The Ruthenians

"I was, am, and will remain, a Rusyn."Aleksander Dukhnovici A short historyThe Ruthenians are a population that is descended from a Slavic branch of the Indo-European nations. Their name is mentioned by Julius Caesar, with reference to a Celtic tribe settled in Gallia Narbonensis. Another author of the antiquity mentioning them is Pliny the Elder. The Gauls or the Celts migrate in the 5th and 4th century BC to the east of Central Europe, settling in the Northern Carpathians. The Dacians learn from them the technology of iron processing. The terms of Ruthenian and Ruthenia are first attested by the Latin text of Gesta Hungarorum, also known as the Chronicle of the Anonymous Notary of King Béla and later by Anton Verancsis. In the Middle Ages, they are Slavicized, but they keep their ethnic name of Ruthenians, to which that of Rusyns is later added. Paul Robert Magocsi explains the difference in the Encyclopaedia of Rusyn History and Culture, by pointing out that the former term, Ruthenian, is used by non-Slavic populations, while the latter, Rusyn, is used by the Slavs themselves to refer to a specific Slavic population living in the Transcarpathian region. Written testimonies of the early Middle Ages keep attesting to them continuously and specifically. Gesta Hungarorum, or the Chronicle of the Anonymous Notary of King Béla, the Hildersheim Almanac, Ystoria Mongolorum, specifically mention the Ruthenians and their country, Ruthenia, even if its exact borders are not known. Many other testimonies follow, belonging to well-known authors such as Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini – the famous humanist Pope Pius II, or Georg Reicherstorffer. The Ruthenians and the territory inhabited by them are later incorporated in the Habsburg Empire. The most suggestive name given to them was that of Carpatho-Rusyns or Rusyns, made official in the 19th century by the poet Aleksander Dukhnovici. He says in one of his poems "I was, am and will remain a Rusyn", a sentence that has become the national creed of the Ruthenians. This term can also be found in the popular hymn Subcarpathian Rusyns, wake up of your deep sleep. The territory inhabited by the Ruthenians since ancient times has been that of the Transcarpathian region, or Transcarpathian Russia, which stretches in the border regions of Ukraine, Slovakia and Poland. The main occupation of this population has been shepherding, which presupposed the migration of the shepherds.. That is why these people were often called Vlah. They also practiced various domestic crafts, carving wood or working on looms. In the 18th century, after the Peace of Karlowitz (1699), a great part of the Ruthenians were integrated in the Habsburg Empire. The Leopoldine Diploma, of February 16th 1699, refers to the Romanians, Greeks and Ruthenians of Hungary, Croatia, Slavonia and Transylvania. Some of the latter will join the Orthodox believers who recognize the Pope as head of the Christian Church, becoming Greek Catholics. The union with the Church of Rome was also the reason for the publication of a book such as the Catechism of 1726, printed in Târnavia for the Ruthenians united with Rome. Ever since, the Ruthenians have joined either the Orthodox Church or the Eastern Catholic Church. The revolutionary movement of 1848 leads to the appearance of some projects for the autonomy of the territories inhabited by Ruthenians. The leader of the Ruthenians, Adolf Dobrianskzj, presents in Vienna a plan for the creation of an autonomous province, Ruthenia, a plan that never comes to life because of the suppression of the Revolution. 1918 is the year when the assertion of the national identity of the Ruthenians reaches its climax. National Councils of the Ruthenians are now created in Ungvar, Presov and Sighet. After this date, the Ruthenians remain scattered in the eastern regions of Central Europe, without managing to create their own national state. In Czechoslovakia, an autonomous region of the Ruthenians existed between 1919 and 1938. After World War II, the only change is that Subcarpathian Russia is annexed by the Soviet Union, more exactly by Soviet Ukraine. In 1945, in Czechoslovakia, in the Presov region, the Ukrainian National Council was created that functioned until 1949, when the communist government of Prague dissolved it. Ruthenians were forced to adopt a new identity, the Ukrainian one. Historically speaking, we can distinguish three great moments in the evolution of the Ruthenian nation, an evolution that has always been prevented from leading towards the creation of a national state, a trans-national identity being rather granted to them, across national borders, which unites them in a common project, the project of safeguarding their existence as a nation. During the 1848 Revolution, the First National Rebirth of the Ruthenians is announced by the proclamation of independence from Vienna and by the political activity of Aleksander Dukhnovici, the spiritual leader of Ruthenians, the promoter of the unconditional assertion of the national identity of Ruthenians. His work is continued by the well-known Greek Catholic bishop Iuliu Firczak. The end of World War I brings about the Second National Rebirth of Ruthenians, most of them being included in the new Czechoslovakian state, where they were granted full freedom of expression. Their fate, however, changes for the worse after World War II. The Soviet Union annexes Subcarpathia. The existence of Ruthenians as a distinct ethnic group is denied, and we can no longer speak of a self-conscious national existence. 1989 brings about the Third National Rebirth of Ruthenians. Today, Ruthenians are asserting their national identity and carrying out remarkable cultural activities in Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Serbia-Montenegro, Croatia, Germany, the United States of America, Canada, Romania and, to a certain extent, Ukraine. After 1989, Ruthenians can be found in roughly the same territories, living in Ukraine, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, the reduced Yugoslavia, and Croatia. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Ruthenians initiate actions for regaining their former historical status and autonomy. In the referendum of December 1, 1991 of Ukraine, 78% of the inhabitants of Transcarpathia voted for self-government within Ukraine. The National Council of Transcarpathia is created in 1994 that has 51 members. In Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Romania the Ruthenians enjoy cultural autonomy, as many cultural associations have been in place since the early 1990s. The purpose of these associations is the assertion of the Carpatho-Ruthenians as a distinct ethnic group, an important support being offered by the Carpatho-Rusyn Research Center in the United States of America.  Language and culture The language of Ruthenians is an east-Slavic one, influenced by the vocabulary of Polish, Slovak and Hungarian. The alphabet that is used is the Cyrillic one. The first texts that were published were in Old Rusyn or Slavonic, the language used for religious services. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the language was abandoned in favour of either Russian or Ukrainian. Two trends have developed after 1948 as far as Ruthenian national identity is concerned: Ruthenian and Ukrainian. The former considers the Ruthenians to be a nation distinct from the Ukrainians. The latter claims that they are Ukrainians and there is no distinct Ruthenian nation; it has also tried to impose the Ukrainian identity on the Ruthenians whether they were willing to accept that or not. A new rebirth of Ruthenian national consciousness takes place after 1989. In Slovakia and Poland efforts are made to use the Ruthenian national language in schools and in publications as well. In Vojvodina, this language has been used uninterruptedly in schools and publications since the first decade of the 20th century. The first congress of the Ruthenian national language was held in 1992; over 50 Ruthenian writers, journalists and scholars took part. A Ruthenian orthographic textbook was edited in 1994; a Ruthenian-Russian-Ukranian-Slovakian-Polish dictionary of linguistic terminology and an orthographic dictionary of the Ruthenian language were also published that year. These books, together with an ABC book and a vocabulary represented the foundations for the new grammatical norms of the Ruthenian language. On January 27, 1995, the Society for the Rusyn Rebirth of Slovakia proclaimed the existence of a new Slavic language. The Ruthenian literary tradition has distinctly manifested itself since the 18th century when writings in Ruthenian, liturgical Slavonic, Russian and Ukrainian. Today, the Ruthenians edit magazines, newspapers and books in their own language in practically all the countries where they live. The Aleksander Dukhnovici professional theatrical company gives dramatic performances, other representative companies being the semi-professional theatre Deadea of Cristuru Rusin and Novi Sad, and the amateur theatre of Lemkin Association of Legnita (Poland). Rusyn folk culture is represented by decorated fabrics, painted eggs, folk music and dance, icons, as well as the architecture of the wooden churches. In the first half of the 20th century, a number of important Ruthenian painters formed the so-called Subcarpathian Barbizon. The world-famous naïve painter Nikifor Drovniac is also Ruthenian. Another remarkable contribution of the Ruthenians to the universal patrimony was the work of the American pop art painter of Ruthenian extraction, Andy Warhol. His first name was Andrew, his father's was Ondrej. He was born in a family of Ruthenians, called Warhola, on August 6, 1928 in Pittsburgh. Warhol always mentioned Ruthenia that stretched along the curve of the Carpathian Mountains across the then borders of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and the Soviet Union. The influence of Warhol – the best-known pop artist and the most famous American painter of the 20th century – is so important that there is practically no area of today's culture (from publicity to literature, from philosophy to musical clips and cinema) where it is not felt… The 15 minutes of celebrity have become part of everyday language and inspired a movie – Being John Malkovich by Spike Jonze, featuring John Cusack and Cameron Diaz; the life of Andy Warhol of the Factory period was the inspiration for the movie I Shot Andy Warhol, while in Basquiat – a film about one of his protégés, painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, directed by one of his friends, painter Julian Schnabel – Warhol is played by David Bowie; paradoxically, Bowie had once said: What kind of man can paint Campbell soups…  The Ruthenians of Romania The 1992 census does not record any member of the Rusyn population of Romania, these people being included in the Ukrainian minority. However, the Cultural Union of the Ruthenians of Romania has been officially registered since 2002. The very same year, its president, Dr. Gheorghe Firczack, became a Member of Parliament (Chamber of Deputies) and he was re-elected in the 2004 general election. The Union's main purpose is that of preserving and making known the traditions and cultural values of the Ruthenians, as well as their history. In the spring of 2001, the CURR became an associate member of the Rusyn World Council, and in June 2003, a full-right member. On October 21, 2004 a delegation of the union participated in the congress of the Rusyn World Council, which was considered to be very important for the Ruthenians all around the world. On this occasion, an older project of the Rusyn World Council was materialized, a representative of the Ruthenians of Romania being offered the position of vice-president of the World Council. The cultural events that we have been organizing have proved to the Rusyn World Council and, through this body, to the Ruthenians all over the world, that we are those that have been fighting for the revival and rebirth of the Ruthenian national conscience in Romania, within a more general process that is taking place in the eastern part of Central Europe. Between 18 and 20 February 2005, a new meeting of the Rusyn World Council was held in Presov (Slovakia), an event that paved the way for the 8th Rusyn World Congress that took place in June 2005. The participants in the congress appreciated the fact that Romania was the only country in Central and Eastern Europe where the Ruthenians had representatives in Parliament, and consequently decided unanimously that the next Rusyn World Congress should be held in Romania.

by Anonymous