Why (and How) Rusyns Joined Czechoslovakia a Hundred Years Ago

Sándor Seremet

Abstract


It is soon to be 100 years since the modern Transcaprathian region of Ukraine (also known as Kárpátalja, as the Podkarpatska Rus and as the Zakarpattia Region) was incorporated into the new-born state of Czechoslovakia as per the treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Czechoslovakia was built by merging different ethnicities, one of which were the Rusyns who were promised substantial autonomy within the confines of their traditional ethnic lands. The present study examines the thoughts of the Rusyn leaders regarding their preferences of territorial belonging at the end of World War I, with due attention to the differences between various groups in Hungary and in the American diaspora. At the Paris Peace Conference, the Rusyns, as members of the Czechoslovak delegation, were aiming to gain fair borders for their nation, a task that was, however, complicated, to say the least. During the conference, the region became a source of numerous conflicts between the victors, and even within the Czechoslovak delegation itself. As a result, significant Rusyn minorities remained in Romania, Poland and Slovakia. In this particular case, geopolitical considerations prevailed over the principle of self-determination for a nation which the “New Europe” declared to be one of the key elements of the postwar world. The fact that the seceding parts of imperial states were often divided about what country to belong to and under which particular political elite is often overlooked in Western historiography. This study seeks to provide new insights into this relatively seldom-discussed case — and into the reasons and circumstances that led to the decisions taken at the Conference in regard to it.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14267/cojourn.2019v4n2a7

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