Political Ruthenianism — A Ukrainian Problem

Oleksa Myshanych

The problem of political Ruthenienism (rusynstvo) in Transcarpathia is not a new one, it has a beginning in the times of the first World War, when it became apparent that two enemy empires - the Russian and the Austro-Hungarian, would fall, and the prospect of forming a new Ukrainian state arose, to which, as if to their national-cultural center, the then Hungarian Ruthenians were drawn. The Ukrainian state building process of 1917-1920, encompassed not only Russian Ukraine, but also to a large extent - Austrian Rus' - Ukraine: the Halychanian, Bukovynian, and Transcarpathian Ruthenians, who in the 20th century transformed from a ethnic existence to a consciousness of national statehood; thus Ruthenians became Ukrainians.
Wanting to attain their dominance over Trans-Carpathian Ukrainians (the official name for these people at that time was "Ruthenians" Rusyny), the Hungarian ruling leadership began to create a new, separate nation of them — Ruthenians, distinguishing this nation not only from eastern Ukraine, but also from Halychyna and Bukovyna. Recognizing Ukraine and the Ukrainian nation as a whole, Hungarian chauvinists did all they could to prove to the Transcarpathian Ukrainians (Ruthenians), that as faithful sons of the Hungarian crown and as a seperate nation, their historical fate has been tied to Hungary for centuries.
But the Ukrainian Transcarpathian settlement chose its fate in a different way, explicitly supporting seccession from the Hungarian empire. The all-national conference of January 21, 1919, held in Khust relying on the decision of the Starolyubovnyansk, Svalyavsk and Marmarosh-Sihitsk national councils upheld the decision to unite Transcarpathia to Ukraine. However, as a result of historical circumstances Transcarpathia, in 1919, became a part of Czechoslovakia. This point marked a beginning of a quarter century long battle for Ukraine, which culminated in the formation of the Carpatho-Ukrainian state in 1938-1939, as well as the following facts, the union with Ukraine in 1945 and the national referendum on December 1, 1991, when 92.5$ of the Transcarpathian population voted for an independent Ukrainian state and its President. These state acts provided a legal basis and a solid foundation to disprove all those powers of world evil, which attempt to divide Ukraine, by playing out the separatist "Ruthenian card." To reintroduce the issue of political Ruthenienism today, is to continue the battle against Ukrainian statehood in new historical terms.
Political Ruthenienism is indeed a Ukrainian problem, because it pertains to Ukrainians, the former Ruthenians of the Austro-Hungarian empire, where until 1944-1945, it was forbidden to call yourself a Ukrainian. Officially, Austro-Hungarian Ukrainians had to call themselves Ruthenian, thus the governments of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania used this in order to force these people apart from greater Ukraine, attempting to convince them that they are a separate nation. At the same time, political Ruthenienism is a European problem because it affects the interests of Ukraine, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia — in other words, all countries with Ukrainian-Ruthenian population. This problem reaches even further, across the ocean, to the U.S. and Canada, where at the end of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century, more than two million Ruthenian-Ukrainians from the Austro-Hungarian empire emigrated.
The new organized political Ruthenienism formed in 1990, at the same time that "Rukh" and other democratic organizations which strove for an independent Ukrainian state were formed. "The Society of Transcarpathian Ruthenians ("Obschestvo Podkarpatskykh Rusynov")," which was formed on February 20, 1990, initially masqueraded as a "regional cultural-educational partnership," concerned with a purely cultural-educational tasks. However, immediately after registration, the Society became engaged in politics, and by September 20 of that year, its leadership had already produced a declaration "about the return of the Transcarpathian oblast to the status of autonomous republic." The essence of the declaration was to return Transcarpathia to the status it had in October 1938, when by the Munich Agreement it became, an autonomous region within a federated state of the Czechs and the Slovaks. The fact that this autonomy grew into Carpathian Ukraine was not taken into consideration. Generally, the Carpatho-Ukrainian nation of 1938-1939 does not exist for the ideologues of political Ruthenienism. They believe, that Halychany (Galicians) and East Ukrainian immigrants created it. Halychyna-phobia as well as Ukraino-phobia became the keystones in the ideology and the practical work of today's political Ruthenienism.
In the summer of 1993, the leaders of the Society of Transcarpathian Ruthenians form clandestinely their own governing body — "the Provisional Government of Transcarpathian Rus'," which included besides Ukrainian citizens Hungarian and Slovak citizens. Various "declarations," "statements," "protests," and "depositions" were made by the leaders of the Society of Transcarpathian Ruthenians and were signed by the "Premier and Ministers" of the "Provisional Government of Transcarpathian Rus'." These declarations and statements were sent to the Pope, the UN General Secretary, President Clinton, Havel, Kovach, Goncz, Yeltsin, Kravchuk, Kuchma, etc., and filled the pages of the newspaper "Transcarpathian Rus'." Rlame and numerous demands, and pretensions were brought forward against Ukraine in support of returning Transcarpathia to the status of an autonomous republic, demanding the recognition of Transcarpathians as a separate nationality — Ruthenians -and denying the Ukrainian literary language and forming a few separate Ruthenian languages. They blamed Ukraine in the genocide of Ruthenians.
Interestingly, the blame and the demands were not only heard by local Ukraino-phobes and Ukraine-bashers, but also unfriendly circles of Slovakia and Hungary. It is they, that provide the self-appointed ministers of "The Provisional Government of Transcarpathian Rus'" with the access to mass media in order to attack Ukraine, its President, and its national symbols — all for the distortion and vilification of Transcarpathian history. There are unseen forces which uphold and defend this anti-Ukrainian, and anti-national activities. These forces set forth and finance political Ruthenienism, and give it a voice in the world, take advantage of it and use it against Ukraine, its state and its inviolable borders.
In December of 1994, the "minister of international affairs in Transcarpathian Rus" a Czech resident, Tibor Odnyk, officially requested that the President of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin annul the agreement between the USSR and Czechoslovakia from June 29, 1945 reuniting Transcarpathia with Ukraine. Hiding behind Czech, Slovak, and Hungarian screens, are real and more dangerous forces, which are interested not only in the rebirth of Transcarpathian Rus' and the formation of a fourth eastern Slavic nation, but in the total demise of Ukraine and the partitioning of the political maps of Europe.
In September of 1990, in Geneva, a secret meeting of Soviet and German experts was held, where geo-political problems of Central Europe were discussed. Modeled after the Munich agreement of 1938, two plunderers decided to conduct a new partitioning of Europe, ignoring the Helsinki accords and other international agreements. Czech newspaper on politics and the economics Polityka on November 14, 1991 revealed this secret information, from which we learn that Transcarpathia, was also drawn into this political game. Thus, the provision of these decisions, specific to Transcarpathia: "The USSR will not forbid the detachment of Transcarpathian Ukraine in case of destabilizing actions of Ukrainian nationalists and its inclusion into the Hungarian republic." (newspaper Sribna Zemla — Uzhorod, Nov. 17, 1992)
This marks the beginning of Transcarpathian autonomism, separatism, a free economic zone, a
Carpathian-European region and all other attempts to detach Transcarpathia from Ukraine, bring it closer to Hungary, and to factually renew pre-Trianon boundaries as well as the "Arpad line" in the Carpathians.
In the knot of Carpathian problems, and at the same time in political Ruthenienism, Moscow's role can not be overlooked. The imperial center is vitally interested in the Carpathian region, through which it aspires to create new windows to Europe. Communications which unite east and west Europe - three railroads and four highways, electric lines, gas and oil pipelines — go right through Transcarpathia. The selling of the former USSR will come about through these lines, for which, at present there is an unmerciful, yet, not evident war. A leading role in which is held by Russia. The Ukrainian government is now renting a free trade zone in the city of Chop for 50 years to Russia, the Russian firm "Dyelovoy Mir." In Mukachevo alone, have over 200 united Mascow/International businesses been formed, which will not contribute towards the enrichment of the city population.
The alliance between political Ruthenienism, and the interests of russo-speaking inhalitant of the Transcarpathian regions speaks for itself. Their orientation towards Moscow, russification of the region, playing out the "Crimean cards," advances with Crimean, Donetsian, or Prydnistrian separatists underscores the fact that, political Ruthenienism has dependable allies and directors, who are not indifferent to this vulnerable piece of Ukrainian border territory. The internationalization of Transcarpathia has very concrete intentions to subjugate this land to the former-imperial center. Political Ruthenienism does not strive for a hermetic land of self-isolation, as it appears at first glance. Although it benfits the Hungarian interests, it is really a fifth column of the Russian Empire in the Carpathian Mountains defending the interests of the Russian empire.
All reputable historians of the 19th and 20th centuries recognized that Transcarpathian Ruthenians belong to the Ukrainian nation. Language, customs, faith, family life, household mangement and mentality are the strongest factors which bind them with Halychyna. The absence of Ukrainian statehood, until the years 1917-1919, prevented this ethnic group from becoming a nation. National self-enlightenment began here only at the beginning of the 1920's and heatedly batlled against the enemies of Ukrainianizm, the Russian, Hungarian and Czech orientations. This is but one fact.
During the preperations for the "Vseprosvitnyanskoho Zyizdu" in Uzhorod on October 17th 1937, a "Manifesto about the Ukrainians of Transcarpathia" was published, signed by representatives from over 20 political parties, brotherhoods, alliances, newspaper publishers, and others. In this "Manifesto" it was clearly stated that: "...in the linguistic and cultural matters we were and will continue to be a part of the large 50-million Ukrainian nation and our heritage and cultural unity which we shall never, for any reason, renounce...
There is not doubt that in Transcarpathian Rus' two nations do not exist. There are no "Russians" ...nor are there any "Carpatho-Rusians," there is but one Ukrainian nation."
The ethnocultural processes of Transcarpathia should not be confused with political ones. As we know, the Carpathian region is settled by ethnic groups who, in scientific literature are called Hutsuls, Lemkos, and Boyki (Verkhovyntsi, or "mountain dwellers"). These three ethnic groups have settled Transcarpathia along with the so called dolynyany ("valley dwellers"). All of them have their specific individual lifestyle, dialect, customs, and dress, but this does not give a foundation for talking about them as separate nations. On the political, national level, until the mid-20th century, they were all referred to as "Ruthenians," because the terms "Ukrainians" and "Ukrainian" on these territories were forbidden. Just as Ukrainians until 1917 were officially named "Little Russains," the Transcarpathians up to 1945 were "Ruthenians," and their lands were referred to as "the region without a name," or simply Hungarian Rus', Zabeskidska Rus', Transcarpathian Rus', Carpathian Rus', Carpathian Ukraine. The governing states — Hungary and Czechoslovakia did all they could to create a new nation, to seperate Transcarpathia from Ukraine.
Therefore, to attempt to create a new "Ruthenian" nation with an anti-Ukrainian orientation today has very little chance of succeding. In the referendum of December 1, 1991, Transcarpathians themselves recognized that as to their national orientation: 92.5$ of the votes were for an independent Ukraine. If, some percent did not uphold Ukrainian independence, this does not mean that they need to be advised and directed on how to return Transcarpathia to the level of Austria-Hungary, or recognize its indigenous Ukrainian population not as a nation, but merely as a bio-mass, who, at the end of the 20th century, cannot distinguish themselves in terms of nationality.
Today, political Ruthenians are engaged in two problems: First, to recognize the illegal union of Transcarpathia with Ukraine in 1945 and on this basis, to return it to the fictitious status of an "autonomous republic of Transcarpathian Rus'", which was supposedly obtained after the Munich Accords and the Viennese Arbitrage of 1938. Secondly, to discredit the Carpatho-Ukrainian state of 1938-1939 and to prove that it was formed not by the free-will and strength of Ukrainian inhabitants of Transcarpathia, but rather by Halychanians and Ukrainian nationalist immigrants. These lies aim to deepen the separation between Transcarpathia and Halychyna, thereby provoking Halychano-phobia and Ukraino-phobia.
Anti-Ukrainian and anti-national separatist work of "The Society of Transcarpathian Ruthenians" and the "Provisional Government of Transcarpathian Rus'" without a doubt are supported by and are generously financed by those forces which are interested in destabilization in Ukraine, and are working to weaken the country ultimatly to its collapse. Funds come not only from Moscow, but from the USA and Canada as well. There are also local benefactors. Evident support is granted by city administrations to this organization which peacefully co-exists and works with the "Provisional Government of Transcarpathian Rus'."
The politicians have adequate funds to partake in these "World-wide Ruthenian (Rusyn) Congresses" as well as other anti-Ukrainian actions. Somehow, a trip made by the prime minister of the selfproclaimed "government" Prof. I. Turyanich to the US in 1994 was funded. This trip resulted in a memorandum entitled "Freedom and Democracy for Transcarpathia!" which was published in the Hungarian Gazette "Madyarshah," on December 17, 1994. The secret was suddenly disclosed. The "Prime-minister" I. Turyanich candidly supports the idea of a "St. Stefan's Crown" for Transcarpathians, in other words, a pro-Hungarian orientations with all its consequences. The slandering of Ukraine and its national policy, became for this Ukrainian citizen, Professor of the Uzhorod University, and deputy of the regional council, a second profession. Delivering his "Memorandum" to U.S. President Clinton and to the Hungarian President Goncz, the "Prime Minister" expressed his hatred towards Ukraine, claiming that it "doomed us to be slaves," and that it "is destroying Ruthenians, Hungarians, and other nationalities", "and continues the ethno-genocide of Transcarpathia." He protests "against Ukrainian lawlessness and chauvinism," and is ashamed of the fact that, in Transcarpathia, "in the heart of Europe human rights and the rights of national minorities are trampled upon."
The systematic, anti-Ukrainian, anti-state and illegal work of "The Society of Transcarpathian Ruthenians," with support from pro-imperialist forces, continues to carry out its prominent role in the destabilization of Ukrainian affairs. In Transcarpathia the "Crimean card" is being played, and there exist forces as there are both in Ukraine, and outside Ukraine, that are interested in the transformation of this region into a "hot point," where the interests of several countries would be effected.
One of the major proponents of the Political Ruthenian Movement, is Paul Robert Magocsi, who holds the chair of Ukrainian History at the University of Toronto, Canada, who it seems made the "Ruthenian problem" his profession. He leads the Carpatho-Ruthenian Research Center of Canada and the US. The fact that this center promises to research the Carpathian region, the population of which preserved it's traditional self-name "Ruthenians" for the longest time, — can completely be supported, but the Center usually involves itself in politics, creating a new "Ruthenian" nation, supporting its work with treacherous anti-Ukrainian ideas, striving to cultivate the thesis that the former Carpathian-Ruthenians — today's Transcarpathian Ukrainians, Slovakian Ruthenians and Ukrainians, Polish Lemkos — are a separate nation which has nothing in common with the rest of the Ukrainian nation. This proposition is very appealing to anti-Ukrainian forces in Ukraine and beyond Ukraine, who do everything they can to destroy the young and still weak Ukrainian state.
It was with his active participation that a gathering was held in Pryashiv, called "The World Ruthenian Conference," which demonstrated its anti-Ukrainian tendencies, by intruding on internal issues of an independent Ukraine on the day of the 5th anniversary of Ukrainian independence, that is on August 24, 1996.
In the past five years, scholars, publishers, and jurnalists have written hundreds of works in which the real essence of political Ruthenienism, was exposed, its anti-Ukrainian objectives, its "shadow revanchism." Several international conferences have been held, at which the history of the Ukrainian Carpathians was traced, showing the historical path from Subcarpathian Ruthenians to Transcarpathian Ukrainians, ascertaining how the Ruthenians became Ukrainians, attaining - through their own efforts — a Carpatho-Ukrainian state in 1939. As to the condemnation of political Ruthenienism, which, in adition to Transcarpathia, extended to the eastern Slovak Ukrainians and Ruthenians, Polish Lemkos, Ruthenians and Ukrainians in Hungary and Yugoslavia, almost all culturally aware Ukrainians as well as social and political communities within these countries spoke out, distinguishing themselves from anti-Ukrainian separatist activity of the Society of Transcarpathian Ruthenians, as well as the "Ruthenian Obroda," "The Lemko Association," and "The Russian Mother". The separatist turmoil in Transcarpathia provoked a whole range of appeals made by the Ukrainian National Council of Transcarpathia, to the Verkhovna Rada (Supreme Council), and to the President of Ukraine. With depositions and declarations against political Ruthenianism and its destabilizing work the following groups spoke out: the Ukrainian creative intelligentsia of Eastern Slovakia, the Union of Ruthenians and Ukrainians of Yogoslavia, the Conference of Transcarpathians in the US city of Kane, the Carpathian Union in the USA, the Congres of Transcarpathian Ukrainians in Toronto, Canada, the Carpathian Union in Australia, the Commission on Contacts and Information of Transcarpathian Ukrainians in the Diaspora (Chicago, USA) and others. The declaration "Our land is Ukrainian!" was published by scholars and cultural and civic activists of Kyiv, people with Transcarpathian roots. A true obfuscation carried out by political Ruthenienism against Ukrainian culture is the theatrical codification of the "Ruthenian language," devised to further rip Transcarpathians apart from Ukraine, Ukrainian literary language and culture. This anti-Ukrainian action goes against all achievements of scholarly language study, which qualifies Transcarpathian speech as a southwestern dialect of the Ukrainian language. The most authoritative decree of this is released under the approval of the Slovakian Academy of Sciences and the University of Bratislava fundamental "Atlas of Ukrainian dialects of Eastern Slovakia" by Vasil Latti (Bratislava/Pryashiv, 1991, 554 pages.)
The academic world negatively received the unprofessional methods and dealings of those groups working against Ukraine, politicians attempting to create an artificial "Ruthenian language" on the basis of local [Ukrainian] dialects. The Union of Ukrainian writes in Slovakia stepped forward on January 12, 1995 with a statement in which they condemn the efforts of "Ruthenian Obroda," with the support of Transcarpathian separatists and overseas advisors, to forge a new "Ruthenian language" and to tie it to the Ukrainian inhabitants of the Carpathian region. The "condification" of a new language is an effort which has only a political character and behind which hide the political ambitions of a group of representatives of the "Ruthenian Obroda." The committee of the Union of Ukrainian writers of Slovakia deems that efforts to "codify" a new language take place "on the basis of conspicuous Ukraino-phobia" and that "the support of the separatist endeavors of representatives of political Ruthenienism harms the development of Slovakian-Ukrainian relations." (Sribna Zemlya, January 28, 1995)
The Ukrainian World Coordinating Council negatively appraised the publicity which surrounded the "condification of the Ruthenian language," with whose help that "anti-Ukrainian forces intend to create quarrels among Ukrainians and to destabilize the situation in Western Ukraine. (Literaturna Ukrayina, Feb. 2, 1995)
Ukrainianism in Transcarpathia is not a foreign concept, it is the result of an growth of an ethnic mass into a nation. The history of Transcarpathian (Hungarian) Ruthenians in the 16th to 20th centuries is tightly tied together with the history of Ukrainians (Ruthenians) in Halychyna. In 1919, after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Transcarpathians at the January Congress in Khust expressed the one central desire to unite with Ukraine, but because of the adverse international situation they were forced to join the newly-created Czechoslovak republic. The 1920's and 30's was a period of maturation of the Ukrainian national identity within Transcarpathian former Ruthenians; culminating with the creation of Carpatho-Ukrainian state in October 1938 to March 1939 by Order No. 1 the Seym sanctioned this notion and announced the independent state of Carpathian Ukraine, the national language Ukrainian, the Ukrainian blue and yellow flag; the Trident as their national symbol, and the national anthem "Sche ne vmerla Ukrayina." Transcarpathia, in this way, came into its Ukrainianism independently. Attempting to revert them into the debris of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and the first Czechoslovak republic is anti-historical and anti-scientific. These nations no longer exist. The Transcarpathian Ukrainians, in 1944-1945 themselves chose their fate.
Political Ruthenienism is the result of crisis in Soviet order and the collapse and death of the USSR. It revives obsolete and unpopular ideas about severing the core nation of Transcarpathia from Ukraine and attempt to create a new nation with an anti-Ukrainian, pro-Moscow or even a Budapest or Prague orientation. By taking advantage of national Ruthenienism and the local population's foundness for its former ethnic name "rusyny" ("Ruthenians,") the ideologues of political Ruthenienism look upon Transcarpathians as a bio-mass; an ethnic-tribe, which has not yet become a nation and is incapable of national self-identity.
Imperial iternationalization bore national nihilism throught out Ukraine. The absence of a concept of a national policy and the refusal to have anything to do with a Ukrainian national idea contributes to the growth of this unnatural concept, also within the new historical situation. Political Ruthenienism — is but one element of the general encroachment on Ukrainian statehood.
Today's governing structures in Ukraine react casually to political Ruthenienism and its anti-state dealings, pretending that they don't know anything about the fact that Ukrainian National self-awareness in Transcarpathia was established prior to Soviet control in 1944-1945. Then don't understand that Ukrainians and Ruthenians are one ethnicity.
Social-economic reasons for the resurgence and revitalization of political Ruthenienism are apparent today. Enemies of Ukrainian statehood have taken advantage of regional social-economic differences in Ukraine, the political-ethnic differences and using them in their separatist plans by weaving slogans promoting regionalization and federalization in a still weak country. In the midst of this anti-Ukrainian turmoil, the fact that political Ruthenienism does not even have its own national myth is overlooked; it depends solely upon the change of a name in the 20th century.

Translated by Alexandra Matla
La Salle University

Oleksa Myshanych, Doctor of Philology. Specialist in Medieval Ukrainian Literature and of the Carpatho-Ukrainian region. Chairman of the Department of Ukrainian Literature and Institute of Literature, NASU. Author of numerous studies, including: Ukrainian Literature of the Second Half of the 18th Century and the Oral Folk Tradition; Subcarpathian Literature of the 17th and 18th Centuries. (Both in Ukrainian).
Reprinted from The Ukrainian Quarterly, Vol. LHI, No. 3 (Fall), 1997.



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