Saturday, March 14, 2009


I am still deluged with work involving the libel case so my journalistic output is very restricted. Sorry


A glimpse of daylight

Mar 12th 2009
From The Economist print edition

Ruthenia was once independent, for one day. Now Ruthenes are getting restive

FOR connoisseurs of obscurity, the Republic of Carpatho-Ruthenia takes some beating. Seventy years ago, on March 15th, it enjoyed its sole day of independence—declared in the morning amid the Nazis’ dismemberment of the then Czechoslovakia, snuffed out in the evening by an invasion from neighbouring Hungary. Its leader, Avhustyn [Augustin] Voloshyn, died in a Soviet jail in 1945; so did many others. Before the world had even noticed its existence, independent Ruthenia disappeared into first the Nazi, then the Soviet empires.

Ruthenians have had little joy since. A list of famous Ruthenes begins and pretty much ends with Andy Warhol: the artist did not himself speak Ruthene, though his parents did. He once said he had “come from nowhere”. Many Ruthenian activists feel that way, too.

A million-plus by the most generous count (but far fewer according to sceptics), Ruthenians are scattered through the Carpathian regions of Slovakia, Poland and Ukraine, with another bunch in former Yugoslavia. Some are Orthodox, but most are eastern-rite Catholics. That prompted savage suppression in the communist era.

Many doubt the Ruthene claim to any form of national identity. Even the placename is disputed. Czechs and Slovaks, looking east, tend to talk of “Sub-Carpathia”; Ukrainians, looking west, talk of “Trans-Carpathia”. Communist rulers denied Ruthenes existed at all. Ukraine recognised them as an ethnic minority only in 2007. The language—sometimes called Rusyn—is dismissed as a mere dialect of established Slavic tongues, even by some who speak it.

But the Ruthenian cause is stirring. In western Ukraine, Ruthenian revivalists have demanded self-determination. One group has even declared independence. Their self-proclaimed prime minister, Petr Getsko, told a Russian government newspaper in December that the “lion’s share” of Russian gas exports to Europe pass through pipelines across Ruthenia.

In Slovakia, self-declared Ruthenians are more numerous, but shun the separatist strivings across the border. Overshadowed by Slovakia’s much larger Hungarian and Roma (Gypsy) minorities, they would be happy with just a little more schooling and broadcasting in their fragile language.

1 comment:

SlovakDavid said...

A very good article. Ruthenia and Ruthenians are almost unknown even in Central Europe. I am a Slovak and by reading this article I just found out something new about our Ruthenian minority. For an outsider you show incredible interest and insight about the history and development of Central Europe, Mr. Lucas. Thank you very much for this interesting and very insightful article.