The Ruthenian People
The Ruthenians, otherwise known as the Carpatho-Rusyns live in the very heart of Europe, along the northern and southern slopes of the Carpathian Mountains. Their homeland, known as Carpathian Rus', is situated at the crossroads where the borders of Ukraine, Slovakia, and Poland meet. Aside from those countries, there are smaller numbers of Carpatho-Rusyns in Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and the Czech Republic. In no country do Carpatho-Rusyns have an administratively distinct territory.
Geography and Economy
Three-quarters of the Carpatho-Rusyns in Europe are found within the borders of Ukraine, specifically in the Transcarpathian region (historic Subcarpathian Rus'). In Slovakia, Carpatho-Rusyns live in the northeastern part of the country which is popularly known as the Presov Region. On the northern slopes of the Carpathians, they had traditionally lived in southeastern Poland, in an area know as the Lemko Region (now know as the Beskid Niski). After World War II, the Lemko Rusyns were deported from their Carpathian homeland. Among those who remained in Poland, a few thousand have managed to return to the Carpathians, although most reside in scattered settlements in the western (Silesia) and northern regions of Poland. Finally, there are several Carpatho-Rusyn villages just south of the Tisza River in the Maramures region of north central Romania, and a few scattered settlements in northeastern Hungary.
Beyond the Carpathian homeland, Rusyns live as immigrants in the neighboring countries. The oldest immigrant community, dating back to the mid eighteenth century, is the Vojvodina (historic Backa) and Srem regions of former Yugoslavia, that is, present day northern Serbia and far eastern Croatia. In the Czech Republic, Carpatho-Rusyns reside primarily in northern Moravia and the capital of Prague, where most immigrated just after World War II. The largest community outside the homeland is in the United States, where between the 1880's and 1914 about 225,000 Carpatho-Rusyns immigrated. They settled primarily in the industrial regions of the northeastern and northeastern states where most of their descendants still live to this day. Smaller numbers of Carpatho-Rusyns immigrated to Canada and Argentina in the 1920's and to Australia in the 1970's and 1980's.
Carpatho-Rusyns do not have their own state. At best the function as a legally recognized national minority in some - but not all - of the European countries where they live. As has historically been the case with stateless minority groups, Carpatho-Rusyns have been reluctant to identify themselves as such or have simply not been recorded by the governments in the countries where they have lived. Therefore it is impossible to know precisely the number of Carpatho-Rusyns in any country. A reasonable estimate would place their number at 1.5 million persons worldwide.
Until 1945, the vast majority of Rusyns in the Carpathian homeland inhabited about 1,000 small villages that averaged in size between 600 and 800 residents. Aside from Carpatho-Rusyns, each village also had a small percentage (usually 5% to 15%) of people belonging to other national groups. These generally included a few Jewish families (small shop and tavern keepers, as well as farmers), Romany/Gypsies who often lived on the outskirts of the village, and a Magyar, Polish, Slovak or Czech official (gendarme, notary, schoolteacher).
The Carpatho-Rusyns were mostly employed as farmers, livestock herders (especially sheep), and in forest related occupations. The mountainous landscape that characterized Carpathian Rus' never allowed for extensive agricultural production. As a result, Carpatho-Rusyns were usually poor and were often forced to survive by working in neighboring countries or by emigrating permanently abroad, most especially to the United States.
After World War II, industrial enterprises were established in or near the Carpathian homeland, and many Rusyn villagers moved to the nearby cities. Those cities (Uzhorod, Mukacevo, Presov, Hummenne, Kosice, Michalovce, Sanok, Nowy Sacz, Gorlice, Novi Sad) were most often located outside Carpatho-Rusyn ethno-linguistic territory. As a result, many Rusyns who migrated to cities, intermarried, attended schools using the state language, and eventually gave up their identity as Carpatho-Rusyns.