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                        see: M.Panchuk. Political Rusynism in Ukraine


Paul Robert MAGOSCI Professor, Chair of Ukrainian Studies, University of Toronto, Ph.D. in History

Who are the Rusyns?

In 1875, geographers from the old Hungarian Kingdom erected a monument in a remote region of their country that carried the following inscription: "Precise instruments have confirmed this point where the latitude and longitude lines meet as the center of Europe."(1) Just over a century later, in 1977, the former Soviet authorities, who by then ruled the area, erected a second monument to mark the center of the continent that stretches from the Arctic shores of Norway in the north to the beaches of Crete in the South, and from the coast of Ireland in the West to the Ural Mountains in the East. The precise center where the monuments are located is near the village of Dilove (formerly Trebusany) in the foothills of the north-central Carpathian Mountains that from time immemorial has been inhabited by an East Slavic people called Carpatho-Rusyns, or simply Rusyns (sometimes in English: Ruthenians). Thus, in geographic terms, the Rusyns are not a peripheral group, but rather one whose homeland Carpathian Rus is literally in the heart of Europe.

According to present day international boundaries, Rusyns live in a more or less compact territory within the boundaries of three countries: Ukraine, Slovakia, and Poland. There is also a small group of Rusyns in Yugoslavia, descendants of immigrants who left the Carpathian homeland in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In theory, the number of Rusyns could be as high as 1.2 million people. This includes 977,000 in the Transcarpathian oblast (former Subcarpathian Rus) of Ukraine; 130,000 in the Presov Region of northeastern Slovakia; 80,000 in the Lemko Region of southeastern Poland as well as in other parts of that country; and 30,000 in the Vojvodina (Backa) and Croatia.

The Problem of Nomenclature

It is important to keep in mind what is meant by the term Rusyn. Traditionally, the name Rusyn or its local variant Rusniak has been used by the East Slavic inhabitants of the Carpathian region to describe themselves. However, by the twentieth century, in particular its second half, the historic names Rusyn/Rusniak were replaced by others, such as Ukrainian in Soviet Transcarpathia and the Presov Region of Slovakia, or Lemko in Poland. There are also Rusyns who have given up identifying with any East Slavic group, and instead associate with the dominant nationality of the country in which they live, such as Polish in Poland or Slovak in Slovakia. These changes in national self-designation have in some cases come about gradually, prompted either by intellectual conviction or national assimilation, especially among families of nationally-mixed parentage. In the latter case, children often choose to identify or are identified by their parents with the dominant state nationality, Slovak or Polish.

More often, however, the change in nomenclature has been the result of governmental decree banning the name Rusyn from official usage, as was the case after 1945 in Soviet Transcarpathia and Poland and by the early 1950s in Czechoslovakia. The result is that today one can find within the same ethno-linguistic group, within the same village, in some cases even within the same family, people who identify as themselves a Rusyn, or Lemko, or Ukrainian, or Slovak, or Pole. Moreover, in the case of the East Slavic designations Rusyn/Rusniak, Lemko, Ukrainian some people consider these as synonyms, others as mutually exclusive terms. In other words, some people will say that Rusyn is simply the older historic name for Ukrainian, and that Lemko is a regional name of Ukrainian, while others are convinced that the names Lemko or Rusniak are regional forms for Rusyn which, in turn, designates a people that is distinct from the Ukrainian and every other surrounding nationality.

It should be noted that the estimated figure of 1.2 million Rusyns given above refers to all people of the same linguistic and ethnographic origin, regardless of how they designated themselves in documents such as internal identity papers, passports, or decennial censuses. Our concern here will be primarily with the present-day Rusyn movement or with that portion cf the group (the precise numbers are unknown) that considers Rusyns to comprise a distinct people.

Historical Background

In it neither possible nor appropriate to provide here an extensive outline of Rusyn history. It is necessary, however, to keep a few historical factors in mind in order to comprehend the current situation.

Rusyns never had their own state or political independence. Since the Middle Ages, the Rusyn homeland was ruled by Hungary and Poland or Austria. Nonetheless, during the past century and a half, they have at various times been recognized by neighboring or ruling states as having the right to a territorial entity whose existence was justified on the grounds that it was somehow of and for Rusyns that it would have some degree of autonomy or self-rule. (2) The first experience in this regard came in late 1849, when in the wake of the failure of the Hungarian revolution, the Austrian government divided Hungary into five military and seven civil districts. One of the civil districts (Ungvar/Uzhorod) was based in the Subcarpathian region and administered by local Rusyn political and cultural activists. The experiment lasted only a few months.

Much more important was the period of political upheaval that followed World War I. At that time, in an effort to retain Rusyn-inhabited lands within Hungary, the new government in Budapest created, in December 1918, an autonomous Rusyn Land (Ruska Krana) that continued to function even after a pro-Soviet Communist regime came to power in March 1919. (3) Simultaneously, the recently founded Czechoslovak government also courted the Rusyns, offering them a self-governing province to be called Rusinsko (Rusynia), or Subcarpathian Rus (Podkarpatska Rus), if they would join the Czechs and Slovaks in their new state. In May 1919, the Rusyns accepted the Czechoslovak offer. Most significantly, the Rusyn issue had reached the international political forum, so that "the fullest degree of self-government" for the "Ruthene territory south of the Carpathians" was guaranteed by two international treaties at the Paris Peace Conference (St.Germaine-en-Laye, September, 10, 1919 and Trianon, June 4, 1920) and by the Czechoslovak constitution (February 29, 1920).

For the next two decades the vast majority of Rusyns approximately three-fourths of the total number at the time lived in Subcarpathian Rus, a territory that was Rusyn in name, that had its own Rusyn schools, and that had all the trappings of self-rule including a governor, a partially elected diet, a national anthem, and a national theater. Finally, in late 1938, actual autonomy was granted to Subcarpathian Rus (by then renamed Carpatho-Ukraine). Not only had autonomy been demanded by local politicians, it was also one of the provisions of the infamous Munich Pact, which led to the restructuring of Czechoslovakia. The Carpatho-Ukraine was to function for nearly half a year until the complete liquidation of what remained of Czechoslovakia in March 1939.

The twentieth century also witnessed three short-lived efforts at Rusyn independence. The first of these came in 1919, when after being successful in their bid to join fellow Rusyns of the mountains, the Lemkos living in the former Austrian province of Galicia created an independent republic that functioned for sixteen months before its government was arrested in March 1920 by the authorities of Poland, which became the new ruler over Rusyn lands north of the Carpathians. At the same time, along the eastern edge of Subcarpathian territory a regional ethnic group known as Hutsuls established their own republic which lasted four months (February-June 1919) before being driven out by troops from Romania. The last unsuccessful attempt came two decades later, when the Carpatho- Ukrainian autonomous government symbolically declared its independence on the last day of Czechoslovakias existence (March 15, 1939) before the province was invaded and reannexed to Hungary. (5) The point is that although Rusyns may never have had their own state, they did have for a significant period of time in the twentieth century the experience and therefore historical memory of their own political entity, Subcarpathian Rus, which was recognized both by the state in which they lived (Czechoslovakia) and by the international community (Paris Peace Conference, League of Nations).

Although the Rusyn homeland is located in the geographical center of Europe, it is at the same time on a cultural border. It is on that great divide between the Catholic West and Orthodox East, what Riccardo Picchio has classified in the broadest cultural terms as Slavia romana and Slavia orthodoxa. (6) They are, this division has had a profound effect on the Rusyn psyche.

The very language or series of dialects that Rusyns speak reflect the influences of both cultural spheres. Thus, while their speech clearly belongs to the realm of East Slavic languages, much of their vocabulary, pronunciation stress, and even syntax is West Slavic.

The cultural divide is most graphically evident in what is for traditional Rusyn culture the all-important factor of religion. Some Rusyns are Orthodox, but the majority, at least during the past two centuries, is Catholic, or more precisely Greek Catholic. These confessional differences reflect a whole mindset that is either western- or eastern-oriented. The eastern mind-set tends to surrender the self to fate in the hope that the Christian God and his intercessors, Christ and the Virgin Mary, might somehow alleviate the burdens of this earthly life. In contrast, the western mind-set seems to feel that if an individual receives education or political training, he or she can somehow put their lives in order and thus be able to have some control over his/her destiny.

The east-west dichotomy in the Rusyn psyche also impinges on attitudes toward national identity. The eastern orientation tends to think in universalistic terms and be satisfied with viewing Rusyns as part of a single East Slavic Orthodox religious and cultural world.

The western orientation epitomized by the very distinctiveness of Greek Catholics from other Catholics accepts the idea of national and linguistic particularity. Universalism versus particularism are attitudes that greatly influence Rusyn political and cultural leaders, especially regarding the nationality question.

Being a stateless people, Rusyns have had, at least until the second half of the twentieth century, to depend on their leaders, the intelligentsia, to determine the precise direction of their national revival. The Rusyn national revival began during the second half of the nineteenth century and culminated during the interwar years, by which time it had evolved into a comprehensive movement concerned with political, cultural, and social issues. Most of the nationalist intelligentsia did agree on one basic premise: that Rusyns are East Slavs, and that their linguistic and cultural traditions were based in the East, albeit with pronounced western influences. What they could not agree upon, however, was whether Rusyns were a branch of the Russian nationality, or of the Ukrainian nationality, or whether they formed a distinct fourth East Slavic Rusyn nationality. Not surprisingly, debates about national and linguistic orientation quickly got caught up in local partisan politics. Politicians had their own agendas, and they more often than not made opportunistic use of the nationality question in order to promote party or other ideological interests.

As for the nationalist intelligentsia, they easily fulfilled the precepts of all activists in the formative stages of national movements. Namely, they had no difficulty using history to formulate an ideology that was able to convince people they were either Russian, Ukrainian, or Rusyn. (7) The debate over the national orientation of the Rusyns was not yet resolved before the outbreak of World War II, despite the achievements during the interwar years of the Ukrainian orientation in the largest Rusyn territory, Subcarpathian Rus (Carpatho-Ukraine).

In a sense, the year 1939 marked an end to the natural evolution of discussions about Rusyn nationality. This is because in that year and for half a century, the nationality debate was effectively stifled by state intervention. This happened first under fascist regimes in Hungary (which reannexed Subcarpathian Rus), in Slovakia (which retained the Presov Region), and the German-ruled General-gouvernement (which ruled the Lemko Region); and then as a result of Soviet rule after 1945, whether directly in Subcarpathian Rus (renamed Transcarpathian Ukraine) or through pro-Soviet Communist governments in Poland and Czechoslovakia. As we know, the Communist era with its anti-democratic approach to the nationality question was to last until the revolutions of 1989 and 1991. The only exception was the case of the small group of Rusyns in the Vojvodina region of Yugoslavia. Although a Communist regime was installed in their land as well, the Yugoslav government allowed the Vojvodina Rusyns to decide their own national orientation.

This was not to be the case for the Rusyns living in the Carpathian homeland. In short, the Soviet regime declared that further debate was unnecessary because the nationality question was supposedly solved long ago. Based on a decision made in 1924, all Rusyns, regardless what they may have called themselves, were declared to be Ukrainians. All those who opposed the Ukrainian viewpoint were accused of having "anti-historical" and, therefore, "anti-Soviet" opinions: they often were removed from their jobs or were arrested as "counterrevolutionaries." Closely connected with these developments was the liquidation first in Soviet Transcarpathia (1949) and then in Czechoslovakia (1950) of the Greek Catholic Church, which by the mid-twentieth century had become the center of the Rusyn orientation.

When Communist regimes were established in Poland (1945) and Czechoslovakia (1948), they adopted the Soviet line and decreed that the Rusyn minorities within their borders were Ukrainians. They forbade Rusyn publications and the use of the name Rusyn in official documents. The situation was particularly bad in Poland. Not only were the Lemko Rusyns declared to be Ukrainians, they were forcibly deported en masse from their Carpathian homeland in (1947) and scattered throughout the former German lands of (post-1945) western and northern Poland. (8)

It is ironic to note the advantages that accrued to the governments in question through their use or, more properly, misuse of the name Ukrainian. For example, by declaring that the population was Ukrainian, this allowed the Soviet Union to justify the annexation in 1945 of Subcarpathian Rus, a territory that throughout the war it had agreed should be returned to Czechoslovakia. Nationalist ideology could now conveniently serve Stalins political designs on the international stage. In any case, could the Soviet workers state refuse the request of fellow "Ukrainian workers" in Transcarpathia who "voluntarily" were demanding to be united with "Mother Ukraine?"

In neighboring Poland, identification of Lemkos as Ukrainians made it easier for the government to deport them, since the Communist Polish Government argued that, as "Ukrainians," the Lemkos were helping the anticommunist Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), which was held up in the Carpathians and still fighting the Polish and Soviet authorities after the end of World War II. South of the mountains in Czechoslovakia, the administrative imposition of a Ukrainian identity beginning in 1952 proved to be advantageous to those Slovaks who had always claimed that "their Rusniaks" were really "Slovaks of the Greek Catholic faith."(9) In essence, forced Ukrainization (along with the liquidation of local Greek Catholic Church and forced collectivization of agriculture) led during the 1950s and 1960s to the most rapid degree of Slovakization and national assimilation that Rusyns ever experienced. It is nonetheless true that during this same period, the Czechoslovak government provided extensive funding to create a wide range of cultural organizations that were Ukrainian in national form but socialist in content. A well-paid local Ukrainian intelligentsia was even able to attain several significant scholarly and literary achievements. However, this had little real effect upon the Rusyn peasant mass in Slovakia. For them, the choice was simple: if one could not be a Rusyn, better declare oneself a Slovak than a Ukrainian (which among other things was associated with the hated East).

Once again Yugoslavia was the exception. The government there provided both funding and legal guarantees, while the local intelligentsia decided to adopt a Rusyn orientation and to develop the local speech into a sociologically-complete Rusyn literary language. In fact, Rusyns became one of the five official nationalities in the autonomous province of the Vojvodina.

Outside Yugoslavia the rule was that after 1954, Rusyns ceased to exist. All Soviet, Czechoslovak, and Polish documents and publications referred to the population only as Ukrainians. (10) Publications in the West, both by Ukrainian émigré and North American Soviet and East European specialists, also accepted the view that Rusyns did not exist, or to quote the New Columbia Encyclopedia (1975): "There is no ethnic or linguistic distinction between Ukrainians and Ruthenians (Rusyns)." "The majority of the population of the Transcarpathia is Ukrainian. "(11)

The Current Situation

Then came the 1980s. The first signs of change came in Poland, where the Lemko Rusyns, both those who were dispersed in the "West" of that country as well as about 10,000 who had managed to return to the Carpathian homeland, began to gather at annual cultural festivals. These "unofficial" festivals received no government financial support, but by the same token they were not under any ideological control. As a result, the Lemkos began to revive the idea that they were neither Poles nor Ukrainians, but rather part of a distinct Slavic people closely related to Rusyns living south of the mountains in Slovakia. The Lemkos seemed to be acting in isolation and for several years that was indeed the case. (12)

Later came the changes brought about by the November 1989 Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. New initiative committees were founded that were often dominated by individuals who had not been associated with the Communist regime. At first, the initiative committees tried to transform (they would say democratize) the older Ukrainian organizations, but when that failed they established their own Rusyn organizations and publications.

At the very same time, in neighboring Transcarpathia, the first Rusyn-oriented organization to exist anywhere in Carpathian Rus since World War II was established in February 1990 in the oblasts administrative center of Uzhorod. Known as Society of Carpatho-Rusyns (Tovarystvo Karpatskykh Rusyniv) and with branches throughout Transcarpathia, its goals were at first of a cultural and ecological nature, to promote and preserve knowledge of local history and customs. But before long, the Society moved on to political demands for the recognition of Rusyn as distinct nationality and the return of the autonomous status of Subcarpathian Rus, a status which they argued was illegally taken away in 1945. Before 1990 came to a close, a total of five new Rusyn organizations had come into existence where Rusyns live. Aside from the Society of Carpatho-Rusyns in Ukrainian Transcarpathia were Rusyn Renaissance Society (Rusynska Obroda) in Medzilaborce, Czechoslovakia (est. March 1990); the Lemko Association (Stovarysynja Lemkiv) in Legnica, Poland (est. April 1990); the Society of Friends of Subcarpathian Rus (Spolecnost pratel Podkarpatske Rusi) in Prague (est. October 1990); and the Ruska Matka (Rusyn Matka) in Ruski Kerestur, Yugoslavia (est. December 1990). By the spring of 1991, a sixth one was established, this time in Hungary: the Rusyn organization in Hungary (Magyaroszagi Ruszinok Szervezete) in Budapest (est. May

1991). Most of these organizations have their own Rusyn-language newspapers, journals, (13) or access to existing publications. All five organizations have put forth basically the same demands: that Rusyns be recognized as a distinct nationality, that a Rusyn literary language be codified and eventually be used in schools as medium of instruction, and that Rusyns be guaranteed all rights as a national minority in the countries where they live and in case of Transcarpathia that Rusyns be recognized as the dominant indigenous nationality.

As in all new or revived movements, the Rusyn orientation must first be able to make itself known to the constituency it purports to represent. This is inherently problematic, because with the exception of Yugoslavia, nowhere do Rusyns control the local media. Their message, or a least awareness of their movements existence, has been helped less by their own publications than by the fierce polemics that have filled the non-Rusyn press in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and most especially Soviet Transcarpathia. This is because from the moment the first Rusyn activity began, local pro-Ukrainian activists attacked the Rusyn orientation as "anachronistic", "ahistorical", "unenlightened", "in the service of American imperialists", and "treacherous" to the Ukrainian nation. (14) As a result, more attention of a semi-sensationalist journalistic nature has been given the Rusyn problem than might otherwise have been the case. The Czech and Slovak press has also paid much although more rational attention to the Rusyn-Ukrainian debate, especially in the context of the nationality question that concerns Czechoslovak society as a whole.

Whatever latent isolation Rusyn leaders in their respective countries may have still felt was overcome in March 1991, when at the initiative of the Rusyn Renaissance Society, the first World Congress of Rusyns was convened in Medzilaborce, Czechoslovakia. Indeed, despite a history of interaction between Rusyn communities in the homeland as well as the immigration in America during the twentieth century, this was, in fact, the first time representatives from all countries where Rusyns live (Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, and the United States) gathered together in one place. The congress constituted itself as a permanent umbrella organization, and its very existence had an enormous impact on instilling Rusyn national pride in over 300 persons who attended, not to mention innumerable others who read about it through the generally widespread press coverage. (15)

It is interesting to note that one week after the congress took place, Czechoslovakia conducted its decennial census in which people for the first time since World War II had the right to answer that they were of Rusyn nationality. Despite problems with the manner in which nationality question was asked and subsequently classified, in Slovakia 17,000 persons responded they were Rusyns as compared to 14,000 Ukrainians. (16) This raises the question of numbers. Observers will legitimately ask just how many people identify themselves as Rusyns? And even among those who respond Rusyn, does use of such a term necessarily mean they are denying a possible simultaneous identification as Ukrainians? At this point, there is no way to know the precise answers to those questions. All we know is that in Slovakia, where given a chance in March 1991, of those people of East Slavic background who did not identify as Slovak and who had the choice between a Rusyn or Ukrainian identity, 55 percent chose Rusyn. As for the number of Rusyns in Poland and Ukrainian Transcarpathia, we simply do not know at this stage, nor do we have any indications such as census data, scientific polling, or membership in political parties that might help to provide a reasonable estimate.

What we can be certain of however, is that after forty years of Communist rule, Rusyns have not gone away. Today, there are Rusyn organizations, Rusyn publications, and a relatively wide range of writers, teachers, professionals, and peasants who continue to articulate in the press and public manifestation of their belonging to a distinct Rusyn people. (17)

Protection for Rusyns in the Future

As with many minorities, the future of their survival depends on the willingness of the governments in the states where they live to provide them with adequate legal protection and perhaps financial assistance for their national development. In this regard, the Rusyns need to inform and constantly remind the international community that they exist. In turn Rusyns should be able to expect that the international community will monitor their status and, if necessary, put pressure on the governments of the Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Yugoslavia, in order to ensure that their national rights are protected.

In fact, all four states in which Rusyns live have already ratified several agreements pertaining to national minorities at recent meetings of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). Of particular importance for Rusyns were the decisions reached in June 1990 at the Copenhagen meeting of the CSCE. At Copenhagen it was agreed that "to belong to a national minority is a matter of persons individual choice and no disadvantage may arise from the exercise of such choice." Moreover, "persons belonging to national minorities can exercise and enjoy their rights individually as well as in community with other members of their group. "(18)

This means that regardless how scholars or governments might define Rusyns, there are individuals and/or groups who call themselves by that name and who believe the constitute a distinct nationality, and that they have a right to do so and to be recognized as Rusyns by the governments of the countries in which they live. The Copenhagen agreement also recognized the role of non-governmental organizations in promoting the interests of national minorities, and it called on the participating states to assure that the teaching of history and culture in the educational establishments "will also take account of the history and culture of national minorities. "(19) At a follow-up CSCE meeting in Geneva (July 1991), member states accepted the provisions of a special report which guaranteed the right of national minorities to participate in non-governmental organizations outside their country of residence. The report also reaffirmed the principle that individuals or organizations representing national minorities be allowed "unimpeded contacts .. across frontiers... with persons with whom they share a common ethnic or national origin. "(20)

Finally, at the most recent CSCE meeting held in Moscow (September-October 1991), member states reaffirmed the agreements reached at all previous meetings and agreed further that "commitments undertaken in the field of the human dimension of the CSCE [including those pertaining to national minorities] are matters of direct legitimate concern to all participating States and do not belong exclusively to the internal affairs of the State concerned."(21)

Before looking specifically at what Rusyns need in each country to protect and guarantee their future existence, it is necessary to clarify the issue of international boundaries. In the Carpathian homeland, Rusyns live within the borders of three states, and in the past two years there has been discussion in the Czech, Slovak, and Transcarpathian press that certain political activists are demanding the return of Ukraines Transcarpathian oblast (historic Subcarpathian Rus) to Czechoslovakia. (22) There has even been talk that Transcarpathia might be returned to Hungary or divided between Hungary and Czechoslovakia. In fact, most of these propositions are little more than the speculations of individuals that have been blown out of proportion by political rivals and by journalists seeking to report a good story. (23) The Czech-Slovak federal government publicly declared that it "cannot be concerned with the fate" of Transcarpathia. (24) And as for Rusyn organizations that have come to existence in 1990, none of them nor the World Congress of Rusyns that met in 1991 has voiced any demand for border changes. On the contrary, all the new organizations as well as the vast majority of Rusyn spokespersons wherever they live warn against tampering with existing international boundaries.

On the other hand, the Society of Carpatho-Rusyns in Transcarpathia has called openly for the return of the status of autonomy that Subcarpathian Rus enjoyed during the interwar years. (25) In order to determine the views of the local population, the society, joined by other minority organizations, called for a question on Transcarpathian autonomy to be added to the referendum on Ukrainian independence that was held on December 1, 1991. (26) There was a large voter turn-out, with 92.6% favoring Ukrainian independence and 78% self-rule for Transcarpathia. (27) The issue of Transcarpathian autonomy elicited great interest in neighboring countries, although this is, in fact, an internal issue for whatever kind of government and state structure is finally established in what until recently was the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. In short, Transcarpathia has been and should for the foreseeable future remain a part of Ukraine.

However, as a sovereign member of the international community, Ukraine must, in turn, guarantee the individual and corporate rights of Rusyns or those citizens of Ukraine who wish to call themselves Rusyns. It is true that the Ukrainian government has already provided guarantees for national minorities living on its territory: Russians, Jews, Poles/ Germans, Tatars, etc. To this list must be added Rusyns. This would mean that the "official" or, one might say, traditional Ukrainian view of Rusyns has to change. Namely Ukrainian authorities must accept the fact that within its boundaries, primarily in its Transcarpathian oblast, there are people who define themselves as Rusyns in the sense of a nationality distinct from Ukrainians. Such people should have the right to declare themselves in their passports and internal documents as Rusyns, and the state census bureau should publish data on the number of persons who identify as Rusyns and not simply classify them, as has been done until now, as Ukrainians. (28) If such guarantees are provided, there is no reason why Rusyns in Transcarpathia could not remain Rusyns as well as function as fullfledged citizens of a sovereign and democratic Ukrainian state.

Following the trend that has taken hold in the former Soviet Union, it would seem desirable that the new Ukrainian state become a decentralized entity in which each of its component regions would have a large degree of autonomy in economic and cultural matters. (29) Thus, questions such as what language might be taught in elementary schools, or what kind of national orientation should be adopted by regional cultural and educational institutions, or what amount of funding might be given to Rusyn-oriented groups, are all decisions that would be made by a peoples assembly in Uzhorod and not in Kyiv. Of course, its goes without saying that the free movement of peoples across borders with neighboring Rusyn regions in Slovakia and Poland must be guaranteed. Fortunately, this possibility exists already, albeit with a waiting time at border crossings that every day of the week averages 15 to 20 hours.

As for neighboring Slovakia, this situation of Rusyns, especially since the November 1989 Velvet Revolution, is much better than in either Ukrainian Transcarpathia or Poland. However, until now the Slovak government (generally through its Ministry of Culture) and the federal Czecho-Slovak government (through allotment of discretionary funds) have only provided ad hoc grants to the new Rusyn organizations and publications, the normal budgetary allotments of the Slovak government intended for its East Slavic Rusyn/Ukrainian minority to the Union of Rusyn-Ukrainians of Czechoslovakia (SCURF), that is to the Ukrainian oriented cultural organization that is the direct descendant (still with largely the same leadership) as the formerly Communist-dominated Cultural Union of Ukrainian Workers (KSUT). Slovak government funding through other ministries also supports in Presov several Ukrainian university departments and institutes at Safarik University, a Ukrainian radio station, and a Ukrainian publishing house, as well as the Museum of Ukrainian Culture (recently renamed the Aleksander Pavlovyc Regional Museum) in Svidnik. Of the organizations receiving a normal budgetary allotment, only the Alexander Duchnovyc Theater (formerly the Ukrainian National Theater) has a Rusyn orientation.

The Slovak government must recognize that there are two clearly-defined national orientations Rusyn and Ukrainian and if support for national minorities is to continue in Slovakia, then the authorities must provide funding for Rusyn as well as Ukrainian organizations. But how should the government divide a financial allotment among its East Slavic minority, which until recently has been designated only as Ukrainian? Initially, it would seem that the only reasonable way would be to accept the percentages revealed in the results of the 1991 census, which would mean 55% of the budget to Rusyn cultural organizations, schools, and media.

The question of schools in Slovakia is particularly problematic, because beginning in the 1960s the language of instruction in the vast majority of Rusyn-inhabited villages was changed at the request of parents themselves from Ukrainian to Slovak. Moreover, as part of a consolidation process during the past two decades, many small elementary schools will be reopened in Rusyn villages, it is likely that Slovak will be the language of instruction. However, the Slovak Ministry of Education must provide teachers and textbooks in Rusyn or in Ukrainian for those villages that may submit such requests. Most important, the standard Slovak-language history textbooks used throughout Slovakia should include an adequate discussion of the history and culture of Rusyns and other minorities which will be of benefit to all students. This would be in keeping with the CSCE agreement reached.

The Rusyns or Lemko Rusyns of Poland perhaps need the most help. Not only is the majority of Lemko Rusyns scattered throughout the western and northern regions of Poland, but their fledging pro-Rusyn organization, the Lemko Association with its amateur theatrical troupe, and the older Lemkovyna folk ensemble receive no financial support at all from the Polish government, either in the form of an annual budgetary allotment or ad hoc grants. Whatever government funds assigned to national minority cultural activity are given to the Union of Ukrainians of Poland (Objednannja Ukrajinciv Polsci), the direct descendant of the Communist dominated Ukrainian Socio-Cultural Society (USKY). Support for the new Union of Ukrainians must continue, especially since most Ukrainians in Poland are not originally from nor do they live in the Carpathian region. On the other hand, Lemko Rusyns must also be recognized as a distinct national minority and receive a fair share of funding.

How to determine what is a "fair share" will, of course, be difficult, since Poland does not even have nationality as a category on its decennial census questionnaires. Perhaps a referendum attached to the next national vote could indicate a question that lists all the national groups in Poland and asks the respondent to which one he/she would wish to assign a portion of their taxes for cultural activity. This would be somewhat similar to municipalities in Canada that ask their residents to indicate whether they want their tax dollars be assigned to public schools or to private (Catholic) schools. What even the mechanism decided upon, in keeping with its commitments as a member state of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Polish government is obliged to recognize Lemko Rusyns as a distinct national minority and to provide funding for Lemko organizations and Lemko-language schools in those communities that demand them.

Lastly, we turn to the situation in ex-Yugoslavia. Ever since World War II, the Yugoslav policy of equality for its six component republics and support for the national minorities that live within them has encouraged the Croatian Republic and, in particular, the Vojvodina Autonomous Region of the Serbian Republic to finance liberally Rusyn cultural and educational activity. It is to be expected that when the republics of Yugoslavia sort out their present difficulties, the republics of Croatia and, in particular, Serbia, will continue their judicious support and protection of their respective Rusyn minorities.

The Rusyns are one example of the many groups who suffered under the totalitarian regimes on East Central Europe during the past four decades. Now that those regimes no longer exist, there is a real opportunity to correct past injustices and to assure the future survival of the Rusyns. It is, after all, in the interest of all four countries where Rusyns live Ukraine, Slovakia, Poland, and Yugoslavia to become part of the larger European community. The way in which those countries resolve the Rusyn issue will, in part, determine to what degree they are ready for membership in the new Europe.


1. Cf. Fedor Korecky, "The Center of Europe in Hornitsi," Nova dumka, VII {21} (Vukovar, 1979), pp. 101-102 (in Rusyn)

2. For further details on the Rusyn political ethnic group in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, cf. P. R. Magocsi, The Shaping of a National Identity: Subcarpathian Rus, 1848-1948 (Cambridge, Mass., 1978), pp. 46-47, 93-95; 237-245.

3. Soviet Marxists literature has written much on the first 40 days of Soviet power in Transcarpathia. Cf. Borys Spivak and Mykhailo Troyan, 40 Unforgettable Days in the History of the Struggle for Soviet Power in Transcarpathia in 1919 (Uzhorod, 1967).

4. On the little-known Lemko Rusyn Republic cf. Paul Robert Magocsi, "The Ukrainian Question Between Poland and Czechoslovakia: The Lemko Rusyn Republic (1918-1920) and Political Thought in Western Rus/Ukraine," Nationalities Paper (New York, in press).

5. The Ukrainian oriented emigrants from Carpathian Ukraine lay special emphasis on the Declaration of March 15, 1939, claiming that this declaration shows how the Ukrainian orientation supposedly conquered the hearts and minds of the population even before the coming of Soviet power in late 1944. Cf. Peter G. Stercho, The Diplomacy of Double Morality: Europes Crossroads in Carpatho- Ukraine, 1919-1939

(New York, 1971). This viewpoint was widely disseminated in Ukraine during the Gorbachev period. Cf. Stenographic Transcript of the Fourth (Road) Session of the Grand Council of Rukh Held in Khust on the Fifty-Second Anniversary of Ukraines Declaration of Independence, No. 4 (Kyiv, 1990).

6. Ricardo Picchio, "Guidelines for the Comparative of the Language Question Among the Slavs," Aspects of the Slavic Language Question, vol. I, ed. Ricardo Picchio and Harvey Goldblatt (New Haven, Conn., 1984), pp. 1-42.

7. A somewhat more Russian oriented or Russophile intelligentsia among advocates of Orthodoxy who saw the latter the union of East Slavic culture and considered that there were three branches of the East Slavs Great, White and Little Russians, with the Rusyns being a subgroup of the last named all of whim were but subgroups of a single general Russian nation. Representatives of the Ukrainian and Rusyn oriented intelligentsia were the more Western-oriented Greek Catholics who were more open to ideas of national and regional differentiation. Ukrainophiles posited the unity of their people "from the Carpathians to the Caucasus," while Rusynophiles were convinced that the Rusyn population of the Transcaucasus (from Proprady to Tisza) were a separate people.

8. The deportations themselves were carried out in stages. Between 1945 and 1946 about 200,000 Lemko Rusyns were "voluntarily" resettled in Ukraine in exchange for Poles who were resettled inside Polands new postwar borders. Those 80,000 Lemko Rusyns who remained in the hitherto Western Lemko regions were deported in 1947. For greater detail, cf. Kazimierz Pudlo, Lemkowie: process wrastania w srodowisko Dolnego Slaska, 1947-1958 (Wroclaw, 1987), esp. pp. 24-34.

9. Beginning in 1945 the new Rusyn political and cultural organizations were renamed as Ukrainian ones. Paradoxically, however, despite their names they used Russian or Rusyn as their language of instruction and communication. In 1952 the Communist Party of Slovakia began a policy of Ukrainization, banned the term Rusyn, and replaced Rusyn and Russian with Ukrainian in the schools. Cf. Pavel , "National Assimilation: The Case of the Rusyn-Ukrainians of Czechoslovakia," East-Central Europe, II:2 (1975), pp. 101-131.

10. At a time when the Rusyn nationality was not officially recognized by the USSR and its satellites, in Yugoslavia the Rusyns (Rusniaks) were recognized as a separate group with their own literary language. Cf. A. M. Kaliuta, Introduction to Slavic Philology, (Minsk, 1971), pp. 137-139 (in Russian).

11. "Ruthenia," The New Columbia Encyclopedia, (New York and London, 1975), pp. 2383.

12. On the Lemko-Rusyn revival see the series of articles in Carpatho-Rusyn American, X, XI (1987-88).

13. Not including Besida, (Poland, 1989 - present), Otchyi khram (Uzhorod, 1990 - present, Podkarpatska Rus (Prague, 1990 - present), Rusyn (Medzilaborce, 1990 - present), and Narodny Novinky (Presov, 1991 - present).

14. Pavlo Chuchka, "How the Rusyns Became Ukrainians," Zakarpatska pravda, September 12-16, 1989; Vasyl Melnyk, "Neorusynism and Its Interpreters," ibid., August 18, 21, 22, 24, 1990; Yuri Baleha, "Rusynism: Ideologists and Protectors," ibid., September 6, 7, 9, 1990; Oleksa Myshanych, "Who are They? On the Ideological Origins of the New Carpatho-Rusynism," Literatuma Ukraina, January 17, 1991.

15. Carpatho-Rusyn American, XIV:2, pp. 7-9; XIV:3 (1991), pp. 8-9.

16. Mykola Mushynka, "How Many Rusyn-Ukrainians are there in Slovakia," Svoboda (Jersey City), July 9, 1991.

17. Among the most prominent are: in Transcarpathia, writers Volodymyr Fedyshynets, Vasyl Sochka, political activists Mykhailo Tomchany, Petro Hodmash, and Vasyl Zayets; in Czechoslovakia Rusyn Oboroda president Vasyl Turok, government adviser on ethnic affairs Ivan Bistko, and editor Aleksandr Zozuliak; in Poland, poets Petro Trokhanovsky, Olena Duts, and Lemko Society president Andriy Kopsha; and in Yugoslavia Ruske slovo Publishing House director Liubomyr Medieshi, writers Diura Papharhai, and Natalia Dudash.

18. Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference of the Human Dimension of the CSCE (Copenhagen, 1990), pp. 40-41, par. 32.

19. Ibid., p. 41, par. 34.

20. Report of the CSCE Meeting of Experts on National Minorities (Geneva, 1991), p. 10.

21. Documents of the Moscow Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE (Moscow, 1991), p. 2.

22. The Republican Party of Czecho-Slovak officially called for the return of Subcarpatian Rus to Czecho-Slovakia. "Zpet do Ceskoslovenska," Republika (Prague), October 18-24, 1990; "Rozhovor s predsedou SPR-RSC, Ph Dr. Miroslavem Sladkem," ibid., October 1991. National Socialist Party chairman C. Czejka also called for the return of Subcarpathian Rus to Czecho-Slovak jurisdiction. "NSS chtejf Podkarpatskou Rus", Lidova demokracie (Prague), Septembers, 1991.

23. Prominent publicist and Prague representative of the Podkarpartska Rus Yaromir Horzhetz has written a number of articles on the Rusyn movement for the Czech press, but this does not mean that the local population supports the idea of the territorys return to Slovakia. See his articles in Lidova demokracie (Prague): "Svobodu pro Podkarpatskou Rus" (October 7, 1991); "Cesi na Podkarpatsku" (September 18, 1991); and "Podkarparsko zada samostatnou republiku" (October 20, 1991). The Hungarian press has also shown an interest in demands for Transcarpathian autonomy: "Ruszin koztarsasag Karpataljan," Magyar hirlap (Budapest), September 10, 1991; "A ruszinok kovetelese: legyen Karpatalja koztarsasag!" Naplo (Debrecen), October 3, 1991.

24. The citation is attributed to the then Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jiri Dinstbr in "Svobodu pro Podkarpatskou Rus," Lidova demokracie, October 9, 1991.

25. The text of the declaration, which was sent former USSR President Gorbachev, the USSR Supreme Soviet, Ukrainian parliament, and United nations, first appeared in the organ of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society, Otchyi khram, September-October 1990.

26. Ukrainy (Uzhorod), September 14/1991.

27. P. R. Magosci, "Rusyns Regain Their Autonomy", Ukrainian Canadian Herald, March 16, 1992, p. 7.

28. Soviet rules of census ethnicity classification of the State Committee on Statistics were defined by rules of Union Republic authorities and the Institutes of Ethnography and Linguistics of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. Cf. Dictionary of Nationalities and Languages for Collating Answers to Questions 8 and 9 of the Census Forms (Moscow, 1988, in Russian). It is interesting to note the Institute of ethnography of the USSR Academy of Sciences in an announcement (No. 14110/2171, February 6, 1990) stated: "Theoretically, Rusyns may be understood as something the same order as Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians and not as a subgroup of some other group, (document in possession of the author).

29. Discussions concerning Ukrainian state building have already gone on for some years. Neighboring Galicia and Transcarpathia are convinced

that they could function much better were they independent from the center in Kyiv. Cf. Ivan Hranchak, "Renewed Attributes of the Carpathian Land: A Federal Ukraine?" Novyny Zakarpattia (Uzhorod), February 6, 1991

Source: Political Thought 1995, 2-3 (6) P.221-231.

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