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Coat-of-arms of Carpathian Ukraine
Carpatho-Rusyn sub-groups - Transcarpathian Rusyns in stylised traditional folk-costumes from Central Ukraine. Photo: Village Mokre near Sanok (Poland). 2007
Carpatho-Rusyn sub-groups - Prešov area Lemkos (left side) and Przemyśl area Rusyns (Ukrainians) in stylised traditional folk-costumes. Photo: Village Mokre near Sanok. 2007

Carpathian Ruthenia, aka Transcarpathian Ruthenia, Transcarpathian Ukraine, Zakarpattia, Rusinko, Subcarpathian Rus, Subcarpathia (Rusyn and Ukrainian: Карпатська Русь, romanised: Karpats’ka Rus’; Russian: Карпатская Русь, romanised: Karpatskaya Rus’; Slovak and Czech: Podkarpatská Rus; Hungarian: Kárpátalja; Romanian: Transcarpatia; Polish: Zakarpacie; Yiddish: קאַרפַּאטן רוּס) is a small region in Central Europe, now mostly in western Ukraine's Zakarpattia Oblast (Ukrainian: Zakarpats’ka oblast’), easternmost Slovakia (largely in Prešov kraj and Košice kraj), Poland's Lemkovyna and Romanian Maramureş.

In ethnic diversity, it is inhabited by Ukrainian, Rusyn, Lemko (who are of southern Polish) origin, Hungarian, Slovak, Romanian, Bulgarian and Russian populations. It has small Bogomil, Hutsul, Jewish, Romani and Zekler or Csango (ethnic Magyars in an Orthodox church) minorities.



The nomenclature of the region depends on geographic perspective and point of view. Thus from a Hungarian, Slovak, Czech perspective the region is described as Sub-Carpathia, (i.e. below the Carpathians) while from a Ukrainian and Russian perspective it is referred to as Trans-Carpathia (on the other side of the Carpathian mountains). The use of Carpathian Ruthenia is an attempt to provide a neutral term.

During the region's period of Hungarian rule lasting approximately a thousand years, it was officially referred to by Hungarians as Subcarpathia (Hungarian: Kárpátalja) or North-Eastern Upper Hungary.

After the Treaty of Trianon of 1920 and the break up of Austria-Hungary the region became part of Czechoslovakia under the governorship of Gregory Zatkovich. Until 1938-9 it was referred to as Subcarpathian Rus (Czech and Slovak: Podkarpatská Rus) or Subcarpathian Ukraine (Czech and Slovak: Podkarpatská Ukrajina), and from 1927 as the Subcarpathian Land[1] (Czech: Země podkarpatoruská, Slovak: Krajina podkarpatoruská).

Alternative, unofficial names used in Czechoslovakia before World War II included Subcarpathia (Czech and Slovak: Podkarpatsko), Transcarpathia (Czech and Slovak: Zakarpatsko), Transcarpathian Ukraine (Czech and Slovak: Zakarpatská Ukrajina), Carpathian Rus/Ruthenia (Czech and Slovak: Karpatská Rus) and, rarely on occasion Hungarian Rus/Ruthenia (Czech: Uherská Rus; Slovak: Uhorská Rus).

The region briefly declared its independence in 1939 as Carpatho-Ukraine.

Since 1945, as part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and the subsequent independent state of Ukraine, the region has been referred to as Zakarpattia (Ukrainian: Закарпаття) or Transcarpathia, and on occasions as Carpathian Rus’ (Ukrainian: Карпатська Русь, translit. "Karpats’ka Rus’"), Transcarpathian Rus’ (Ukrainian: Закарпатська Русь, translit. "Zakarpats’ka Rus’"), Subcarpathian Rus’ (Ukrainian: Підкарпатська Русь, translit. "Pidkarpats’ka Rus’").


Transcarpathia rests on the southern slopes of the Eastern Carpathian Mountains, bordered to the east by the Tisza River, and to the west by the Hornád and Poprad Rivers, and makes up part of the Pannonian Plain.


Cities and towns

Historic overview

History of Ukraine
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Slavic tribes began settling in the area of Transcarpathia in the 6th century, following the invasion of the Huns. By the 7th and 8th centuries, a denser population referred to as the White Croats had settled on the slopes of the Carpathian Mountains. A great deal of this territory and its settlers subsequently became the western edge of Rus' principality at the start of the 9th century, while the western part of this territory (of the today's Eastern Slovakia) came under the jurisdiction of Great Moravia.

When Tsar Simeon the Great began expanding his kingdom of Bulgaria, he gained control of a segment of "White Croatia", forcing Prince Laborec (a local ruler) to recognize his authority at the end of the 9th century. In 896 the Proto-Magyars crossed the Carpathian Range and migrated into this territory. Prince Laborec fell from power under the efforts of the Magyars and the Kievan forces; many of these forces remained behind and were assimilated by the White Croats.

As the Magyars had migrated through Transcarpathia in the 9th century, many of the local inhabitants were assimilated. Hungarians, and the local Ruthenian nobility often intermarried with the Hungarian nobles to the south. Prince Rostislav, a Ruthenian noble unable to continue his family's rule of Kiev, governed a great deal of Transcarpathia from 1243 to 1261 for his father-in-law, Béla IV of Hungary.

The territory's ethnic diversity increased with the influx of some 40,000 Cuman settlers, who came to settle in the area after their defeat by Volodymyr II (Monomakh) of Kiev in the 12th century and their ultimate defeat at the hands of the Tatars in 1238.

From 1526, the region was under Habsburg rule (within the Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary). Since 1570, the region was divided between the Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary and Ottoman Transylvania. During this period, an important factor in the Ruthenian cultural identity, namely religion, came to the fore. The Unions of Brest-Lytovsk (1595) and of Uzhorod [1646) were instituted, causing the Byzantine Orthodox Churches of Carpathian and Transcarpathian Rus' to come under the jurisdiction of Rome, thus establishing so-called "Unia", or Eastern Catholic churches in the region, the Ruthenian Catholic Church and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. In the 17th century (until 1648) the entire region was part of Transylvania, and between 1682 and 1685, its north-western part belonged to the Principality of the prince Imre Thököly, while south-eastern parts belonged to Transylvania.

Since 1699, the entire region was part of the Habsburg-ruled Kingdom of Hungary.

West Ukrainian People's Republic (1918), incorporating Transcarpathia)

Between 1850 and 1860 the Kingdom of Hungary was divided into five military districts, and the region was part of the Military District of Košice.

In 1918 and 1919, the region was briefly part of the independent West Ukraine Republic. Transcarpathia, as well as a broader region, was occupied by Romania from April 1919 until July or August 1919, and then was reoccupied by Hungary.

After World War I and the Treaty of Trianon (1920), Transcarpathia became part of Czechoslovakia. Whether this was widely popular among the mainly peasant population, is debatable; clearly, however, what mattered most to Ruthenians was not which country they would join, but that they be granted autonomy within it. After their experience of Magyarization, few Carpathian Rusyns were eager to remain under Hungarian rule, and they desired to ensure self-determination[2].

On November 8, 1918, the first National Council (the Lubovňa Council, which was later reconvened as the Prešov Council) was held in western Ruthenia. The first of many councils, it simply stated the desire of its members to separate from Hungary, but did not specify a particular alternative — only that it must involve the right to self-determination.

Over the next months, councils met every few weeks, calling for various solutions. Some wanted to remain part of Hungary but with greater autonomy; the most notable of these, the Uzhhorod Council (November 9, 1918), declared itself the representative of the Rusyn people and began negotiations with Hungary, resulting in the adoption of Law no. 10, making four of the Rusyn counties autonomous. Other councils, such as the Carpatho-Ruthenian National Council meetings in Khust (November 1918), called for unification with a Ukrainian state. It was only in early January 1919 that the first calls were heard in Ruthenia for union with Czechoslovakia.

Prior to this, in July 1918, Rusyn immigrants in the United States had convened and called for complete independence. Failing that, they would try to unite with Galicia and Bukovyna; and failing that, they would demand autonomy, though they did not specify under which state. They approached the American government and were told that the only viable option was unification with Czechoslovakia. Their leader, Gregory Zatkovich, then signed the "Philadelphia Agreement" with Czech President Tomáš Masaryk, guaranteeing Rusyn autonomy upon unification with Czechoslovakia. A referendum was held among American Rusyn parishes, with a resulting 67% in favor. Another 28% voted for union with Ukraine, and less than one percent each for Galicia, Hungary and Russia. Less than 2% desired complete independence.

In April 1919, Czechoslovak control on the ground was established, when Czechoslovak troops - acting in conert with Rumanian forces arriving from the east, with both acting under French auspices - entered the area. In a series of battles they defeated and crushed the local militias of the Hungarian Soviet Republic, whose proclaimed aim was to "unite the Hungarian, Rosyn and Jewish toilers against the exploiters of the same nationalities". Communist sympathizers accused the Czechoslovaks and Rumanians of atrocities, such as public hangings and the clubbing to death of wounded prisoners[3].

This fighting had a strategic significance as the Soviet aid for whose coming the Hungarian Communists hoped (in vain, as the Bolsheviks were too busy with their own civil war) would have had to pass thorough this region. In 1920, the area was used as a conduit for arms and ammunition for the anti-Soviet Poles fighting in the Polish-Soviet War directly to the north, while local Communists sabotaged the trains and tried to help the Soivet side.[4].

In May 1919, a Central National Council convened in the US under Zatkovich and voted unanimously to accept the Czechoslovak solution. Back in Ruthenia, on May 8, 1919, a general meeting of representatives from all the previous councils was held, and declared that "The Central Russian National Council... completely endorse the decision of the American Uhro-Rusin Council to unite with the Czech-Slovak nation on the basis of full national autonomy."

The Hungarian left-wing writer Béla Illés claimed that the meeting was little more than a farce, with various "notables" fetched from their homes by police, formed into a "National Assembly" without any semblance of a democratic process, and effectively ordered to endorse incorporation into Czechoslovakia. He further asserts that Clemenceau had personally instructed the French general on the spot to get the area incorporated into Czechoslovakia "at all costs", so as to create a buffer separating Soviet Ukraina from Hungary, as part of the French anti-Communist "Cordon sanitaire" policy, and that is was the French rather than the Czechoslovaks who made the effective decisions.[5]

Zatkovich was appointed governor of the province by Masaryk on April 20, 1920 and resigned almost a year later, on April 17, 1921, to return to his law practice in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. The reason for his resignation was dissatisfaction with the borders with Slovakia [6]. His tenure is a historical anomaly as the only American citizen ever acting as governor of a province that later became a part of the USSR.

The Treaty of St. Germain (September 10, 1919) granted the Carpathian Rusyns that autonomy, which was later upheld to some extent by the Czechoslovak constitution. Some rights were, however, withheld by Prague, which justified its actions by claiming that the process was to be a gradual one; and Rusyn representation in the national sphere was less than that hoped for. In 1927, Czechoslovakia was divided into four provinces and one of them was Sub-Carpathian Rus.

While it was the Rusyns themselves who had arrived at the decision to join the Czechoslovak state, it is debatable whether their decision had any influence on the outcome. At the Paris Peace Conference, several other countries (including Hungary, Ukraine and Russia) laid claim to Carpathian Rus. The Allies, however, had few alternatives to choosing Czechoslovakia. Hungary had lost the war and therefore gave up its claims; Ukraine was seen as politically inviable; and Russia was in the midst of a civil war. Thus the Rusyns' decision to become part of Czechoslovakia can only have been important in creating, at least initially, good relations between the leaders of Carpathian Rus and Czechoslovakia. The Ukrainian language was not actively persecuted in Czechoslovakia during the interwar period unlike in the three other countries with a large Ukrainian population (Soviet Union, Poland and Romania).[7]

In the period 1918-1938 the Czechoslovak government decided to bring the very undeveloped region (70% of population illiterate, no industry, herdsman way of life)[8] to the level of Czechoslovakia. Thousands of Czech teachers, policemen, clerks and businessmen went to the region. Czechoslovak government used a lot of money to build thousands of kilometres of railways, roads, airports, hundreds of schools and residential buildings.[8]

In November 1938, under the First Vienna Award — which was a result of the Munich Agreement — Czechoslovakia, and later Slovakia, were forced by Germany and Italy to cede the southern third of Slovakia and southern Carpathian Rus to Hungary. The remainder of Carpathian Rus received autonomy, with Avhustyn Voloshyn as the prime minister of the autonomous government.

Following the Slovak proclamation of independence on March 14 and Nazi's seizure of Czech lands on March 15, Carpatho-Rus declared its independence as the Republic of Carpatho-Ukraine, with Avhustyn Voloshyn as head of state, and was immediately invaded and annexed by Hungary. On March 23 Hungary annexed further parts of eastern Slovakia bordering with the west of Carpatho-Rus.

In the fall of 1944 when the north and eastern parts of Carpatho-Rus were seized by Red Army, the Czechoslovak government delegation led by minister František Němec arrived to Khust to establish the provisional Czechoslovak administration, according to the treaties between the Soviet and Czechoslovak government from the same year. However, just after few weeks, from the reasons still not clear, the Red Army and NKVD started to obstruct the delegation's work and finally the puppet "National committee of Transcarpatho-Ukraine" was set up in Mukachevo under the protection of Red Army. On November 26 this committee, led by Ivan Turyanitsa (Rusyn who deserted from Czechoslovak army) proclaimed the "will of Ukrainian people" to separate from Czechoslovakia and join the Soviet Ukraine. After two months of conflicts and useless negotiations the Czechoslovak government delegation departed Khust on February 1, 1945, left the Carpathian Rus under the Soviet control.

After World War II, on June 29, 1945, a treaty was signed between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union, ceding Carpatho-Rus officially to the Soviet Union. In 1946, Rus was incorporated into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

The latter in 1991 became the independent state of Ukraine, with Carpatho-Rus as an integral part. Currently, the region is a province within Ukraine, officially known as Zakarpattia Oblast. (See Zakarpattia Oblast for history past that time.)

Recent History

On October 25, 2008, 100 delegates to the Congress Of Carpathian Ruthenians declared the formation of the Republic of Carpathian Ruthenia. The Ukrainian nationalist Svoboda Party responded by releasing the following statement: "Zakarpattian separatists led by Moscow Patriarchate priest Sidor are issuing an ultimatum to the Ukrainian authorities today. Tomorrow, armed with Russian passports and money from the Kremlin, they will implement the ‘Georgian scenario’ in Ukraine." The party called on President Viktor Yuschenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to issue a political assessment of the actions in Zakarpattia and Crimea, called on the National Security and Defense Council to draft a plan to restrict separatist actions, and called on the Foreign Affairs Ministry to declare all the citizens that participated in the October 25 congress as persona non grata in Ukraine[9]. The prosecutor’s office of Zakarpattia region has filed a case against priest Dymytrii Sydor and Yevhen Zhupan, an Our Ukraine deputy of the Zakarpattia regional council and chairman of the People’s Council of Ruthenians, on charges of encroaching on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine[10].


Carpathian Ruthenia is inhabited mainly by Ruthenian-speakers (Rusyns, Lemkos and Ukrainians who may refer to themselves and their language as Rusnak or Lemko). Places inhabited by Rusyns also span adjacent regions of the Carpathian Mountains, including regions of present day Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania. Ruthenian settlements exist in the Balkans as well.

According to the 1880 census, the population of the present-day territory of Carpathian Ruthenia (Zakarpattia Oblast) was composed of:

According to the 1989 census, the population of the present-day territory of Carpathian Ruthenia (Zakarpattia Oblast) was composed of:

According to the 2001 census[11], the population of Zakarpattia Oblast was composed of:

Ukrainians and Rusyns

The area of present-day Transcarpathia was probably settled by Slavic tribes in the 6th century. The Ruthenian population was ethnically the same as the population of the areas north of the Carpathian Mountains.

However, because of geographical and political isolation from the main Ruthenian-speaking territory, the inhabitants developed distinctive features. In addition, between the 12th and 15th centuries, the area was colonized by groups of Vlach highlanders. They were assimilated into the local Slavic population, and strongly influenced the culture, making it more distinctive from the culture of other Ruthenian-speaking areas.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Transcarpathia was an area of struggle between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian activists. The former asserted that the Carpatho-Ruthenians were part of the Ukrainian nation, while the latter claimed them to be a separate ethnicity and nationality, or part of the Russian ethnos.

In the 19th century and the first part of the 20th, the inhabitants of Transcarpathia continued to call themselves "Ruthenians" ("Rusyny"). After Soviet annexation the term "Ukrainian", which had replaced "Ruthenian" in eastern Ukraine at the turn of the century, was applied to Ruthenians/Rusyns of Transcarpathia. Most present-day inhabitants consider themselves ethnically Ukrainians, although in the most recent census 10,100 people (0.8%) identified themselves as ethnically Rusyn.

On 7 March 2007, the Zakarpattia Oblast Council recognized the Rusyn nationality.[12][13]


Transcarpathia was a part of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary from the 11th century. From 1526, the region was within the Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary, and since 1570, it was divided between the Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary and the principality of Transylvania under Ottoman suzerainty. In the 17th century (until 1648) the entire region was part of Transylvania, and between 1682 and 1685, its north-western part belonged to the Hungarian Principality of the prince Imre Thököly, while south-eastern parts belonged to Transylvania. Since 1699, the entire region was part of the Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the nobility and middle class in the region was almost solely Hungarian-speaking. Following separation of Transcarpathia from the Kingdom of Hungary, the Hungarian population decreased slightly; the Hungarian census of 1910 shows 185,433, the Czechoslovak census of 1921 shows 111,052, but much of this difference presumably reflects differences in methodology and definitions rather than such a large decline in the region's ethnic Hungarian (Magyar) or Hungarian-speaking population. Even according to the 1921 census, Hungarians still constituted about 18% of the region's total population.

On the eve of World War II, the First Vienna Award allowed Hungary to annex Transcarpathia. The pro-Nazi policies of the Hungarian government subsequently resulted in extermination and emigration of Hungarian-speaking Jews, and other groups living in the territory were decimated by war. The end of the war was a cataclysm particularly for the ethnic Hungarian population of the area: 10,000 fled before the arrival of Soviet forces. Many of the remaining adult men (25,000) were deported to the Soviet Union; about 30% of them died in Soviet labor camps. As a result of this development since 1938, the Hungarian-speaking population of Transcarpathia decreased from 161,000 in 1941 (according to a contested Hungarian census) to 66,000 in 1947 (an equally contested Soviet census); the low 1947 number can be partially attributed to Hungarians' fear to declare their true nationality.

As of 2004, about 170,000 (12-13%) inhabitants of Transcarpathia declare Hungarian as their mother tongue. Homeland Hungarians refer to Hungarians in Ukraine as kárpátaljaiak.


Memoirs and historical studies provide much evidence that in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Rusyn-Jewish relations were generally peaceful. In 1939, census records showed that 80,000 Jews lived in the autonomous province of Ruthenia. Jews were approximately 14% of the prewar population, but they were concentrated in larger towns, especially Mukachevo, where they constituted 43% of the prewar population.

During the Holocaust, 17 main ghettos were set up in cities in Ruthenia, from which all Jews were taken to Auschwitz for extermination. Ruthenian ghettos were set up in May 1944 and liquidated by June 1944. Most of the Jews of Transcarpathia were killed, though a number survived, either because they were hidden by their neighbours, or were forced into labour battalions, which often guaranteed food and shelter.


See History of Germans in Russia and the Soviet Union for information about Carpathian-German (mainly German-speaking Bohemian, Moravian German and Saxon/Low German from middle and eastern Germany) settlement in the 16th to 18th centuries. to be written


Czechs in Carpathian Ruthenia are ethnoculturally distinct from other West Slavic groups like the Slovaks, as they originated from Czech-speaking groups from Bohemia and Moravia instead of Slovakia. to be written


There are approximately 25,000 ethnic Roma in present-day Transcarpathia. Some estimates point to a number as high as 50,000 but a true count is hard to obtain as many Roma will claim to be Hungarian or Romanian when interviewed by Ukrainian authorities.

They are by far the poorest and least-represented ethnic group in the region and face intense prejudice. The years since the fall of the USSR have not been kind to the Roma of the region, as they have been particularly hard hit by the economic problems faced by peoples all over the former USSR. Some Roma in western Ukraine live in major cities such as Uzhhorod and Mukachevo, but most live in encampments on the outskirts of cities. These encampments are known as "taberi" and can house up to 300 families. These encampments tend to be fairly primitive with no running water or electricity.

For further information, see


Some 30,000 Romanians live in this region, mostly around the southern towns of Rakhiv (Rahău) and Tiachiv (Teceu) and close to the border with Romania.


Also known as Carpatho-Greeks and Greek-Carpathians. to be written


Descendants of Armenians who came and settled in the region in the 15th to 18th centuries. to be written

Western views

For urban European readers in the 19th century, Ruthenia, a forgotten piece of Hungary, was one origin of the 19th century's imaginary "Ruritania" the most rural, most rustic and deeply provincial tiny province lost in forested mountains that could be imagined. Conceived sometimes as a kingdom of central Europe, Ruritania was the setting of several novels by Anthony Hope, especially The Prisoner of Zenda (1894).

Recently Vesna Goldsworthy, in Inventing Ruritania: the imperialism of the imagination (1998) has explored the origins of the ideas that underpin Western perceptions of the "Wild East" of Europe, especially of Ruthenian and other rural Slavs in the upper Balkans, but ideas that are highly applicable to Transcarpathia, all in all "an innocent process: a cultural great power seizes and exploits the resources of an area, while imposing new frontiers on its mind-map and creating ideas which, reflected back, have the ability to reshape reality."

See also


  1. ^ "Subcarpathian Rus’/Podkarpats’ka Rus’". Retrieved 2007-06-10.  
  2. ^ [ ]
  3. ^ Quoted extensively in Béla Illés, "A Carpathian Raphosody", 1939
  4. ^ Illés, op.cit., refers to local Communists lighting fires on Carpathian peaks, which they hoped would show the way to Budyonny's Red Cavalry
  5. ^ Illés, op.cit.
  6. ^ [] p. 223
  7. ^ Serhy Yekelchyk "Ukraine: Birth of a Modern Nation", Oxford University Press (2007), ISBN 9780195305463 (page 128-130)
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ "Svoboda Party Calls On SBU To Launch Criminal Case Against Delegates To Congress Of Carpathian Ruthenians For Declaring Carpathian Ruthenia Republic". Retrieved 2008-11-06.  
  10. ^ "Prosecutors File Case Against People Who Initiated Proclamation Of Carpathian Ruthenian Republic On Separatism Charges". Retrieved 2008-11-06.  
  11. ^ "Composition of Zakarpattia Oblast population (Ukraine census of 2001)" (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 2008-12-26.  
  12. ^ "News - 7 march 2007 - The activities of local government." (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 2008-12-28}.  
  13. ^ "Rusyns Recognized as Indigenous Nationality of the Transcarpathian Oblast of Ukraine". Retrieved 2008-12-26.  


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External links

Coordinates: 49°20′N 20°14′E / 49.333°N 20.233°E / 49.333; 20.233


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