MINELRES: Rusyns protest abuses in Ukraine

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Thu Jul 15 18:11:51 2004

Original sender: Elaine Rusinko <rusinko@umbc.edu> 

19 April 2004

TO:             L. D. Kuchma, President of Ukraine
FROM:   Organizations of Subcarpathian Rusyns
RE:             Serious human rights abuses in Ukraine

For more than ten years, the Rusyn organizations of Transcarpathia have
been addressing highly placed individuals in the government to ask for
official recognition and to request that Rusyn be listed among the
nationalities and languages of Ukraine. According to quantitative
indices, Rusyns are third in population after Ukrainians and Russians.
In fact, according to censuses from the last century in Transcarpathia,
the numbers of Rusyns were as follows:

1900  311,163
1910  336,286 
1921  327,500
1930  446,916
1941  502,239

The number of Rusyns has always been around 65-70% of the population of
the region. By the same percentage, Rusyns were annexed to the USSR in
1945 and identified by the authorities with the ethnologically
misleading term “Subcarpathian-Ukrainians,” as a political screen for
the “reunification” of Subcarpathian Rus’ with Soviet Ukraine. The act
of annexation took place under post-war conditions, and the Agreement
between the USSR and Czechoslovakia concerning Transcarpathian Ukraine
was signed without duly elected representation from Czechoslovakia.

Today Rusyns are considered an official minority in 22 countries around
the world. Only in Ukraine are Rusyns illegally denied official
recognition for no convincing cause. This can be understood only as the
oppression of Rusyn citizens by the higher organs of the state, who give
only formal or even politically accusatory responses to the petitions of
Rusyn organizations. An entire volume of these petitions has
accumulated, which even today presents itself as a subject for
investigation, and in the future will be subject to the scrutiny of
international legal institutions. Due to the fault of the executive
Center, this problem, which should have been resolved by the Ukrainian
legislature, became political. And this was accompanied by groundlessly
branding the peaceful, hard-working Rusyns, patriots of their region and
of Ukraine as a whole, with the lables “political Rusynism” and

In a provocative move, the resolution of this problem has been turned
over to various scholarly institutions, when it should be taken out of
the public square of idle pseudo-scientific debate and resolved in the
legal context of the constitution, the laws of Ukraine on human rights
and national relations, and the international legal conventions endorsed
by Ukraine.
This situation was exacerbated when the Cabinet of Minsters accepted the
undemocratic “Plan of Measures to Resolve the Problem of
Ukrainian-Rusyns” on September 25, 1996 [see
http://www.legacyrus.com/library/UkrainianDocumentionRusyns.htm]. This
plan is exceptionally undemocratic. It openly violates fundamental human
rights and national association. This illicit “Plan” even today
continues to be actively implemented by governmental officials at all

Point 3 of the “Plan” cynically recommends “prevent[ing] the conduct of
local referendums which have the aim of manifesting the
‘self-identification’ of the Ukrainians of Transcarpathia (whether one
is Ukrainian or Rusyn).” The execution of this “recommendation”
undoubtedly determined the instructions given to census-takers during
the Population Census of 2001. In particular, they prejudicially ignored
point number 6 on the census form (“Your ethnicity”), and for the most
part, they left out nationality entirely. 

This “recommendation” effectively worked against the right of Rusyns to
reclaim their nationality and also against self-identification in the
villages, the population of which comprises more than 80% of the
residents of the oblast. The census-takers did not even reach a
significant percentage of citizens, did not ask the questions on the
census forms, and for the most part, filled out the forms in the offices
of the village administration. The government, through the
census-takers, took advantage of the fact that many people do not
understand the difference between the concepts of citizenship and
However, even given the inhumane mechanism of the Census, more than 10
thousand residents of Transcarpathia insisted that they be counted as
Rusyns, their ancestral nationality.

Insofar as the Census was conducted pro forma and prejudicially, Rusyn
organizations have investigated and registered the actual intended
expression of the indigenous inhabitants of the region in regard to
their Rusyn nationality. They gathered more than 103,000 signatures of
citizens who wish to recover their traditional Rusyn nationality. 

Point 2 of the “Plan of Measures” requires the Ministries of culture and
arts, the Ministry of education of Ukraine, and the Transcarpathian
regional government “to implement a system of steps, directed at
strengthening the view that Transcarpathia is Ukrainian (according to
language, culture, and selection of personnel).” In fact, this
requirement contradicts article 11 of the Constitution of Ukraine, which
provides that the state must encourage “the growth of ethnic, cultural,
linguistic, and religious specificity of the indigenous peoples …,” one
of which is the Subcarpathian Rusyn people. Under conditions in
independent Ukraine, this ethnic group has experienced total
discrimination, although the above-mentioned article of the constitution
guarantees the exact opposite. Rusyn cultural and educational
organizations are deprived of financial support, as well as access to
governmental and mass media. Moreover, in some forms of media, material
unrelentingly falsifies the history of the region and fosters
Rusynophobia. In concert programs, on radio and television, and in
periodical publications, it is taboo to mention the Rusyn origin of a
folk song, dance, or other forms of popular culture. As among government
officials, also among the representatives of the media, there are few
qualified personnel who truly know the true history of Rusyns and the
original Rusyn culture. All this inflicts irreparable harm on the
cultural and spiritual life of Rusyns.

Latent and patent discrimination against Rusyns appears in various forms
and spheres of life, especially in the selection of personnel --
activists in the Rusyn movement are even dismissed from their jobs.
Thus, E. E. Zhupan, head of the Society of Carpathian Rusyns and deputy
on the oblast council, was fired from his position as director of a
department in the regional pediatric hospital, and only after public
protest was he restored to his post. For fear of losing their jobs,
Rusyns cannot fully take part in the administrative and financial
structures of oblast government, law enforcement organs, higher
educational institutions, or in cultural and instructional activities.
Individuals who openly identify themselves as Rusyns face difficulties
in the process of privatization, in the conduct of business, and in the
activities of charitable foundations. The established practice of
filling positions in Transcarpathia with cadres from other regions is
plainly obvious.

We know that at the end of last year, the Committee of the Supreme
Council, which you oversee, in connection with the report of the session
of the Transcarpathian oblast council to the Supreme Council of Ukraine,
was to conduct a special on-site hearing in Transcarpathia to resolve
the problems of the official recognition of the Rusyn nationality, that
is, of the indigenous Rusyn people on their own historical territory,
and to formulate corresponding documents. However, the investigation of
this question has dragged along slowly. For reasons that are
unconvincing to us, this session of the Committee of the Supreme Council
was postponed until the first half of this year. 

We turn to you with a kind request to conduct this hearing as soon as
possible with representatives of all oblast, regional, and local Rusyn
organizations. Today the situation is such that only the Rusyn
population is defending the country from plunder, from the barbarous
destruction of forests, and the covert seizure of property, natural
resources, and beautiful agricultural lands by groups of oligarchs (from
top to bottom), and by juridical and physical entities in our land-poor
oblast. However, this noble impulse of local Rusyns cannot give the
desired results, inasmuch as the central government, in contradiction of
constitutional human rights, does not recognize Rusyns as a nationality.

To the detriment of Ukraine, the Ukrainian government is the only one in
Europe that pays no attention to historical reality, that is, to the
existence of the Subcarpathian Rusyn people. This people, which was
formed in the course of a millennium of peaceful coexistence with
representatives of other European peoples, officially declared itself a
distinct ethnos in the middle of the nineteenth century. Moreover, it
was formed under historical conditions that were different from those in
Ukrainian regions. Thus it has preserved itself to the present day,
resisting the brutal assimilation and ethnocide of the last
We are convinced that by officially recognizing the nationality of the
indigenous Subcarpathian-Rusyn people, the Committee of the Supreme
Council, which you head, will make a priceless contribution to the
consolidation of the entire multi-ethnic Ukrainian nation, toward the
realization of constitutional human rights in Transcarpathia. 

Signed by:
Parliament of Subcarpathian Rusyns, Regional Society of Subcarpathian
I. Kryvs’kyi

Society of Carpathian Rusyns
E. Zhupan

Transcarpathian oblast “Society of Subcarpathian Rusyns”
L. Letsovych

Rusyn Scientific and Educational Society
M. Makara

Subcarpathian Rusyn Society of Cyril and Methodius
D. Sydor

Oblast Organization of the Communist Party of Ukraine
Iu. Korol’

Oblast Organization of the Socialist Party of Ukraine
O. Prystaia

Oblast Organization of the VO “Fatherland” Party 
M. Martyn

Independent Professional Society of Private Landowners of Transcarpathia
M. Hyriavets’

Rusyn Professional Union of Guest Workers
M. Koshuta

Oblast Organization “Society of Volunteers of Transcarpathia  War
A. Okal’

Transcarpathian Popular Union 
Iu. Bruntsvik

Original in Ukrainian at