Subcarpathian Rus', the south-western portion of the present Ukrainian territory, extends from the southern slope of the Carpathian Mountains, stretching from the Poprad River to the upper reaches of the Tysa River. This land arouses considerable interest from the standpoint of territory, population, customs and art.
The greater part of this province is in the Carpathian Mountains and the foothills while a smaller part is in the black earth plain. The Carpathians are the most picturesque mountains not only in Ukraine but in the whole of Central Europe. The Eastern Carpathians, sometimes referred to as the Hutsul Alps, rise for 6,500 feet in height and the western part with the so-called Low Beskids reach all of some 3,000 feet. Mountains under 3,000 feet in height are covered with leafed trees and the evergreen forests cover only 22 per cent of the whole wooded area. Around the forests are the so-called plateau pastures which make excellent grazing-ground for cattle and especially sheep. The "Green Carpathians" are noted not only for their scenic beauty but also for their full ration with life. They abound in many kinds of animals and birds, in direct contrast to the Alps of Central Europe. However, the predatory management of the woodlands, formerly under Austro-Hungarian domination and currently the USSR, has greatly changed their character.
The area of Subcarpathian Rus' within its ethnographic boundaries is about 7,600 square miles and within its present boundaries, as an oblast of the Soviet Ukraine, 5,000 square miles. Not included in the present Transcarpathian Oblast is a small part of Marmorosh, which is annexed by Rumania, and the large western region, the Pryashiv area, subjoined to Slovakia and included within the Czechoslovakian boundaries. The western region of Subcarpathian Rus', with its chief cities of Bardejov and Preshov, has a special significance for two reasons. Being the oldest part of the country it contains rare historical monuments, architecture and art, dating back from the thirteenth century and it was also the centre of the rebirth of the Ukrainian national movement in the middle the nineteenth century. Through the Pryashiv area lead the most convenient roads which join Western astern Ukraine with Central Europe. Here also original examples of folk art are found.
Within its present boundaries the Transcarpathian Oblast has a population of about 850,000 according to the 1935 census, of which 63 per cent is Rusyn. The average density of population is 108 people per square mile; the urban population comprises 17 per cent of the total; the number villages and towns is 490; the bigger towns are Uzhhorod, Mukachiv, Pryashiv, Khust, Svalyava, Bardejov, Mykhaylivtsi and Yasinya.
The rivers of Subcarpathian Rus' are of a mountainous nature, emptying into the Tysa River. They are Topolya, Ondavka, Lyaborets, Uzh, Lyatoritsya, Borshava, Rika and Tereshva.
The wealth of the country lies not only in its picturesque situation but in its minerals as well, such as rock salt of first grade, iron, manganese, coal, kaolin, also some copper, silver and gold. Recently oil has been discovered in the vicinities of Yasinya, Uzhok and Chop. The country is particularly rich in mineral waters. Around four hundred springs are estimated, especially waters containing alkali, iodine, iron, sulphur, carbonic acid gas and salt. So far these springs have not been exploited to any great extent even though in quality they surpass the famous mineral waters of Hungary, Rumania and Czechoslovakia.
The majority of the people -- around 66 per cent -- are occupied in farming, stock-raising and timbering. In the mountains, for lack of good arable land, farming has not developed much but on the plains where the average summer temperature is 75 degrees F. with a rainfall of approximately 31 inches not only grain is cultivated but also such tropical crops as grapes, figs, chestnuts, corn, tobacco and fruits.
Subcarpathian Rus' major industry is lumbering. Besides a number of sawmills there are four large plants for dry distillation of wood, one of them in Bychkiv which was established in 1868 and is now one of the largest and most modern in Europe. Other industries are the manufacture of matches, paper, tobacco, wine, casting metal and the particularly well developed home industry. The last industry, with its outstanding originality, is the main theme of this publication.
The Subcarpathian Rusyn history is interesting for several reasons: as an example of admirable fortitude of the autochthonic population, its struggle for liberty, the preservation of its national face, customs, mode of life and its national culture in general. It is even more remarkable when we take into consideration that for more than 500 years the Rusyn population of Subcarpathian Rus' was under the domination of foreign states and foreign people who as regards race, origin, and mentality had nothing in common with the native population.
The origin of the primeval Rusyn population of Subcarpathian Rus' dates back to the seventh and eighth centuries, that is to the arrival of the Magyar nomads in 895-896. More extensive colonization, from ancestral Ukraine, took place in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In the tenth century Subcarpathian Rus' was under the rule of the Kievan State; in the eleventh century under the subordination of the Hungarian throne; at the end of the twelfth century a part of the Galician-Volynian State; in the following century it fell under Hungarian domination again. The Tatar invasion of 1241, which came from the upper reaches of the Stryy River as far as the Lyatorytsya, wrought great havoc and devastation in the country. At the beginning of the fourteenth century another attempt was made to unite Subcarpathian Rus' with the Galician-Volynian lands. This was in the period of 1310-1320 during an uprising under the leadership of Petro Petrovych. At the close of the fourteenth century and the start of the fifteenth century Subcarpathian Rus' was ruled by Prince Fedir Koryatovych from Podilya although it was really under Hungarian domination. He brought with him his own army and a great number of settlers from Podilya (around the Dniester River) among them craftsmen.
During the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Subcarpathian Rus' was the battleground for numerous wars, revolutionary skirmishes and uprisings against the Hungarian and Austrian crowns with the native Rusyn population taking active part. In the middle of the fifteenth century they were under the leadership of Czechs, Jan Iskra and Aksamit, at the beginning of the seventeenth century under that of Stepan Bochkay and towards the middle of the same century the Semyhorod princes - the Kakoczys, George I and George II. The Rakoczy Princes had a military alliance with the Ukrainian hetman, Bohdan Khmelnytsky, against Poland and units of the Ukrainian army marched through Subcarpathian Rus' to join the Swedish army. At the end of the seventeenth century and the first years of the eighteenth the insurrection led by Francis Rakoczy was so successful that for the next ten years Subcarpathian Rus' was under his rule. With the exception of such interval periods of comparative freedom rigid feudalism reigned within the Hungarian boundaries, about which beautiful folk songs have been preserved by the Subcarpathian Rusyns. Moreover, during the period of the eleventh to twelfth centuries intense religious wars were in progress for the conversion to such faiths as Lutheran, Catholic and later the Uniate and the struggle with the Orthodox Church.
In the nineteenth century Magyarization of Subcarpathian Rus' was conducted with accelerated tempo. The native population was forbidden to have its own schools and to hold church services in the old Slavonic language. As a result of persecution of the intelligentsia the educated and cultured people emigrated to the neighboring countries - Bulgaria, Serbia, Central Ukraine and Russia. The period, "Spring of Nations," brought about the revival of Subcarpathian Rusyns under the leadership of A. Dobryansky. At first this movement progressed along a nationalist course but later it was seized upon and used by foreign elements to spread the so-called Muscophilism (Russianism). From 1867 until the end of World War I was the time of the cruelest Magyarization and the decline of all Rusyn national life. This resulted in a mass migration to America. After the downfall of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1918 National Councils were quickly organized in the towns of Lyubna, Pryashiv, Uzhhorod, Svalyava and Khust.
On January 21, 1919, delegates from all over Subcarpathian Rus', representing 420 village and town communities, met in Khust and proclaimed the union of Subcarpathian Rus' with the Ukrainian Democratic Republic with Kiev as the capital. Then in accordance with the St. Germain agreement of September 10, 1919, Subcarpathian Rus' was joined with Czechoslovakia with a guarantee of autonomy, which was realized only in 1938 when it became a federate state of that country. On March 14, 1939, a freely elected parliament proclaimed its native land an independent nation under the official name of Karpatska Ukraina (Carpathian Ukraine, or as is more commonly known Carpatho-Ukraine) with A. Voloshyn as president. But within several days, as a result of Hungarian military aggression which was carried out with Hitler's permission, Carpatho-Ukraine was occupied by that country. On June 29, 1945, with the consent of the Czechoslovakian government, Carpatho- Ukraine was annexed to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic as the Transcarpathian Oblast.
So far there has been scant literature published about the folk art of Subcarpathian Rus'. Hungarian researchers only casually touched upon the subject not wishing to emphasize the original features of the "Hungarian Russ" art. Of the German researchers there is the exceptionally valuable work by N. Biderman on the Hutsul region (Innsbruck, 1862). The most extensive research was done by the Ukrainian authors: Y. Holovatsky, V. Shukhevych, F. Vovk, V. Shcherbakivsky, V. Zalozetsky, ; V. Sichynsky. In 1920-1930 valuable research work was done by Czechs; on wooden buildings by J. .. Vydra, F. Zapletal, V. Mencl, J. Reztcha, A. Stansky and on embroideries by M. Tumova and A. Kozminova.
In spite of the many years of occupation by foreign countries and environment by people of non-Slavic origin, the autochthonic population of Subcarpathian Rus' has miraculously preserved its own language, customs and traditions. In the Carpathians, as usually happens in similar circumstances when people live in the mountains, for lack of communication and patriarchal manner of living, very archaic traits have been preserved as regards life, customs and craftsmanship. Therefore this area has a special significance so far as the genesis and development of folk art is concerned. In the mountains of Subcarpathian Rus' live three tribes -- who have preserved many antique examples of art. In the south-eastern zone live the so-called Hutsuly, in the central zone the Boyky and in the north-western part the Lemky. The same ethnographic groups also inhabit the northern slopes of the Carpathian ridge and for this reason this album includes a few examples of folk art from the Galician side, such as carved wooden crosses, brass, glass, leather and other examples.
As already mentioned the Carpathians offer an inexhaustible source for the genesis and evolution of folk art. Examples of art, having come late to the inaccessible Carpathian Mountains have been preserved here in their original aspect better and longer than anywhere else. For the same reason the urban influence has had little effect on the so-called historical styles, or else they were creatively worked into the folk styles. Here folk art has retained its freshness, creative originality and truly unfalsified folk styles.
For example, among the Hutsuls an archaic type of house has been preserved, called the osedok, which is considered to be the oldest type of dwelling and from which springs the whole development of peasant dwellings in Ukraine. Moreover, the osedok bears amazing similarity to the Etruscan dwelling, e.i. the type of dwelling singular in the history of home building in the ancient world.
The highly developed and skillful building of wood structures offers considerable material for the history of the development of this branch of architecture. The most creativeness, ingenuity and love was put by the village craftsman into the building of churches and woodcarving. These wooden churches are small in size, plain in decoration but grand in creative thought and rich in the variety of forms of art. A special significance for the genesis of this building has the so-called Boyko type of churches. These are triple-aisled structures with three rooms, approximating a quadrangle, covered with three pyramidally tiered towers. The oldest building of this type is in Trochany near Pryashiv, built in the fifteenth century. Others built in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries also still remain. As has been revealed by research this same type of building was prevalent throughout all of Ukraine in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Further development of this type of building were the churches in the Lemko region which had begun to acquire a baroque style. In the neighborhood of Yasinya, in the Hutsul region, an original type of church has been preserved, the plan of which is in the form of a cross, with a central nave and a single dome. It is thought to be the most original example of Ukrainian architecture and has no counterpart anywhere in Europe nor among other Slavonic nationalities.
The plains of Subcarpathian Rus' have been influenced to a greater degree by the styles from the outside world, such as, the gothic, renaissance and especially the baroque. On the other hand it is here that, to a greater degree, extraordinary skill of the local craftsmen is evident, particularly in carved ornamentation of buildings which creates great interest among experts and lovers of folk art.
As in wood buildings, so in other crafts we see unusual harmony and suitability of materials, form and the technique employed. Every thing and form meets the demands of construction and usability. There is nothing disguised; nothing superfluous for outward effect. Always the form is subservient to the content; there is no wholly decorative, exaggerated form. Everything strictly answers the functional requirements.
Of wood crafts special attention is deserved by cooperage with burnt in ornamentation, products turned on lathes and carved, axes, maces and other articles for domestic use which are carved and inlaid with wood of different shades and glass beads.
Brass products like knives, maces, chisels, tongs, buckles, neck crosses and other crosses are interesting in form and ornamentation as well as from a technical viewpoint. They take us back to the medieval Kievan State between the tenth and twelfth centuries. The same character is manifest in leather products with extraordinarily original examples which are pressed and cut out.
Ceramics, particularly those from Khust, Uzhhorod, Sevlyush and Yasinya, do not exhaust all the material but they give a picture of the principal centres of this handicraft which besides wholly national and local characteristics also shows influences from neighboring territories. This is also the case with weaving which is only partly covered here, especially the rugs (kylymy).
More extensively presented here are the different types of national costume and feminine decoration, embroideries in particular. Whereas women's costumes have persistently preserved the Ukrainian type of clothing, common throughout all of Ukraine, from Poprad to Kuban, the embroideries on the other hand have a more varied character. Finally, and this applies to the last few decades, the merchants and traders taking advantage of the unusual industriousness of the Carpathian embroiderers and weavers demanded of them a wide range of colors in very bright hues which was greatly detrimental to this truly fine folk art. Wherever this foreign and harmful hand did not thrust itself the art remained on a higher artistic level as for example the decoration of Eastern eggs (pysanky), whose genesis reaches back to times before Christianity and is closely connected with worship of the sun.
S. Makovskiy, who originally compiled this collection knew Subcarpathian Rus' only partly, he himself mentions in his 1925 publication, and used mostly the Subcarpathian Rusyn folk art collection shown at an exhibition in Prague in 1924 and other exhibits in Prague museums. Nevertheless he deserves much credit for having in his time collected and published the wonderful reproductions of Subcarpathian Rusyn folk art and thus adding to their understanding and popularization. V. Sichynsky.
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