Monday, August 17, 2009

Rusyns in the Carpathian Ukraine

"Russia Today" recently made a special report about Rusyns in the Carpathian Ukraine, which can be seen on the RT website:

They write:

Today, the political situation in Ukraine, the former Soviet republic, is unstable. Political parties argue over who should rule the country. The people also can’t understand which part to take. But do you know that in Carpathian Ukraine live people who have other problems? They have no land of their own, but they have their national attributes - a flag, an emblem and an anthem. Their language is believed to be dead, but they speak and write poetry in it. They call themselves the Rusyns. This small ethnic group want their voice to be heard and recognized.


ai said...

Nice - thanks for posting this. There is, however, an element of propaganda in it. Russia Today is a state media outlet for Russia, and anyone following recent news from this region will know that the Russian state has been ratcheting up its anti-Ukrainian propaganda as it tries to fuel Crimean "separatism." (The Crimean issue is complex, as it includes a Russian-identified majority, large Ukrainian minority, and Crimean Tatar indigenous minority, with both of the latter fearing any kind of possible "reintegration" with Russia.) The Rusyn "separatism" issue allows Russia to keep its paws on the west of Ukraine as well.

So much for the conspiracy theory (Russia as big-grother imperialist power)... But in actual fact, "Rusyn" (commonly translated into English as "Ruthenian") is the old name for Ukrainians, which up until the late 19th century most Ukrainians would have used. The language is virtually identical; linguists would call it a dialect just as they would call Hutsul or Lemko Ukrainian dialects. (The latter are two other Ukrainian-speaking mountain groups, though some Rusyns claim Lemkos to be actually Rusyns.)

Ethnicity is a historical construct, of course, and if the Rusyns would like to switch their allegiance to another "mother country" (as Russians, Slovaks, and others have advocated over the years), or form their own nation-state, that should be their right. But we should be aware of the socio-political context and the internal disagreements, such as the fact that most Rusyns continue to identify as Ukrainians or "Rusyn-Ukrainians"; only a minority advocate separate nationhood.

Daniel Winfree Papuga said...

You're right about the propaganda in the video. But fear of a fifth column in Transcarpathia has fueled debates for many years. See what the "Ukrainian World Coordinating Council" said in the early 1990's:
"As a result of codification, (...) the anti-Ukrainian forces intend to struggle against Ukrainianism and to de-stabilize the situation in western Ukraine. In their attempt to separate those Ukrainians who prefer to call themselves by their historic name Rusyn and to transform them into some kind of ´other´ nationality, the enemies of Ukraine are with persistence creating a situation leading to a new change of borders, to rebellion, and to armed conflict." (Drach 1995:7, cited in )