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Fentsyk, Shtefan/Fencik, Stepan/Fenczik, Istvan

Fentsyk, Shtefan/Fencik, Stepan/Fenczik, Istvan (b. October 13, 1892, Velyki Luchky [Hungarian Kingdom], Ukraine; d. March 30, 1946, Uzhhorod [Soviet Union], Ukraine) — priest, pedagogue, composer, publicist, and cultural and political activist of Russian national orientation in Subcarpathian Rus’. A relative of the nineteenth-century cultural activist, Ievhenii Fentsyk, Shtefan Fentsyk attended the gymnasia in Uzhhorod and Berehovo, then studied theology and philosophy at the University of Budapest (1910-1914, Ph.D., 1918) and the University of Vienna (1914-1916, Th.D., 1916). He also studied the French language and law in Paris, music at the academies in Vienna and Budapest (1918), and finally law at the academy in Sarospatak (1918) and at the University of Debrecen (1922). In the interim, Fentsyk was ordained a Greek Catholic priest (1918), and while still doing post-graduate studies he began a pedagogical career in Uzhhorod at the *Greek Catholic Teachers’ College (1916-1918), the Theological Seminary (1918-1922), and the classic gymnasium (1922-1926). It was during this period that he directed the Uzhhorod cathedral church choir, Harmoniia (1917-1920) and published a two-part collection of Rusyn songs (Pisny podkarpatskykh rusynov, 1921-1923), which included his music for the Rusyn *national anthem based on the poem, “Subcarpathian Rusyns, Arise from Your Deep Slumber,” erroneously attributed to Aleksander *Dukhnovych.

Fentsyk was the most ambitious of Rusyn political leaders during the interwar years of the twentieth century. He began this activity within the framework of the Russophile-oriented *Dukhnovych Society, of which he was a co-founder (1923) and actual administrator. He also served as founding head (1930-1944) of the Dukhnovych Russian Scout movement and he represented the organization at numerous meetings of Russophile and other international organizations throughout Europe (Belgrade, 1923; Paris, 1926; L’viv, 1928, 1929; Riga, 1929; Sofia, 1930; Bucharest, 1930; Rome, 1931). He frequently published accounts of these visits, including an extended one among Rusyn immigrants in the United States (1934-1935) described in the book Uzhgorod-Amerika (1936). Fentsyk also attempted, without success, to be named in 1931 bishop of the *Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo. In 1934 he was defrocked by the new bishop for conduct “unbecoming a priest.”

By that time Fentsyk had become fully engaged in Subcarpathian political life, maintaining since the first of his many “engagements” at international conferences a position strongly critical of Czechoslovakia for not having fulfilled those provisions of the *Treaty of St.Germain (1919) that had called for *autonomy to be granted to *Subcarpathian Rus’. Accused of anti-state activity, he was arrested by the Czechoslovak authorities upon his return from the United States (1935). In the same year, however, he was chosen to serve as deputy (1935-1938) in the Czechoslovak parliament representing the *Russian National Autonomist party he had recently founded, and was therefore released from custody. To promote his autonomist and Russophile views Fentsyk published several newspapers: *Karpatorusskii golos (1932-34), Nash put’ (1935-38), and Molodaia Rus’ (1938). Most of the funding for these ventures came from Russophile-oriented immigrant organizations in the United States and from the Polish government via its consulate in Uzhhorod. Impressed by the Italian variety of fascism, Fentsyk even tried to create a single “Carpatho-Russian party” for which he would be the “supreme leader” (vozhd’).

During Czechoslovakia’s political crisis (1938) Fentsyk reached an accord with his rival Russophile autonomist leader Andrii *Brodii and accepted a post in the latter’s government (October 1938), with specific responsibility for determining Subcarpathia’s final boundary with Slovakia. In the course of these negotiations Fentsyk embarked on an intense irredentist campaign directed at uniting the Rusyn-inhabited *Presov Region with Subcarpathian Rus’. While unsuccessful in this goal, Fentsyk’s activity resulted in strained relations between the new autonomous governments of Slovakia and Subcarpathian Rus’. On October 26, 1938, Fentsyk, together with the Subcarpathian prime minister Brodii, was accused by the Czechoslovak government of political agitation on behalf of Hungary. Fearing arrest, he fled to Budapest, where he was named a deputy to the Hungarian parliament and entrusted with organizing a paramilitary youth organization, the so-called chornorubashechniki (Black Shirts). Working from the southern part of Subcarpathian Rus’ annexed by Hungary on November 2, 1938, the Black Shirts were to enter what remained of Czechoslovakia’s autonomous eastern province (the Voloshyn-led Carpatho-Ukraine) in order to provoke political destabilization.

After Hungary annexed the rest of Subcarpathian Rus’ (March 1939) Fentsyk was appointed a member (1939-1944) of the upper house of the Hungarian parliament, but in stark contrast to what he was able to do under Czechoslovak rule, he and other pro-Hungarian Rusyn activists were effectively barred from any serious role in political life. Fentsyk continued to publicize the need for Subcarpathian *autonomy in Hungarian publications (A Karpataljai autonomia es a kisebbsegi kerdes, 1941), but to no avail. When the Soviet Army reached Subcarpathian Rus’ in late 1944, Fentsyk decided not to flee. He was arrested by the Soviet military counter-intelligence force SMERSH on March 31, 1945, and placed on trial by the “people’s court” of *Transcarpathian Ukraine. Sentenced to death, he was shot on March 3, 1946, in the Uzhhorod prison. Nearly half a century later the sentence was overturned by the post-Communist Transcarpathian Regional Court of Ukraine and Fentsyk was posthumously rehabilitated (February 24, 1992).

Ivan Pop

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.
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