Russian Orthodox Church, which caused the anger of the local boyars, who were strongly Catholics. Probably following Władysław's advices, in 1374 King Louis I published an earthly privilege for the nobility in Koszyce, which ensured the succession of the King's daughters after his death.
Under Polish rule, 325 towns were founded between the 14th and the second half of the 17th century, most in the 15th and 16th centuries (96 and 153 respectively).
Red Ruthenia was acquired by the Austrian Empire in 1772 and remained a part of it until 1918.
Between World War I and World War II this land belonged to the Second Polish Republic. Presently, this area is split. The Western part is the area of Eastern Poland around Przemyśl, the Eastern part (around Lviv) is a part of Western Ukraine.