Thursday, June 07, 2007

A Victory against Ukrainian Chauvinism: Rusyns of Transcarpathia get Minority Recognition At Last!

though ukrainain politics in general is beyond the realm of the asburdly ridiculous, the article below (from arel's ukraine list) is about a very positive event; but first, a few comments of my own:

i have long been very interested in the rusyn question, for a variety of reasons, but most importantly: it is important for ukrainians to think twice about insisting on the national identity of another community (against the will of the majority of its members), lest ukrainians themselves would like to cede the right to define ukrainianness to others that are outside the community as well.

if you are ukrainian and think that you can insist on the ukrainian identity of the rusysns against the will of the majority of the rusyns, then you must be intellectually honest and admit that russian chauvinists have just as much right to insit on your little russianness.

AND given that lemkos traditionally have thought of themselves as rusyns (never as ukrainians) as well, ukrainians (and poles) should be careful when they label those deported and resettled in the akcija wisla as "ukrainians" (or "poles"). . .

(and btw, none of my heritage is rusyn--neither lemko, bojko, nor dolynjany. it is just that i can't stand nationalism-driven hypocrisy, ignorance, and chauvinism. . .)

this is a major victory for the rusyn movement indeed, one they should enjoy.

and. . .it feels good to blog again. . .

Rusyns Recognized as Indigenous Nationality of the Transcarpathian Oblast of Ukraine
Decision is a Milestone in Decades-Long Struggle of National Minority Group
Washington, D.C., May 31, 2007
[From the Minelres List, 5 June 2007]

A landmark decision of Ukraine's Transcarpathian Oblast Council on March 7, 2007, officially recognized the Rusyn people as an indigenous nationality of the region. The council members, representing the oblast's 1.2 million citizens, voted overwhelmingly to respond to the long-standing requests of local cultural and political organizations to acknowledge the existence of a distinct Rusyn nationality in the Transcarpathian (Zakarpatska) oblast. The 90-member council voted as follows: 71 for; 2 against; with 2 abstentions.

The decision to recognize Rusyns as distinct from Ukrainians means that the oblast must now provide funding for the needs of the Rusyn community in areas of language, culture, and education alongside funding for other nationalities in the region, such as Hungarians, Romanians, Slovaks, Roma, and Germans. The Transcarpathian Oblast of Ukraine, which borders Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania, is home to over 100 nationalities and peoples.

Rusyns are an East Slavic people living primarily in the Carpathian Mountain region of Slovakia, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine. Sizeable Rusyn communities also exist in Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Canada, and the United States. Rusyns are officially recognized in all of those countries except for Ukraine.

The territory of Transcarpathia (historic Subcarpathian Rus') was a semi-autonomous province of Czechoslovakia until after World War II, when Stalin annexed the territory and outlawed the idea of a distinct Rusyn nationality. Rusyns were declared to be Ukrainians, a condition that has continued in independent Ukraine to the present. In spite of the fact that the 2001 Ukrainian census did not include Rusyn as a national category, 10,100 individuals identified themselves as Rusyn rather than Ukrainian. Today Rusyns comprise approximately 65% of the population of Transcarpathia, that is, 800,000-850,000 people.

Paul R. Magocsi, Chairman of the Slovakia-based World Council of Rusyns, remarked, "The decision of the Transcarpathian Oblast Council is a reflection of the success of the Rusyn movement and all those who have worked on behalf of the Rusyn nationality both inside and outside Ukraine." Magocsi's enthusiastic reaction was echoed by Rusyn organizations in other countries of central Europe.

Valeriy Padiak, president of the Uzhhorod branch of the Aleksander Dukhnovych Society, a cultural organization of Rusyns, immediately praised the decision as a significant positive step forward. Rusyn organizations in Transcarpathia will now look for government support of Rusyn "Sunday schools," the establishment of a department of Rusyn language and culture at Uzhhorod National University, support for publications, conferences and celebrations of Rusyn traditional culture, Rusyn programs on television and radio, and the introduction of Rusyn language and history as elective subjects in public schools.

Local Rusyn leader and deputy to the Transcarpathian Oblast Council Ievhen Zhupan welcomed the recognition, stating that since 1992 the Oblast Council has requested the recognition of Rusyns as a distinct nationality in Ukraine four times, adding, "Unfortunately, today Ukraine is still the only country where Rusyns have no official status." He called attention to the fact that Rusyns and Rusyn organizations supported democratic change in Ukraine during the Orange Revolution. According to Zhupan, "Transcarpathians will continue to build up their region, support their country of Ukraine, love their native land, and live in peace with others, regardless of their ethnic background."

The Oblast Council has said that it will refer the matter of nationwide recognition of Rusyns in Ukraine to Ukraine's national parliament (Verkhovna Rada), requesting that the parliament take the final step in the matter and legally recognize the existence of the Rusyn people countrywide. Such nationwide recognition would demonstrate Ukraine's commitment to democratic principles and conformity with European norms.


ruthenica said...

I am glad to see that you are also bothered by the Rusyn-Ukrainian antagonism.

Anonymous said...

Your analogy of those who insist on the Ukrainianes of the rusyns as somehow akin to the insistence of some Russians as to the little russianness of the Ukrainians might at first glance seem to be plausible, but with just a little bit of historical study, one finds it severely naieve & unsatisfying. To site just one concrete example in the 20th century of the absuridity of this point of view, one need only look to the proclamation of the Carpatho-Ukrainian Republic in 1939spearheaded & suppored by the majority of the "rusyns" in Transcarpathia. There is much to indicate that the Rusyn ethnos is an integral part of the Ukrainian nation (see Kuzio: Rusyns in Ukraine: Sorting out Fact from Fiction). Kuzio does a good job of dispelling the misconception that a majority of the inhabitants of this region identify themselves as rusyns. Certainly, if you're as interested in the Rusyn question as you indicate, you are aware that your own ancestors in Pidhaitsy at one time also identified themselves as Rusyns & not as Ukrainians?

Chernevog said...

Actually, its the other way around. Ukrainians are Rusyns.

The term "Ukrainian" is basically a relatively modern one, which dates from about the middle of the 19th Century.

The people who created the idea of a separate state for people of our ethnicity were largely "Ruthenes" or "Little Russians" of the western regions of what is now the Ukraine, as well as the eastern Regions of Poland and Slovakia, who made up the educated intelligentsia of the ethnic group. Those who now consider themselve Ukrainian tended to be the rural and lesser educated members of the ethnicity. The western group tended to have a mix of both Byzantine Catholic and Eastern Orthodox members by religion, while those who took on the "Ukrainian" ethnicity tended to be almost totally Orthodox.

In the western areas from 1859 to about 1919, there was a great awakening among the Rusyns in Central Europe and there was a blossoming of Rusyn Literature written in a distinct slavic language.

Rusyns from Subcarpathia were educated in some of the finest schools of the day in Trnava, Vienna and Budapest.

However as the nationalistic ambitions of other groups started to emerge in Hungary, Russia, and among the Czechs and Slovaks, the Rusyns who made up minorities in these countries tended to have their own ethnic identities considered as somewhat subversive or threatening to these other nationalist movement.

The main road the peace loving Rusyns took was, well emigration, which resulted in the current reality today. There are more Rusyns outside of their original homeland area than there are inside of it.

Or to put it more succintly I am bothered by the Rusyn Ukrainian antagonism as well.

There are also rather political and practical reasons that the nation of the Ukraine is not happy about Rusyn aspirations for autonomy.

Have you ever looked at a map of where all the energy pipelines pass through to get into Europe. The majority of them pass through the area that would be an autonomous Subcarpathian region.

Anonymous said...

Your point is well taken & quite accurate. It is an uncontroversial fact that between the 9th - 19th centuries all of the inhabitants of all ukrainian lands were known as rusyns. If you look closely at the historical documents of the Zaporozhian cossacks & of the Hetmanate, the people of Rus (Ruthenia) are referred to as rusyns. The final appelation of 'ukrainian' to all former 'rusyns' was last to take hold in Transcarpathia, the region furthest & most separated from the rest of the ukrainian lands. Ukrainians are Rusyns & conversely Rusyns are Ukrainians!