World Academy of Carpatho-Rusyn Culture



County (Hungarian: megye/varmegye; Latin: comitatus; Rusyn: zhupa) — territorial and administrative unit in the former Hungarian Kingdom. The Rusyn name for county, zhupa, may derive from the Old Slavonic root geu - p, which in turn evolved from the Latin pagus, meaning territory or land. The Latin name, comitatus, derives from the noun comes, meaning a member of the ruler’s armed retinue or a count. The county system was first introduced into the Hungarian Kingdom during the eleventh century and was based on an administrative model found among the indigenous Slavic population. The county center was at the castle, which served as the residence of the king’s representative, the lord sheriff (Hungarian: ispan and, after the 15th century, foispan; Rusyn: *zhupan). The lord sheriff commanded the castle’s armed retinue, comprised of free peasants (*jobagiones), with whose help he collected taxes and fines and administered the royal estates (*dominia). After the thirteenth century the lord sheriff received an assistant, the vice-lord sheriff (Hungarian: alispan), who was elected by the local nobility.

The county system became the basic structure for administration of the countryside, together with the distribution by the king of land held in vassalage by the noble estate (magnates and gentry). Gradually, the counties came to be administered by the nobles: in the thirteenth century the nobles obtained the right to convene legal proceedings; during the following century they controlled the entire county system, with some magnate families obtaining hereditary administrative rights.

By the nineteenth century each country was divided into districts (Hungarian: jaras). Rusyns lived primarily in the following counties in northeastern Hungary: *Sharysh (Hungarian: Saros), *Zemplyn/Zemplen, *Uzh/Ung, *Bereg, *Ugocha/Ugocsa, and *Maramorosh/Maramaros, with smaller numbers scattered throughout parts of *Spish/Szepes, *Abov-Turna/Abauj-Torna, *Borshod/Borsod, Sobolch/Szabolcs, and Sotmar/Szatmar (see Map 9). Aside from the lord sheriff, appointed by the king, there was a county council, or diet (zhupnyi/komitats’kyi zbor), an advisory body made up exclusively of nobles (magnates and gentry). The diet had its own administrative committee (zhupne/komitats’ke upravlinnia) composed of 30 to 40 persons, including the lord-sheriff, district (jaras) heads, a secretary, treasurer, and land surveyor, and tax collectors, among others. As a result of the 1848-1849 revolution in Hungary, the imperial government in Vienna abolished local self-rule as embodied in the county diets.

The county as a territorial-administrative unit continued to exist even after the fall of Austria-Hungary in late 1918. In the new state of Czechoslovakia the former Hungarian counties, or parts of them, continued to exist for the most part according to their previous boundaries in both *Subcarpathian Rus’ (Uzh, Bereg, Ugocha, Maramorosh) and Slovakia (Spish, Sharysh, Abov, Zemplyn). The only change was in that part of former Uzh county located west of the demarcation line with Subcarpathian Rus’, which was attached to Zemplyn county.

Between 1920 and 1928 the county system in Czechoslovakia underwent several changes. The county administration was headed by a *zhupan (Czech: zupan) appointed by the central government, and each county was divided into smaller districts (Czech: okresy) with their own district administrations. In Subcarpathian Rus’, which was supposed to be granted special autonomous status, the county system was subject to that province’s specific *civil administration. County boundaries in Subcarpathian Rus’ were to change several times. In 1920 there were five (Uzhhorod, Mukachevo, Bereg, Velykyi Sevliush, and Maramorosh); the following year Maramorosh was united with Sevliush, and Bereg with Mukachevo; in 1926, all were united into one large county of Mukachevo. Finally, in 1928, as part of an administrative change throughout Czechoslovakia, the counties were abolished. The country was divided into four lands (Czech: zeme), including Subcarpathian Rus’ and Slovakia, and each land was subdivided into districts (okresy).

Ivan Pop

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.

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