Copyright 1995 by Paul Robert Magocsi and Carpatho-Rusyn American - Vol. XVIII, No. 3, Fall 1995 - all rights reserved
This is the second part of a general introductory article on all aspects of Carpatho-Rusyn life which we began in the last issue of the Carpatho-Rusyn American (Vol XVIII, No. 2, Summer 1995) Considering the enormous changes that have taken place in the European homeland during the past few years, we feel it appropriate to provide our readers with new and updated information.-Editor
Language, Identity, and Culture
Carpatho-Rusyns belong to the Slavic branch of Indo- European peoples. Their dialects are classified as East Slavic and are closely related to Ukrainian. Because they live in a borderland region, Carpatho-Rusyn dialects are heavily influenced by Polish, Slovak, and Hungarian vocabulary. These influences from both the east and west, together with numerous terms from the Church Slavonic liturgical language and dialectal words unique to Carpatho-Rusyns, are what distinguish their spoken language from other East Slavic languages like Ukrainian.
In contrast to their West Slavic (Polish and Slovak), Magyar, and Romanian neighbors, Carpatho-Rusyns use the Cyrillic alphabet. Their national name, Rusyn (also spelled Rusin), connects them to the east, since Rus' was the name of the inhabitants and territory of a large medieval state centered in Kiev. The many names by which Carpatho-Rusyns have called themselves or were called by others-Carpatho-Russian, Carpatho-Ukrainian, Rusnak, Ruthene, Ruthenian, Uhro-Rusyn-all relate to their traditional association with the East Slavic world of the Rus'.
Despite the seeming confusion about names, the most appropriate designation is Carpatho-Rusyn, or simply Rusyn. This is the name the nineteenth-century national awakener Aleksander Duchnovyc: used in poetic lines in what became the national credo-"I was, am, and will remain a Rusyn"-and it is the name he used in the first line of the national anthem-"Subcarpathian Rusyns, Arise from Your Deep Slumber." Carpatho-Rusyn and Rusyn are also the names used by most of the new cultural organizations and publications established in the European homeland since the Revolution of 1989. In Poland, Carpatho-Rusyns call themselves Lemkos. This is a new name. Before the twentieth century Lemkos, too, called themselves Rusyns or Rusnaks. Aware of their origins, recent publications and organizations in Poland often use the term Lemko Rusyn to describe their people.
Frontispiece from one of the earliest Rusyn literary almanacs, Pozdravlenie Rusynov (1851), compiled by Aleksander Duchnovyc.
When, in the seventeenth century, Carpatho-Rusyns began to publish books, they were written either in the vernacular Rusyn speech or in Church Slavonic, a liturgical language (functionally similar to Latin) used by East Slavs and South Slavs who were of an Eastem Christian religious orientation. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Carpatho-Rusyn writers continued to use Rusyn vernacular and also began to use Russian and Ukrainian for their literary language. The so-called "language question" was always closely related to the problem of national identity.
Ever since the nineteenth century, Carpatho-Rusyn leaders have argued about their national identity. Some have felt that Rusyns are a branch of the Russians, others a branch of the Ukrainians, still others that they form a distinct central European Carpatho-Rusyn nationality. Each orientation has used language, whether Russian, Ukrainian, or Carpatho-Rusyn, as a means to identify themselves. Today there are only two national orientations-the Rusyn and Ukrainian. The Ukrainian orientation argues that Rusyns are a branch of Ukrainians and that a distinct Carpatho-Rusyn nationality cannot and should not exist.
Since the Revolution of 1989, there has been a Carpatho-Rusyn national revival in all countries where they live, and efforts have been undertaken, especially in Slovakia and Poland, to create a standard Carpatho-Rusyn literary language for use in schools and publications. Rusyns in Yugoslavia's Vojvodina have had a literary language that has been used uninterruptedly in publications and schools ever since the first decades of the twentieth century. Carpatho-Rusyns have a distinct literary tradition that dates back to the seventeenth century. Regardless of what language writers may have used-Rusyn, Church Slavonic, Russian, Ukrainian--their literary works have embodied the essence of Rusyn life and the mentality of its people. Among the most dominant themes have been a love for what is considered the pristine beauty of the Carpathian mountains and a characterization of Carpatho-Rusyns as a God-fearing and stoical people, seemingly destined to be controlled by natural forces and foreign governments over which the individual has little power or influence. Each Carpatho-Rusyn region has had its own literary founding father: Aleksander Duchnovyc: (1803-1865) and Aleksander Pavlovyc (1819-1900) for the Presov Region and Subcarpathian Rus'; Volodymyr Chyljak (1843-1893) for the Lemko Region; and Gabor Kostel'nik (1886-1948) for the Vojvodina.
Today there are Rusyn-language newspapers, journals, and books in virtually every European country where Carpatho-Rusyns live. The works of playwrights are performed by the professional Aleksander Duchnovyc: Theater in Presov, Slovakia; the semi-professional Djadja Theater in Ruski Kerestur and Novi Sad, Yugoslavia; and the amateur theater of the Lemko Association in Legnica, Poland. The best known current Rusyn-language writers are: in Ukraine-Volodymyr Fedynysynec', Dmytro Keselja, Ivan Petrovcij, and Vasyl' Petrovaj; in Slovakia-Anna Halgasova, Mykolaj Ksenjak, Marija Mal'covska, and Stefan Suchyj; in Poland-Olena Duc'-Fajfer, Volodymyr Graban, Stefanija Trochanovska, and Petro Trochanovskij; in Yugo- slavia--Natalija Dudas, Irina Hardi-Kovacevic, and Djura Papharhaji; and in Hungary-Gabriel Hattinger-Klebasko.
Aside from various forms of folk culture, such as embroidery, painted Easter eggs, and folk music and dance performed by professional ensembles in Presov and Uzhorod and by numerous amateur ensembles. Carpatho-Rusyns are most noted for an outstanding form of native architecture in the form of wooden churches perched on the top of hills, most of which were built in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. During the first half of the twentieth century. Carpatho-Rusyns also created a unique school of painters, the so-called "Subcarpathian Barbizon," of whom the leading figures were Josyf Boksaj, Adal'bert Erdeli, Fedir Manajlo, and Emest Kondratovyc. About the same time, Rusyn life in the Lemko Region was captured on canvas by the world renowned naive artist, Nykyfor Drovnjak. In more recent times, painters like Anton Kassaj, Andrij Kocka and Volodymyr Mykyta, and the sculptors Mychajlo Belen' and Ivan Brovdij in Transcarpathia, as well as the painters Orest Dubaj, Stefan Hapak, Deziderij Millyj, and the political satirist Fedir Vico in Slovakia have produced a body of creative work that is dominated with themes depicting Carpatho-Rusyn life and its environment.
Several museums exist with permanent exhibits of Carpatho-Rusyn folk art, icons, and painting, The most important and wide-ranging collections are in Svidnik and Uzhorod, with more specialized museums in Bardejov (icons), Medzilaborce (modem art), Nowy Sacz (icons), and Zyndranowa (on Lemkos). Open-air ethnographic museums (skanzeny) with traditional Carpatho-Rusyn domestic architecture are found in Svidnik and Uzhorod. Others in Bardejov, Humenne, and Sanok also include examples of Carpatho-Rusyn material culture.
Numerous scholars are engaged in studying the history, language, literature, ethnography, art, and music of Carpatho-Rusyns. Many are connected with scholarly institutions, such as the Institute of Carpathian Studies at Uzhorod State University (Ukraine), the Institute of Rusyn Language and Culture (Slovakia), the Department of Ukrainian and Rusyn Philology at the Bessenyei Pedagogical Institute (Hungary), the Department of Rusyn Language and Literature at the University of Novi Sad (Yugoslavia), the Society for Rusyn Language and Literature (Yugoslavia), and the Carpatho-Rusyn Research Center (United States). There are as well several scholars abroad who specialize in Carpatho-Rusyn themes, including Aleksander Dulicenko (Estonia), Sven Gustavsson (Sweden), Paul Robert Magocsi (Canada), and Ivan Pop (Czech Republic).
Paul Robert Magocsi
Continue on to part 3