podkarpatrus (podkarpatrus) wrote,

When in Ruthenia . . .

Recent stories about Russian passports being distributed in Crimea, Ukraine have raised quite a ruckus. But that doesn’t seem to be the only place in the Ukraine with some ethnic nationalism issues, and a new report we’ve translated from Izvestiya after the jump tells the story of Moscow’s possible assistance to the Ruthenians - an ethnic group located in Transcarpathia, the western-most Oblast of the country, near the Polish, Slovakian, Hungarian, and Romanian borders.

For centuries, the region was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and known as Subcarpathia. (Everything depends on where you’re looking from: if your vantage point is Vienna or Budapest, the region is in the foothills “below” the Carpathian mountains, hence “Subcarpathia”. But if you’re looking from Moscow or Kiev, it’s on the “other side” of the mountains, hence “Transcarpathia”!) After World War I, it became an autonomous region in the very east of the newly-formed country of Czecho-Slovakia. And then, after the Red Army had “liberated” it in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), Stalin decided to keep the region for himself and attached it to Ukraine.

The local inhabitants are known as the Rusyn; Ruthenian is a Latinized version of the word. The Ruthenians have never had an independent state of their own, but, as mentioned above, did enjoy a measure of autonomy in the inter-war period. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, some Ruthenians had hoped for autonomous status within Ukraine, but this did not happen.

For a small, nearly unknown nationality, the Ruthenians have certainly left their mark on the world. Many came to the US and Canada during the big immigration waves from Eastern Europe in the decades preceding World War I. A very large part settled in Pennsylvania and worked in the coal mines and steel mills. Their descendants include Andy Warhol, the actors Tom Selleck, Robert Urich, and Sandra Dee, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, comic book illustrator Steve Ditko (co-creator of Spiderman), jazz pianist Bill Evans, and the inventor of the LED, Nick Holonyak. The highly acclaimed 1978 Vietnam war movie The Deer Hunter is about Ruthenian-Americans in Pennsylvania.
The following is an exclusive translation from Izvestiya:


Ruthenians will wake up and bloodlessly separate from Ukraine?


A new republic is this close to appearing in Transcarpathia

By Yuri Snegirev

Twelve policemen burst into the church of Christ the Saviour last Friday. They broke down doors, scuffled with the abbot, and broke a digital photo camera for him. You will say that such a thing can not be? But the church is found in Transcarpathian Uzhgorod! The guardians of order were looking for traces of a conspiracy, practically a state overthrow. And they had weighty reasons. The abbot of the church of Christ the Saviour in Uzhgorod, father Dmitry Sidor, heads a movement of Ruthenians for the restoration of their original statehood. The Soim [a representative body (same root as the Polish Sejm)—Trans.] of the Ruthenian people has already issued an ultimatum: if by 1 December the Oblast Rada does not come to its senses and does not recognize the state of the Ruthenians Transcarpathian Ruthenia in the composition of Ukraine on the rights of an autonomy, then the Ruthenians themselves will declare themselves to be fully independent. On the example of Kosovo. Our observer ended up in the very center of the struggle for the independence of the Ruthenian people.


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