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The Ukrainian Question between Poland and Czechoslovakia: The Lemko Rusyn Republic (1918-1920) and Political Thought in Western Rus'-Ukraine

  • Paul Robert Magocsi (a1)


During the closing months of World War I in late 1918 and the break-up of the historic multinational empires that for centuries had ruled most of East Central Europe, it became common practice for the varying ethnolinguistic or national groups to form councils whose goals were to determine their group's political future. These national councils, as they came to be known, seemed to appear everywhere, but perhaps most frequently in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was not only the “large” former minorities like the Czechs, Poles, Slovaks, Croats, Slovenes, Romanians, or Ukrainians who formed national councils, but many smaller groups acted in the same way. And, like the national councils of the larger groups who very soon created independent republics alone or in cooperation with their immediate neighbors, so, too, did some of these smaller groups proclaim their independence. Thus, in the newspapers of the time and scholarly monographs of today one can still find references to the Baranya, East Slovak, Hutsul, or Przemysl “republics” among others, which during the last few months of 1918 seemed to sprout up like mushrooms after a rainfall, but which for the most part ceased to exist when the borders of East Central Europe began to stabilize as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that opened its deliberations in early 1919.



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1. For information on some of these smaller and often ephemeral “republics,” see C.A. Macartney, Hungary and Her Successors: The Treaty of Trianon and Its Consequences, 1919-1937 (Oxford, 1937); and Ladislav Tajták, Národno-demokratická revolucia na vychodnom Slovensku v roku 1918 (Bratislava, 1972).

2. V.R. Vavrim, :‘“Russkaia Norodnaia Respublika ‘Lemkov’” (unpublished 11-page manuscript); P. Kohutov, “Lemkivshchyna u borot'bi za vozz'iednannia” (unpublished 11-page manuscript); Andrzej Kwilecki, “Fragmenty najnowszej historii Lemków,” Rocznik Sadecki, VIII (Nowy Sacz, 1967), esp. pp. 254257; and Bohdan Horbal’, “Lemkivska Narodna Respublyka,” Holos Vatry, No. 5 (Bortne, 1988), Pp. 5 and 12, as well as his more comprehensive “Dzialalnosc polityczna Lemkow na Lemkowszczyznie Zachodniej i Srodkowej w latach 1918-1921” (unpublished manuscript). See also below, note 4.

3. On the origin of the term Lemko and its introduction as an ethnonym among the populace, see Bohdan Struminsky, “The Name of the Lemkos and Their Territory,” in Jacob P. Hursky, Studies in Ukrainian Linguistics in Honor of George Y. Shevelov; Annals of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences, XV (New York, 1981-83), pp. 3013078.

4. The literature on the more ephemeral Komancza republic is slightly better than that on the Lemko Rusyn Republic. The most detailed survey is a chapter on the Komancza republic in Tadeusz Andrzej Olszanski, Bieszczday 1918-19 (Warsaw, 1984), pp. 4152. Other descriptions of the Komancza republic, which also include brief and usually critical appraisals of the Lemko Rusyn Republic, are: Frants Kokovs'kyi, “Lemkivs'ki republyky v 1918-1919 rokakh,” in Istorychnyi kaliendar-al'manakh Chervonoï kalyny na rik 1935 (L'viv, 1934), pp. 115–117; Iuliian Tarnovych, Iliustrovana istoriia Lemkivshchyny (L'viv, 1936), esp. pp. 246–258; and Ivan Hvat, “Istoriia pivnichnoi Lemkivshchyny do vyhnannia lemkiv,” in Bohdan O. Strumins'kyi, ed. Lemkivshchyna, Vol. I, Zapysky Naukovoho tovarystva im. Shevchenka, Vol. 206 (New York, Paris, Sydney, and Toronto, 1988), esp. pp. 179–186.

5. On the background to the Florynka meeting and its actions, see Krasovs'kyi, Ivan, “Zakhidnio-Lemkivs'ka Respublyka,” Nashe slovo (Warsaw), November 30, 1980, p. 4; and Horbal, “Dzialalnosc polityczna Lemkow,” pp. 27.

6. The pro-Ukrainian Kokovs'kyi, “Lemkivs'ki republyky,” p. 117, who otherwise had little sympathy for the Lemko Rusyn Republic, nonetheless concluded that “the leadership of ‘this republic’ conducted itself in a completely loyal manner toward the Ukrainians, and although there were efforts to divide Muscophiles [Russophile Lemkos] from Ukrainians, both sides took the position that this was only an internal matter which would be resolved among the two orientations.”

7. Memorandum Narodnago Sovieta Russkago Prikarpat'ia,” reprinted in Zdenek Peska and Josef Markov, “Príspevek k Ϻstavním dejinám Podkarpatské Rusi,” Bratislava, V (Bratislava, 1931), pp. 528531.

8. See the memorandum, dated Presov, January 31, 1919, in ibid., pp. 531532.

9. The 23-page memorandum that included a fold-out map delineating the boundaries of a united Carpathian Rus' (the Galician Lemko Region up to the San River as well as the Presov Region and Subcarpathian Rus' south of the Carpathians) was issued in French and English: The Origin of the Lems, Slavs of Danubian Provenance: Memorandum to the Peace Conference Concerning Their National Claims [Paris, 1919].

10. Protokoly obshchago sobraniia podkarpatskikh russkikh rad i pervykh 5-ti zasiedanii Tsentral'noi Russkoi Narodnoi Rady (Uzhhorod, 1919). The question of territorial unity with the Lemko Region was discussed at Uzhhorod during the second day (May 9). It was raised by Dmytro Vislots'kyi, secretary of the Presov National Council and native of the Lemko Region. The Rusyn-American Zhatkovych, who at the time had the greatest political influence, expressed dismay over those Galician leaders (Russophiles who sometimes spoke on behalf of the Lemkos) who called for union with “Great Russia”; this, he felt, would undermine the efforts of Carpatho-Rusyns to find an advantageous political position within Czechoslovakia.

11. Ever since the Lemko leaders Karchmarchyk and Iurkachevych joined Galician Russophiles at Sanok (December 13, 1918) in calling for union with Russia (see above, note 6), the leading prewar Galician Russophile spokesman, former Austrian parliamentary deputy Dmitrii Markov, was empowered to speak on behalf of Lemkos. For instance, he presented the Lemko declaration made at the Florynka national congress to Clemenceau. Markov was clearly anti-Bolshevik and preferred to see some kind of democratic Russian state or even a return to tsarism. See his Mémoire sur les aspirations nationales des Petits-Russiens de l'ancien empire austro-hongrois [Paris, 1919] and Belgium of the East: An Interview with Dr. Dimitri A. Markoff (Wilkes-Barrie, PA, 1920).

33. According to Kohutov, “Lemkivshchyna,” p. 6, the Lemko republic also dispatched two representatives to the “Soviet Union” in the spring of 1919.

12. For instance, most authors mentioned above in note 2 refer to the Lemko Republic existing sixteen months and ending with the arrest of its leaders in March 1920, yet Kohutov, “Lemkivshchyna,” pp. 78, states the arrest and end of the republic did not come until January 1921. Similarly, Kohutov states the whole movement began with the meeting at Gladysz6w on October 30, 1918, while Horbal', “Lemkivs'ka respublyka,” p. 5, states that meeting took place on October 9. These are some examples of the many inconsistencies in the existing accounts.

13. For the details on western Rus' political thought in the second half of the nineteenth century, see Paul Robert Magocsi, The Shaping of a National Identity: Subcarpathian Rus', 1848-1948 (Cambridge, MA, 1978), pp. 4275; Mykhailo Lozyns'kyi, “Obopil'ni stosunky mizh Velykoiu Ukraïnoiu i Halychynoiu v istorii rozvytku ukraïns'koï politychnoi dumky XIX i XX v.,” Ukraïna, V, 2 (Kiev, 1928), pp. 83–90; O.A. Monchalovskii, Sviataia Rus' (L'viv, 1903).

14. An expanded variant of the third circle existed as long as the Austro-Hungarian Empire existed. It encompassed all the western Rus' lands whose Old Ruthenian leaders, as they were known, maintained a political vision that basically was encompassed by the borders of the Habsburg Empire. The viability of such a territory, which was called Carpathian Rus', ended in 1918, after which the narrower third circle described here became a concrete and, as some thought, feasible political goal. Cf. Paul Robert Magocsi, “Old Ruthenianism and Russophilism: A New Conceptual Framework for Analyzing National Ideologies in Late 19th Century Eastern Galicia,” in Paul Debreczyn, ed., American Contributions to the Ninth International Congress of Slavists, Vol. II (Columbus, OH, 1983), pp. 305324.

15. Such an orientation, which looked for a revival of the medieval Galician-Volhynian Kingdom through the establishment of an independent West Ukrainian Republic was not completely eliminated as a political option until the 1923 decision of the Allied and Associated Powers. Cf. Mykhailo Lozynz'kyi, Za derzhavnu nezalezhnist' Halychyny: chomu ukraïns'ka Halychyna ne mozhe pryity pid Pol'shchu (Vienna, 1921); Nekhai zhyve Nezalezhna Nalyts'ka Derzhava: zbirka statei (Vienna, 1922); The Case for the Independence of Galicia (London, 1922).

16. For the conservative view, see N. Pavolovich, Russkaia kul'tura i Podkarpatskaia Rus', Izdanie Obshchestva im. A. Dukhnovicha, No. 23 (Uzhhorod, 1926); Antonii Lukovich, Natsional'naia i iazykovaia prinadlezhnost' russkago naseleniia Podkarpatskoi Rusi, Izdanie Obshchestva im. A. Dukhnovicha, No. 40 (Uzhhorod, 1929); and Ivan Teodorovich, “Lemkovskaia Rus',” Nauchno-literaturnyi sbornik Galitsko-russkoi Matitsy, VIII (L'viv, 1934), pp. 1021. For the Communist view, see I.K. Vasiuta and Iu. Iu. Slyvka, “Borot'ba trudiashchykh Zakhidnoi Ukraïny, Bukovyny i Zakarpattia…za vozz'iednannia z Radians'koiu Ukraïnoiu,” in M.M. Oleksiuk et al., eds. Torzhestvo istorychnoi spravedlyvosti (L'viv, 1968), pp. 434.479.

17. Budurowycz, Bohdan, “Poland and the Ukrainian Problem, 1921-1939,” Canadian Slavonic Papers, XXV, 4 (Toronto, 1983), pp. 473500; Alexander J. Motyl, The Turn to the Right: The Ideological Origins and Development of Ukrainian Nationalism, 1919-1929 (Boulder, CO and New York, 1930), esp. pp. 129–161; Magocsi, Shaping of A National Identity, esp. pp. 227233.

18. Husek, Jan, “Rodí se podkarpatorusky narod?” Podkarpato-ruská revue, I, 7-8 (Bratislava, 1936), pp. 68; Magocsi, Shaping of a National Identity, esp. pp. 106–110 and 221-224; I.F. Lemkin, Ystoryia Lemkovyny (Yonkers, NY, 1969), pp. 154175.

19. Vanat, Ivan, Narysy novitn'oï istoriï ukraïnstiv Skhidnoï Slovachchyny, Vol. II (Bratislava and Presov, 1985), p. 220.

20. Cf. Paul Robert Magocsi, “Nation-Building or Nation Destroying: Poles, Lemkos and Ukrainians in Present-Day Poland,” Polish Review, forthcoming 1990; “[Rusyns and] the Revolution of 1989,” Carpatho-Rusyn American, XII, 4 (Fairview, NJ, 1989), pp. 59.


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