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Flag of Rusyns.png
Flag of Rusyns, promulgated by the Academy of Rusyn Culture[1]
Rusyn coat of arms.png
The Rusyn Coat of Arms, based on the coat of arms of Subcarpathian Rus. The red bear represents the Carpathian Mountains and the three gold bars the region's three major rivers: Uzh, Tysa and Latorytsia. Dark blue and gold are the region's traditional heraldic colors.[1]
Total population
Regions with significant populations
8,934-320,000 (ancestry)[a][6]
Rusyn · Ukrainian · Slovak
Serbian · Hungarian
Mostly Greek Catholic (Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church), Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church; with Eastern Orthodox (Russian Orthodox Church, Serbian Orthodox Church and American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese)
Related ethnic groups
Other Ruthenians (Ukrainians  · Lemkos  · Hutsuls)

Rusyns (Rusyn: , romanized: Rusyn?), or Rusnaks (Rusyn: ?, romanized: Rusnak?), are an East Slavic people from the region of Eastern Carpathians in Central Europe. They speak Rusyn language, and traditionally adhere to Eastern Christianity. The majority are Eastern Catholics, though a minority of Rusyns still practice Eastern Orthodoxy. Rusyns self-identify as a distinct Slavic people and are recognized as such in Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, and Slovakia where they have official minority status.[14]

In some non-Slavic languages, Rusyns are sometimes also referred to by exonymic or somewhat archaic terms, such as Carpatho-Ruthenes or Carpatho-Ruthenians, but such terminology is not used in the native (Rusyn) language. Exonymic Ruthenian designations are seen as less precise because they encompass various East Slavic groups and bear broader ethnic connotations as a result of their varied historical usage.[15][16][17]

In older literature, Rusyns were sometimes incorrectly referred to as Carpatho-Russians or Carpathian Russians. These terms, however, specifically refer to ethnic Russians of the Carpathian region. The use of several, imprecise Russian designations (in Rusyn context) are present in the works of some older authors. This includes foreign authors, as well as those native to the region. Such terminology has also been reflected within some groups of the Rusyn diaspora. This can be seen among some American Rusyns, and mostly among those that adhere to Eastern Orthodoxy.[18][d]

There is an ongoing linguistic and political controversy as to whether Rusyn language is a distinct Slavic language or one of several dialects of Ukrainian language. In several countries, it is recognized as a distinct minority language. Though Ukraine also adopted a law that recognized Rusyn as one of several minority and regional languages in 2012, that law was revoked in 2014.[19]

In Ukraine, Rusyns are considered (both by state and cultural authorities) to be a sub-ethnic group of the Ukrainian people. In terms of minority rights, the question of Rusyn self-identification and recognition in Ukraine has been a subject of interest for European institutions and the United Nations.[14]

Rusyns descend from an East Slavic population which inhabited the northeastern regions of the Eastern Carpathians. In those regions, there are several Rusyn groups including Dolinyans, Boykos, Hutsuls and Lemkos. As residents of northeastern Carpathian regions, Rusyns are closely connected to and sometimes associated with other Slavic communities in the region, like the West Slavic highlander community of Gorals (literally 'Highlanders').

Of the estimated 1.7 million people of Rusyn origin, only around 110,000 have been officially identified as such in recent (c. 2012) national censuses.[20] That is because some census-taking authorities classify them as a subgroup of Ukrainian people, but other countries officially classify them as an ethnic minority.


The term Rusyn (Rusyn: , plural , Rusyn?) is derived from the name Rus'. Traditionally, the variant Rusnak (; plural Rusnak?) has also been used by the people themselves. The traditional native adjective has been rus?k?i (? m., f., /? n.), but the form rusyn?sk?i (?, ?, , ?, ) has also been used, particularly in more recent times, after 1989.[21][18]

During the medieval period, several native ethnonyms, such as Rus' and Rusyn, have been used widely by the East Slavs of the Kievan Rus', and the common endonymic (native) use of those terms was continued during the later period of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In medieval Latin sources, parallel terms such as Rusi, Russi or Rusci were used as common designations for East Slavs.[18][22][23]

Since the end of the 11th century, an exonymic term Rutheni (Ruthenes) was also used in some Latin sources of the western provenience, as an alternative designation for East Slavs in general. During the period of Polish-Lithuanian rule, the scope of the term Rutheni was gradually narrowed to inhabitants of East Slavic regions that are now belonging to modern states of Belarus and Ukraine. After the Partitions of Poland, the Latin term Rutheni "came to be associated primarily with those Ukrainians who lived under the Habsburg monarchy" (after 1843 used as an official designation in the Austrian Empire) and since the early twentieth century "became even more restricted: it was generally used to refer to the inhabitants of Transcarpathia and to Transcarpathian emigrants in the United States", for whom the terms Rusyn and Carpatho-Rusyn are more commonly used since the 1970s.[24]

In the Kingdom of Hungary, the official term Ruthenes was used for the Rusyns (Hungarian: rutén or ruszin) of Transcarpathia until 1945.[25] They were referred as well as "Uhro-Rusyn" (Uhro-Rus) (in the Eperjes and Carpathian Ruthenia regions).

The main regional designation for Rusyns is Carpatho-Rusyns or Carpatho-Ruthenians (karpato-Rusyny), referring to Carpathian Ruthenia (Karpats?ka Rus?) a historical cross-border region encompassing Subcarpathian Rus' (in northeastern Slovakia and Ukraine's Zakarpattia Oblast), Pre?ov Region (in eastern Slovakia), the Lemko Region (in southeastern Poland), and Maramure? (in north-central Romania). In the Lemko region, the name Lemko (pl. Lemk?) became more common in the twentieth century, and also Lemko-Rusyn from the 1990s.[18]

In interwar Czechoslovakia, Ruthenia was called Rusinsko in Czech, sometimes rendered Rusinia or Rusynia in American-Rusyn publications.[26]

Outside of the Carpathian region, Rusyns in the regions of Vojvodina (in modern Serbia) and Slavonia (in modern Croatia), also call themselves Rusyns or Rusnaks (with plural Rusnatsi) and are referred to as Vojvodinian Rusyns (voivodianski Rusnatsi), Bachka-Srem Rusyns (bachvans?ko-srimski rusnatsi), and formerly as Yugoslav Rusyns (iuzhnoslavians?ki Rusnatsi).[27]

The terms Rusyn, Ruthene, Rusniak, Lemak, Lyshak, and Lemko are considered by some scholars to be historic, local and synonymical names for the inhabitants of Transcarpathia; others hold that the terms Lemko and Rusnak are simply regional variations of Rusyn or Ruthene.[22]


There are different theories to explain Rusyn origins.[28] According to Paul Robert Magocsi, the origin of the present-day Carpatho-Rusyns is complex and not exclusively related to the Kievan Rus'. The ancestors were the early Slavs whose movement to the Danubian Basin was influenced by the Huns and Pannonian Avars between the 5th and 6th centuries, the White Croats who lived on both slopes of the Carpathians and built many hill-forts in the region including Uzhhorod ruled by the mythical ruler Laborec, the Rusyns of Galicia and Podolia, and Vlachian shepherds of Transylvania.[29] It is thought that the Croats were part of the Antes tribal polity who migrated to Galicia in the 3rd-4th century, under pressure by invading Huns and Goths.[30][31][32] George Shevelov also considered a connection with East Slavic tribes, more specifically, the Hutsuls, and possibly Boykos, argued to be the descendants of the Ulichs who were not native in the region.[33] As the region of the Ukrainian Carpathians, including Zakarpattia and Prykarpattia, has since the Early Middle Ages been inhabited by the tribes of Croats,[e] in Ukrainian encyclopedias and dictionaries, and the Great Russian Encyclopedia, the Rusyns are generally considered to be the descendants of the White Croats.[f]


Generalized portraits of Ukrainian men from the Carpathians and Bukovina, per S. P. Segeda, 2001.

According to anthropological studies, the Eastern Carpathian population makes one of the sub-regional clines of the Ukrainian population, which can be regionally divided into Eastern and Western Carpathian variants. In the study by M. S. Velikanova (1975) the skulls from a medieval necropolis near village of Vasyliv in Zastavna Raion were very similar to contemporary Carpathian population, and according to S. P. Segeda, V. Dyachenko and T. I. Alekseyeva this anthropological complex developed in the Middle Ages or earlier, as descendants of the medieval Slavs of Galicia and carriers of Chernyakhov culture along Prut-Dniester rivers, possibly with some Thracian component. According to the data, the population has the lowest admixture in Ukraine of Turkic speaking populations, like Volga Tatars and Bashkirs, while in comparison to other populations they have similarities with neighbouring Eastern Slovaks, Gorals of Poland, Romanians, some groups of Czechs and Hungarians, Northwestern Bulgarians, Central and Northern Serbians, and most of Croatians.[34][35]

Population genetics

The 2006 mitochondrial DNA study of Carpathian Highlanders - Boykos, Hutsuls and Lemkos people[36] - showed a common ancestry with other modern Europeans.[37] A 2009 mitochondrial DNA study of 111 samples found that in comparison to eight other Central and Eastern European populations (Belarusian, Croatian, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Ukrainian), the three Rusyn groups have a greater distance between themselves than these populations, with Boykos showing the greatest distance from all and did not cluster with anyone because have atypically low frequencies of haplogroup H (20%) and J (5%) for a European population, while Lemkos are closest to the Czech and Romanian (0.17) population, and Hutsuls closest to the Croatian (0.11) and Ukrainian (0.16) population.[36]

The 2014 Y-DNA studies of 200 Pannonian Rusyns in the region of Vojvodina, Serbia, found they mostly belong to haplogroup R1a (43%), I2 (20%), E-V13 (12.5%), and R1b (8.5%), while I1, G2a, J2b, N1 between 2.5 and 4.5%, and J1, T, and H only in traces of less than 1%.[38] They cluster closest to the Ukrainian and Slovakian population, "providing evidence for their genetic isolation from the Serbian majority population".[39] The 2015 Y-DNA study of 150 men from Zakarpattia and Chernivtsi Oblast (Bukovina), found they mostly belong to R1a1a1*(?198), I2a (?37.2), R1a1a1 (?458) ranging around and less than 30%, with E1b1b1a1 (M78), R1b1b2 (M269), and I1 (?253) ranging between 4-14%. The sampled population is most similar to other Ukrainians, while the Bukovina population slightly "differs from the typical Ukrainian population" because it has the highest percentage of I2a (>30%) and the lowest percentage of R1a (30%) in Ukraine. Bukovina's percentage of I2 is similar to near Moldovan and Romanian population, while the highest percentage is among South Slavs in Western Balkans. It was concluded that although bordered by diverse nations, the Carpathians seemingly were a barrier decreasing gene flow southward of N1c (?178), R1a (?198) from the region, and northward of E1b (?78), R1b (?269), J (?304) and G (?201) to the region.[40]


Early History

The general usage of 'Rusyn' by all East Slavs dates back to over 11 centuries, its origin signifying the ethnic tie to the political entity of Kievan Rus', which existed from the late ninth to the early 13th century. The Carpathian Rusyns, Ukrainians (once called Malo Russians or Little Russians), Belarusians (once called White Russians) and Russians (Great Russians) are descendants of the Russichi, the people of Rus', that is East Slavs who mixed with other peoples over centuries, including in the south with Iranian and later with Germanic peoples, in the west with Baltic peoples, in the east with Finnish and Turkic peoples.[41]

Over the centuries these loosely affiliated peoples developed different political and economic centers as well as new names. The inhabitants of northern Rus' were known as Great Russians by the 17th century. The people in the west called themselves Belarusians and the people in the south were known as Malo Russians (Little Russians.) Later, in what began as a political movement in the mid 19th century, many Little Russians began using the term "Ukrainian" to distinguish themselves from the Great Russians in northern Rus'. So by the mid-20th century the original name Rus or Rusyn was retained only in the Carpathian Mountains.[42]

Rusyns settled in the Carpathian Mountain region in various waves of immigration from the north between the eighth and 17th centuries. Weapons and skeletons found in tombs in Bereg County from the 10th century era suggest that Norman Vikings (who played a role in the founding of Kiev Rus') were there as well.[43] Even so, as late as the 11th century, this mountainous area was still a sparsely inhabited 'No-Man's Land' border between the kingdoms of Kievan Rus' and Hungary.[44]

In 1241, the Carpathians fell to Mongol-Tatar invasions lead by Genghis Khan's son, Batu Khan, with populations exterminated and villages torched.[45] The Mongols entered the region via the Veretski Pass, just to the north of Mukachevo.

In 1395, Orthodox Rus' Prince Feodor Koriatovich, son of the Duke of Novgorod, brought from the north soldiers and their families with him to settle unpopulated Carpathian lands. While actual the number of immigrants is uncertain, the arrival of Koriatovich and his retinue was a milestone for the Rusyns, substantially improving the region's administrative, ecclesiastical and cultural aspects.[46] This included building and fortifying Mukachevo Castle with cannons, a moat, workers and artisans, and the founding of an Orthodox monastery on the Latorytsia River.[47]

Modern history

Polish map of 1927 indicating location of Rusyns and Ukrainians (labelled Rusini) and Belarusians (Bialo Rusini)
Constitutional Law on the Autonomy of Subcarpathian Rus' (1938)
Map of territories occupied by Ruthenes in the Carpathian region near Huszt, Munkács, Ungvár
Sign reads "House of Subcarpathian Rusyns" (Dom Podkarpatskikh Rusinov) in Mukacheve

The Austro-Hungarian monarchy controlled the Carpathians from 1772 to 1918. With the increased Magyarization in the nineteenth century, for some educated and intellectual Rusyns it was natural to move to Budapest, while for other Slavic minded intellectuals the Russian Empire became a favored destination.[48]

The Rusyns have always been subject to larger neighboring powers, but in the 19th century a Rusyn national movement was formed which emphasized distinct ethnic identity and literary language.[49] During the Spring of Nations on 2 May 1848 in Lemberg (today Lviv) was established the first political representation of the Galician Rusyns, the Main Ruthenian Council (Rusyn: ? ?, Holovna Ruska Rada).[50] The most active and leading stratum among Rusyns was Greek-Catholic clergy (see Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo, Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church, a successor of Ecclesia Ruthena unita).[50]

The nineteenth century also saw the spread of pan Slavism in Europe, and a pro-Moscow view became popular. The Russian military campaign of Tsar Nicholas I through the Carpathians in 1849 had significance for the local Rusyn population, who came into close contact with an almost 200,000 man Russian army. This interaction had an impact on the rising national consciousness of that time. Aleksander Dukhnovich (1803-1865), who wrote the unofficial Rusyn National Anthem ("I was, am, and will be a Rusyn"), and who by some is considered to be a sort of 'George Washington' of the Rusyns, reminisced that when he saw the Russian Cossacks on the streets, he "danced and cried with joy".[51]

A few decades later, when economic conditions and repression worsened in the late 19th century, massive emigration of Rusyns to America took place, beginning in the early 1870s. Between 1899 and 1931, Ellis Island listed 268,669 Rusyn immigrants.[52] Most settled in the northeastern states, but Rusyn settlements also appeared in more far flung states such as Minnesota, Colorado, Alabama, Washington and Montana. Smaller numbers also emigrated to Canada, Brazil and Argentina.

Rusyns formed two ephemeral states after World War I: the Lemko-Rusyn Republic and Komancza Republic. Prior to this time, some of the founders of the Lemko-Rusyn Republic were sentenced to death or imprisoned in Talerhof by the prosecuting attorney Kost Levytsky (Rusyn? ?), future president of the West Ukrainian National Republic.[49][53] In the interwar period, the Rusyn diaspora in Czechoslovakia enjoyed liberal conditions to develop their culture (in comparison with Ukrainians in Poland or Romania).[54] Hutsul Stepan Klochurak was a prime minister of Hutsul Republic centered in Yasinia that was seeking union with the West Ukrainian People's Republic, but was overran by the Hungarian troops, later Klochurak became a Defense Minister of Carpatho-Ukraine.[49]

After World War I, the majority of Rusyns found themselves in the new country of Czechoslovakia. The interwar period became a mini renaissance for Rusyn culture, as they were permitted their own schools, theater, anthem, and even their own governor.

During the Dissolution of Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (1918),[55] various parts of Rusyn people were faced with different political challenges. Those who lived in northeastern counties of the Hungarian part of the former Monarchy were faced with pretensions of Hungary, Romania, and Czechoslovakia. On the other hand, those who lived in the former Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria were faced with pretensions of Poland and Ukraine.[56]

In the 1920s and 1930s a dispute existed between Russophile and Ukrainophile Rusyns.[49] In October 1938, a series of political reforms were initiated, leading to the creation of the Second Czechoslovak Republic, consisting of three autonomous political entities, one of them being the Subcarpathian Rus' (Rusyn ?). On 11 October 1938, first autonomous Government of Subcarpathian Rus was appointed, headed by prime-minister Andrej Bródy. Soon after, a crisis occurred between pro-Rusyn and pro-Ukrainian fractions, leading to the fall of Bródy government on 26 October. New regional government, headed by Avgustyn Voloshyn, adopted a pro-Ukrainian course and opted for the change of name, from Subcarpathian Rus' to Carpathian Ukraine.[56]

That move led to the creation of a particular terminological duality. On 22 November 1938, authorities of the Second Czechoslovak Republic proclaimed the Constitutional Law on the Autonomy of Subcarpathian Rus' (Czech: Ústavní zákon o autonomii Podkarpatské Rusi), officially reaffirming the right of self-determination of Rusyn people (preamble), and confirming full political and administrative autonomy of Subcarpathian Rus', with its own assembly and government. In the constitutional system of the Second Czechoslovak Republic, the region continued to be known as the Subcarpathian Rus', while local institutions promoted the use of the term Carpathian Ukraine.[56]

The Republic of Carpatho-Ukraine, which existed for one day on March 15, 1939, before it was occupied and annexed by Hungary, is sometimes considered to have been a self-determining Rusyn state that had intentions to unite with Kyiv.[] The Republic's president, Avgustyn Voloshyn, was an advocate of writing in Rusyn.[] The Hungarian annexation caused support for Russophile direction, while in Germany occupied Poland support for Ukrainian identity.[49]

Although the Carpathians were not a major WWII battlefield, the Rusyns saw their share of horror and destruction, beginning with the Hungarian government's 1941 tragic deportation of the Carpathian Jews. In September 1944, while retreating from a Soviet Red Army offensive, the Nazis who were passing through blew up all the bridges in Uzhhorod, including one built in the 14th century.

On 26 November 1944 in Mukachevo representatives from all cities and villages of the land adopted the manifest about union of Zakarpattia Ukraine with Soviet Ukraine.[57]

The Soviets occupied the Carpathians, and in 1945 the Rusyn ethnic homeland was split among three countries, as western portions were incorporated into Czechoslovakia and Poland, while the eastern portion became part of the Soviet Union and was officially named Transcarpathia.[58] After World War II, Transcarpathia was declared as a part of Ukrainia.[49]

In Poland, the new Communist government deported many Rusyns from their ancestral region, sending many east to Ukraine, and others to the far west of the country. In Czechoslovakia a policy of Ukrainization was implemented. In Ukraine, many Rusyns who owned land or livestock, often funded via their own family members in America, were now branded by the Soviets as kulaks, or rich peasants. Property and farm animals were confiscated and newly established kolkhozes (collectivized farms) were built, with people being forced to work on their own former land, 'employed' by the Communist government. Some of the less lucky were sent to Siberia.

In 1947, under the Operation Vistula happened forced resettlement of c. 150,000 Lemkos, Boykos and other Ukrainians between Poland and Ukraine. In the same time some 8,500 Rusyns voluntarily emigrated from Czechoslovakia to Ukraine, but more than half of them returned during the 1960s.[49]

These acts were protested for years, but to no avail. In the USA, the Greek Catholic Union's 1964 convention even adopted a resolution calling on the United Nations to act "so that Carpatho-Russia be recognized and accepted into the free nations of the world as an autonomous state".[59]

In former Yugoslavia, Rusyns were officially recognized as a distinct national minority, and their legal status was regulated in Yugoslav federal units of Serbia and Croatia. In the Constitution of Serbia, that was adopted in 1963, Rusyns were designated as one of seven (explicitly named) national minorities (Article 82),[60][61] and the same provision was implemented in the Statute of Vojvodina (an autonomous province in Serbia) that was adopted in the same year (Article 32). Further on, the Constitutional Law of 1969 regulated the position of Rusyn language as one of five official languages in Vojvodina (Article 67).[62]

Recent History

After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1990, new opportunities arose for Rusyns in Poland and in the newly formed countries of Slovakia and Ukraine. The Rusyns of the Transcarpathia region of Ukraine were able to vote in December 1991 for self-rule. With an 89% voter turnout, 78% voted Yes to autonomy.[63] But with the Russian majority in the Odessa region casting a similar vote, the Ukrainian government, fearing secession, has refused to honor this referendum.

By the end of the 20th century there appeared many societies and organizations considering Rusyns as people separate from Ukrainians. By the early 21st century they had representatives in parliaments of Serbia, Hungary, and Romania, published their own press, and in 2007 the Museum of Ruthenian Culture was opened in Pre?ov, Slovakia.[49]

In 2010 in Mukachevo were festivities commemorating the union of Zakarpattia with Ukraine, four out of 663 of congress delegates who adopted the Manifest about the Union and who were still alive attended the event F.Sabov, O.Lohoida, M.Moldavchuk, J.Matlakh.[57] They shared their experience about first years of the People's Council in revival of the region.[57]

Today there are estimated to be approximately 1.5 million Rusyns in Europe[64] and a healthy pro-Rusyn movement exists in the Carpathians. Some Ukrainian nationalists have argued that the modern 'Rusyn movement' is in reality "acting to defend the interests of the Russian Empire the Carpathian Mountains".[65] But the vast majority of Rusyns simply want their own identity and in any event in the 21st Century Rusyns as a distinct people has reached a watershed moment, and are now recognized as an ethnic minority in Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Romania and the Czech Republic.

Autonomist and separatist movements

Ukrainian academician, doctor of historical sciences, head of department of National Minorities of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine Institute of Political and Ethno-national research, May Panchuk explained that soon after dissolution of the Soviet Union and during the 1991 Ukrainian referendum, there was provided additional question for Zakarpattia residents only whether they wish to obtain a self-governed territory within Ukraine.[66] It triggered Rusyns to create their own political parties and movements.[66] Already in March 1992 the recently created "Subcarpathian republican party" published its program with first elements of separatism: create independent, neutral "Republic Subcarpathian Ruthenia" just as Switzerland; receive full political and economic independence; recognize Rusyn people as a full-scale nationality among other nations.[66] The party contained a well expressed Kremlin orientation and did not hide its connections with pro-Russians elements.[66] In 1993 in Bratislava there was presented the "government of Subcarpathian Ruthenia" with an emphasized change - as "separate subject of the Commonwealth of Independent States".[66] The activity of the "government" was openly supported by "Russkiy dom", "Russkiy Mir Foundation", Association of Zakarpattia democrats, and other pro-Russian organizations.[66] In December 1994 so called "minister of foreign affairs" T.Ondyk appealed to the President of Russia Boris Yeltsin to cancel the 1945 treaty between the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia about Zakarpattia Ukraine.[66] At that same time Ondyk appealed to presidents of the United States and Hungary accusing the Ukrainian government in the policy of extermination of Rusyns and Hungarians.[66]

A considerable controversy has arisen regarding the Rusyn separatist movement led by the Orthodox priest Dimitry Sydor (now Archbishop of Uzhorod, in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate)), his relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church and funding for his activities.[67][68] Russia has, as a result of the Russian census of 2002, recognized the Rusyns as a separate ethnic group in 2004, and has been accused by the Ukrainian government of fueling ethnic tensions and separatism among Rusyns and Ukrainians.[69]

A criminal case under Part 2, Art. 110 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code was initiated after the 1st European Congress of Rusyns took place in Mukachevo on June 7, 2008. At that particular congress the reinstatement of the Zakarpattia's status as special "territory of Rusyns to the south of the Carpathians" with self-government under the constitutional name Subcarpathian Rus was recognized. On October 29, at the 2nd congress in Mukachevo, a memorandum was signed calling for the authorities to recognize the Subcarpathian Rus autonomy (by December 1). That same day, according to the Kommersant-Ukraine (Ukrainian edition) agents of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) questioned Dmytro Sydor and Yevgeniy Zhupan. They were summoned to SBU as witnesses in a criminal case "on the infringement on territorial integrity of Ukraine" initiated in June 2008.[70] According to internet publisher "Newsru", earlier in 2008 the Zakarpattia Rusyns appealed to Russia to recognize independence of Subcarpathian Ruthenia from Ukraine.[71] In 2014 with the start of the Russo-Ukrainian War, an activist of the Subcarpathian Ruthenia movement named Petro Hetsko, who claims to be prime minister of the Subcarpathian Ruthenia, asked the President of Russia to intervene and help "neutralize Galician Nazism in Zakarpattia".[66]

Research conducted by the University of Cambridge during the height of political Rusynism in the mid-1990s that focused on five specific regions within the Zakarpattia Oblast having the strongest pro-Rusyn cultural and political activism, found that only nine percent of the population of these areas claimed Rusyn ethnicity.[72][73] In the present day, according to the Ukrainian census, most - over 99% - of the local inhabitants consider themselves to be Ukrainians.[4]


Early History

Religion and Rusyn history are deeply intertwined, often resulting in controversy. Many believe that when Rusyns first came to Christianity it was through the Orthodox faith, although this has been challenged by many others who assert the initial Christian influence actually came from Catholic Moravia. One of the earliest saints of the (Orthodox) Monastery of the Caves at Kiev was the Rusyn Moses Uhrin (died 1043),[74] who prior to becoming a monk served Boris, the prince of Ancient Rus'. Moses and his brothers Efrem and Georgii stories are recorded in the noted 'Russian Primary Chronicle'. Also originating from this time is the unique Carpathian church Prostopinije (Plain Chant), which is closely related to the ancient chant of Kievan Rus' and has even preserved elements of it.[75]

For over 600 years, the Orthodox Church was the only Rusyn church in the Carpathians. But under the growing influence of the then ruling Austro-Hungarian Empire, Orthodox clergy were reduced over time to the legal status of peasant-serfs, and even the bishop of Mukachevo was at the mercy of the Hungarian lords. To improve their condition, some Orthodox priests attempted to form a new church under the Catholics. In 1614, 50 priests convened at the Krasni Brid Monastery with this intent, but a crowd of Orthodox protested and dispersed the group. A second attempt in the 1630s under Bishop Vasyl Tarasovych also failed. Finally in April 1646, Bishop Parfenii Petrovich (Petro Parfenii#Biography) was able to convene a meeting of 63 (out of a few hundred) priests who pledged their allegiance to the Pope of Rome. Their signed document became known as the Union of Uzhhorod, resulting in the formation of the Greek Catholic Church. This new Church was given greater material assistance from the Austro-Hungarian Empire while being allowed to maintain their Eastern Rite traditions, including married priests. From that time, the Rusyns had two bishops, one Greek Catholic and one Orthodox, until 1721 when the last remaining Orthodox priests in the western counties accepted the Union.[76] Some priests in the eastern counties of Bereg and Maramaros remained Orthodox until 1745.[77]

Recent History

In the 1890s, 145 years after Orthodoxy had ceased to exist in the Carpathians, a so called 'return to Orthodoxy' movement began, reaching a high point in the 1920s. Many Greek Catholics who became Orthodox were arrested for treason and a few were even executed by the government, with the Thalerhof internment camp and martyrdom (by firing squad) of the Orthodox priest Maxim Sandovich in 1914 being the best known incidents. Meanwhile, the Russian Bolshevik Revolution was forcing Russians of the nobility and middle class to flee, and many settled in the USA. These Russians arrived and began joining the American Russian Orthodox Church (then called the Metropolia) at precisely the same time Carpatho-Russians in America were also 'returning' to the Orthodox faith. This mixing furthered Russophile leanings among among many Rusyns. Leading the charge was Fr. Alexis Toth, a former Greek Catholic priest who led as many as 20,000 Rusyn Americans to Orthodoxy, for which he was canonized by the Orthodox Church (due to his efforts, perhaps 1/3rd of American Rusyns are Orthodox today). This American mixing further influenced events and persecutions back in the Carpathian homeland, where thousands of fleeing Orthodox Russians also settled, including monks who founded the Ladomirova Monastery.[78] Indeed, Laurus ?kurla who was born in Ladomirova (now in Slovakia) rose to become Metropolitan Laurus, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.

Conversely, it was Greek Catholics of the Carpathians who suffered in the 1940s. By force, the Soviet government annulled the Union of Uzhhorod in 1946, and the Greek Catholic Church was liquidated exactly 300 years after its formation. The Greek Catholic Cathedral, Uzhhorod was transferred to the Moscow based Russian Orthodox Church in 1948, and priests who refused to convert to Orthodoxy were sent to the Siberian and Arctic labor camps, where many died. Others were simply murdered in their home villages. A horrific example of this was the martyrdom (by assassination) of Greek Catholic Bishop Theodore Romzha. To add salt to the wound, in 1971 the Russian Orthodox Synod of Zagorsk, U.S.S.R. indirectly justified this violence by officially ratifying the annulment.[79]

And while no longer the case, from the early and even until the mid-1900s in America, religious and nationalist causes went together. Aside from Russian Orthodox/Greek Catholic struggle, the dislike of Ukrainians by Rusyn religious leaders was strong and expressed often, as Ukrainian nationalism was deemed a destructive force to Rusyn culture. The influential newspaper of the American Greek Catholic Church, the 'GCU Messenger', wrote in 1954: "To us Carpatho-Russian people here and in our native country under the green Carpathians, there can be no greater insult and offense then when someone calls us Ukrainians. We know not such people on the world's map."[80]

Europe Today

In Europe today, some tensions still exist. As an example, the aforementioned Cathedral of the Exaltation of the Cross in Uzhorod belonged to the Greek Catholics but after WWII had been given to the Russian Orthodox Church by the Communist government. With the pending fall of communism, a well-meaning visit to this cathedral in February 1990 by American Byzantine Catholic (Greek Catholic) Archbishop Stephen Kocisko, whose own Rusyn parents were born in the Carpathians, led to confrontation from Rusyn Orthodox protestors. Later in 1991, there were major protests, including physical attacks and hunger strikes when it was decided to transfer the cathedral back to the Greek Catholics.

The Orthodox immediately set about to build a new Uzhhorod Orthodox Cathedral, under the guidance of the Rusyn Fr. Dimitry Sydor, a Moscow Patriarchate priest, who is perhaps the most controversial cleric in today's Carpathians. In a nod to Moscow, the architecture of the new cathedral is based on the design of the famous and newly rebuilt 'Cathedral of Christ the Savior' in Moscow, which is the largest church in all of Russia.

At the parish level, numerous churches which had been forcibly Orthodox for decades switched back to the Greek Catholic jurisdiction, and new ones were also constructed. As well, in spite of continued pressure, the region's Greek Catholic Church steadfastly refuses to be included under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian oriented Lvov/Lviv Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy. Notably and in another example of Rusyns going against the tide and seen as a pushback against Ukrainianism, an estimated 542 of the existing 550 Transcarpathian Orthodox churches chose to remain under the (Russian) Moscow Patriarchate rather than join the (Ukrainian) Kiev/Kyiv Patriarchate.[81]

However, there is one thing that neither church divisions nor communism has changed, and that is the traditional, formal Rusyn greeting, which can occasionally still be heard by both Orthodox and Catholics alike: Slava Isusu Christu! - Glory to Jesus Christ!

Greek Catholics

St Michael's Greek Catholic Church, Turja Pasika Transcarpathia Ukraine (built 1810)

Many Rusyns are Eastern Catholics of the Byzantine Rite, who since the Union of Uzhhorod in 1646 have been in communion with the See of Rome.[82][83][84] This church, the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church, is distinct from the Latin Catholic Church. It has retained the Byzantine Rite liturgy, sometimes including the Old Church Slavonic language, the liturgical forms of Byzantine or Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and in Europe, married priests.

The Pannonian Rusyns of Croatia are organized under the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Kri?evci, and those in the region of Vojvodina (northern Serbia), are organized under the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Ruski Krstur, headed by bishop ?ura D?ud?ar, who is an ethnic Rusyn. Those in the diaspora in the United States established the Byzantine Catholic Metropolitan Church of Pittsburgh.[]

Eastern Orthodox

Saints Peter & Paul Orthodox Church, Mokra Transcarpathia Ukraine

Although originally associated with the Eastern Orthodox Eparchy of Mukachevo, that diocese was suppressed after the Union of Uzhhorod. New Eastern Orthodox Eparchy of Mukachevo and Pre?ov was created in 1931 under the auspices of the Serbian Orthodox Church.[85] That eparchy was divided in 1945, eastern part joining Russian Orthodox Church as the Eparchy of Mukachevo and Uzhhorod, while western part was reorganized as Eastern Orthodox Eparchy of Pre?ov of the Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church.

Many Rusyn Americans left Catholicism for Eastern Orthodoxy in the 19th century due to disputes with the Latin Church bishops, who viewed different practices in the Byzantine Rite (such as married clergy) with suspicion.

St Nicholas Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church, Jacobs Creek Pennsylvania, USA

Another large segment of Rusyn Americans belong to the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese, which is headquartered in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. From its early days, this group was recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate as a self-governing diocese.

The affiliation of Eastern Orthodox Rusyns was adversely affected by the Communist revolution in the Russian Empire and the subsequent Iron Curtain which split the Orthodox diaspora from the Eastern Orthodox believers living in the ancestral homelands. A number of émigré communities have claimed to continue the Orthodox Tradition of the pre-revolution church while either denying or minimizing the validity of the church organization operating under Communist authority.

For example, the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) was granted autocephalous (self-governing) status by the Moscow Patriarchate in 1970. Although approximately 25% of the OCA was Rusyn in the early 1980s, an influx of Eastern Orthodox émigrés from other nations and new converts wanting to connect with the Eastern Church have lessened the impact of a particular Rusyn emphasis in favor of a new American Orthodoxy.

In 1994, the historian Paul Robert Magocsi stated that there were approximately 690,000 Carpatho-Rusyn church members in the United States, with 320,000 belonging to the largest Greek Catholic affiliations, 270,000 to the largest Eastern Orthodox affiliations, and 100,000 to various Protestant and other denominations.[86]


Four subgroups of Rusyns: Boykos, Dolinyans, Hutsuls, Lemkos
Pannonian Rusyns in Vojvodina, Serbia (2002 census).

Those who use the ethnonym Rusyn for self-identification are primarily people living in the mountainous Transcarpathian region of Western Ukraine and adjacent areas in Slovakia who use it to distinguish themselves from Ukrainians living in the central regions of Ukraine.[]

Those Rusyns who self-identify today have traditionally come from the Eastern Carpathians. This region is often referred to as Carpathian Ruthenia. Since mid-18th century there are resettled Rusyn communities located in the Pannonian Plain, parts of present-day Serbia (particularly in Vojvodina - see also Ethnic groups of Vojvodina), as well as present-day Croatia (in the region of Vukovar-Srijem County).[49] Rusyns also migrated and settled in Prnjavor, a town in the northern region of present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina. Around 225,000 Rusyns emigrated to the United States and Canada at the end of the 19th and early 20th century.[49]


Of the estimated 1.2 to 1.6 million people of Rusyn origins,[22][49] only around 90,000 individuals have been officially identified as such in recent national censuses (see infobox above). This is due, in part, to the refusal of some governments[which?] to count Rusyns and/or allow them to self-identify on census forms, especially in Ukraine.[87] The ethnic classification of Rusyns as a separate East Slavic ethnicity distinct from Russians, Ukrainians, or Belarusians is, consequently, politically controversial.[88][89][90] The majority of scholars on the topic consider Rusyns to be an ethnic subgroup of the Ukrainian people.[91][92] This is disputed by some non-mainstream scholars,[93] as well as other scholars from Czechia, Slovakia, Canada, and the United States. According to the 2001 Ukrainian Census, thirty percent of Rusyns in Ukraine identified Ukrainian as their native language, while two thirds named the Rusyn language.[94] However, about 10 thousand people, or 0.8%, of Ukraine's Zakarpattia Oblast (Province) identified themselves as Rusyns; by contrast, over 1 million considered themselves Ukrainians.[4]

The endonym Rusyn has frequently gone unrecognised by various governments, and has in other cases been prohibited.[22] Today, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Czechia, Serbia and Croatia officially recognize contemporary Rusyns as an ethnic minority.[] In 2007, Carpatho-Rusyns were recognized as a separate ethnicity in Ukraine by the Zakarpattia Oblast Council on a regional level,[49] and in 2012 the Rusyn language gained official regional status in certain areas of the province, as well as nationwide based on the 2012 Law of Ukraine, "On the principles of the state language policy". However, most contemporary self-identified ethnic Rusyns live outside of Ukraine.[]

Ethnic subgroups

Rusyns subgroups are Carpathian Rusyns, mostly from Carpathian Ruthenia who speak the Carpathian Rusyn language,[95] and Pannonian Rusyns, mostly from Voivodina who speak the Pannonian Rusyn language. Other more specific ethnic groups with regional identity are Dolinyans,[49] Lemkos who are considered as a distinct ethnic minority in Slovakia or with some ethnic recognition in Poland, but both with Boykos and Hutsuls are considered as part of Ukrainian nationality in Ukraine.[36][96][97][98] Some scholars also regarded them as a Vlach minority.[99]

Image gallery


  1. ^ Respondents in the U.S. census identified as Carpatho Rusyn
  2. ^ According to the 2011 Polish census, 10,531 respondents identified as Lemkos, separately from Rusyns.
  3. ^ While an estimated 200 people identified themselves as "Rusyns" in 2011, in the 2002 Romanian census, 3,890 people identified as Hutsuls (Romanian: Hu?uli; Rusyn Hutsuly) - a minority whose members often identify as or are regarded as a subgroup of the Rusyns. A further 61,091 Romanian citizens identified as Ukrainian (Romanian: Ucraineni). As the archaic exonym "Ruthenians" was applied indiscriminately to both Rusyns and Ukrainians, some Ukrainian-Romanians may also regard themselves as Rusyns in the sense of a subgroup of a broader Ukrainian identity.
  4. ^ Magocsi (2002): "[Rus'] was and in some cases still is 'translated' as Russia, with the result that Carpathian Rus' and its Rusyn inhabitants are incorrectly described as Carpatho-Russia and Carpatho-Russians. By contast, Rusyn sources have almost always used the noun Rus' to describe all or part of the Carpathian homeland: Karpats'ka Rus', Podkarpats'ka Rus, Priashivs'ka Rus', or Uhors'ka Rus'."
  5. ^ a b [100][101][102][103][104]
  6. ^ [49][105][106][107][108][109][110][111]

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