Saturday 16 October 2010

Galician Ciphers Deciphered

The diplomatic representatives of state and civic bureaucracies often send sensitive and or secret communications using coded or ciphered messages. The Western Ukrainian Republic's government-in-exile (ZUNR) did not have the technical means to use ciphers but did make use of creative codes in sharing sensitive information.

I have discovered two amusing examples of coded messages on behalf of ZUNR diplomatists. On 5 January 1923, a curious letter, obviously in code, was sent to finance minister Volodymyr Singalevych from their representative in Rome, Volodymyr Bandrivsky. Writing on the stationary of the Hotel Quirinale, Bandrivsky reported that "one of their men in Western Europe" had written him the following:

Керзон каже, що Костеви не було чого трудитися аж до Льондону їздити, бо Whiskey можна було знайти і у Відні; а як би був написав Витвицькому, то той був би вистарався йому фляшечку і міг би був еї йому передати через Панейка. [Curzon says that Kost [Levytsky] had no reason to take the trouble to come all the way to London because whiskey can also be found in Vienna; and if he had written to Vytsvytsky [the foreign Minister], the latter could have obtained a bottle for him and passed it on through Paneyko.]”

A second example of amusing codes can be found in telegram from ZUNR to Singalevych. In March 1923, Petrushevych had left Vienna for Paris, in anticipation of the final decision of the Allied Council of Ambassadors regarding the sovereignty of Eastern Galicia. On 15 March, when the Council granted de jure sovereignty to Poland, with the condition of a special autonomous statute for the region, Petrushevych sent the following telegram to Singalevych:

"roman decide pour claudia avec condition statut a definir par roman [roman rules in favour of claudia with the proviso [of a] statute to be defined by roman.]" Unlike the January communication, Singalevych penciled in the identity of the code names, roman being "Р. Амб.", the Council of Ambassadors, and claudia "Польща", Poland.