Carpatho-Rusyns - Orientation

Identification. Carpatho-Rusyns are a national minority who have never enjoyed independent statehood. Today most live within the boundaries of three countries: Ukraine, Slovakia, and Poland.

Location. The Carpatho-Rusyn homeland is located along the crests, valleys, and adjacent lowlands of the north-central Carpathian Mountains. Elevations range from lightly forested hills of 500 meters in the west to densely forested peaks of over 2,000 meters in the east. The Rusyn-inhabited Carpathians are in the heart of Europe, and in the late nineteenth century a monument was erected near the Carpatho-Rusyn village of Dilove (today in Ukraine) to mark the precise geographical center of the continent.

The group's homeland has generally been referred to as Carpathian Rus', Carpatho-Ruthenia, Carpatho-Russia, Carpatho-Ukraine, or simply Ruthenia. In terms of administrative subdivisions, Carpatho-Rusyns in the former Soviet Union inhabited the Transcarpathian Oblast (Zakarpatskaya Oblast, historic Subcarpathian Rus') of Ukraine. In neighboring Slovakia and Poland their villages are not encompassed by any one administrative unit, although their territory in those countries is popularly referred to as the Prešov region (Priashivs'ka Rus', Priashivashchyna) in northeastern Slovakia and the Lemko region (Lemkivshchyna) in southeastern Poland. Smaller numbers of Rusyns live in the immediately adjacent territory of Romania (the Marmarosh region), and there is an emigrant group living farther away in the Vojvodina region of Serbia.

The climate is marked by heavy precipitation, which averages annually from 75 to 100 centimeters, and at higher elevations up to 150 centimeters. Average temperatures vary from —4° to —6° C in January and 17° to 20° C in July, with the lowland plain of the Transcarpathian Oblast tending to be a few degrees warmer and receiving less precipitation.

Demography. According to 1970 census figures, there were more than 1 million Carpatho-Rusyns: 808,000 in the Transcarpathian Oblast of the Soviet Union; 100,000 in the Prešov region of Czechoslovakia; 60,000 in the Lemko region and other parts of Poland; 30,000 in Romania; and 30,000 in Yugoslavia. With the exception of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, the figures are only estimates because, particularly in Czechoslovakia and Poland, a significant percentage of Rusyns were assimilated or, for political reasons, reported themselves as either Slovak or Polish.

Linguistic Affiliation. Carpatho-Rusyns speak a number of East Slavic dialects that are classified by linguists as belonging to the Ukrainian language. Since they live along the West Slavic-East Slavic linguistic border, however, their speech is heavily influenced by both Slovak and Polish and, because of historical circumstances, by Hungarian as well. Their alphabet is Cyrillic; although several past attempts to create a Carpatho-Rusyn literary language were mostly unsuccessful, such attempts continue. Only the Rusyns of Yugoslavia had their own officially recognized literary standard; the rest of the Rusyns in the Carpathian homeland have used other literary languages: Ukrainian, Russian, Slovak, and Polish.

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