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Rus’ka Kraina

Rus’ka Kraina — autonomous province within the post-World War I Hungarian People’s Republic. Rus’ka Kraina (in Hungarian: Ruszka Krajna) came into being with the issuance of Law No. 10 (December 21, 1918), whereby Hungary’s new democratic government under the leadership of Mihaly Karoly planned to create an autonomous Rusyn province to include the Rusyn-inhabited parts of *Maramorosh, *Ugocha, *Bereg, and *Uzh counties. The status of the Rusyn-inhabited parts of counties farther west—*Zemplyn, *Sharysh, *Abov-Turna, *Spish—would be decided following the “conclusion of a general [post-war] peace treaty.” Plans were made to convene a Rusyn National Council (Sobor) as the autonomous region’s representative body. Rus’ka Kraina’s executive branch and highest governing organ was the Rusyn Ministry (Ruszka Krajnai miniszterium) in Budapest, which was represented in the region itself by the office of the Governor (Ruszka krajnai kormanyzosag) with its seat in Mukachevo.

On February 5, 1919, a provisional government in the form of a Rusyn Council/Rus’ka rada was approved; it consisted of 42 representatives from the four counties and was headed by Orest *Sabov as chairman and Avhustyn/Agoston *Shtefan as vice-chairman. One month later (March 4), elections to a diet (soim) were held. Its 36 deputies immediately demanded that Karoly’s Hungarian government define the borders of Rus’ka Kraina; otherwise, it was argued, the mandates of the deputies and the very diet itself had no purpose. The government did not respond.

On March 21, 1919, Karoly’s government was replaced by a Hungarian Soviet Republic, which announced the existence of a Soviet Rus’ka Kraina. The Rusyn Ministry in Budapest was renamed the *Rusyn People’s Commissariat, to be headed by “commissar” Avhustyn/Agoston Shtefan. The Hungarian Soviet Republic led by Bela Kun announced new elections (April 6-7, 1919) to a people’s soviet (council), with the result that Soviet Rus’ka Kraina now had both a diet and a people’s soviet. Representatives from both the people’s soviet and diet formed the so-called Governing Council/Uriadova rada of Rus’ka Kraina. It met in Mukachevo on April 17, 1919, and succeeded in adopting a constitution that “recognized the existence of a distinct Rusyn people” within the framework of Soviet Hungary. It also removed from influence local radical revolutionaries who supported the idea of a unitary Hungarian state. The question of Rus’ka Kraina’s borders remained unresolved while the Communist regime of Bela Kun was in power.

Rus’ka Kraina did enjoy cultural autonomy. Rusyn was made the official language; a few textbooks were hastily issued in that language; a *Department (katedra) of Rusyn Studies was created at the University of Budapest; and a few issues of a Rusyn newspaper, *Rus’ka pravda, later Rus’ko-Krainska pravda, appeared. On-going military conflicts between Soviet Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Romania, and the anarchy that accompanied Soviet rule throughout Hungary meant that these publications rarely reached Rus’ka Kraina.

During its brief period of existence (40 days) Soviet Rus’ka Kraina issued a wide range of decrees concerning the nationalization of industry and agricultural land; for defense it created a Rusyn Red Guard. The government’s various decrees were in fact applicable to only a small part of *Subcarpathian Rus’, in particular to the areas around the towns of Mukachevo and Berehovo. By mid-April the troops of Czechoslovakia (from the west) and Romania (from the southeast) had driven the Hungarian Red Army out of the region and liquidated Rus’ka Kraina’s remaining administrative structures.

Despite its relatively short existence, Rus’ka Kraina marked an important phase in state-building among the Rusyns of Subcarpathian Rus’. From the standpoint of the authorities in Budapest Rus’ka Kraina was little more than a political maneuver to try to maintain the territorial integrity of Greater Hungary. In the history of Rusyns, however, Rus’ka Kraina represented the juridical fact of their recognition as a distinct people, as well as their right to constitutional guarantees for *autonomy and an elected representative body (diet/soim); it also had, for however short a time, its own government organs. These facts were to become part of the basic argument made subsequently by Rusyn activists seeking national and political recognition.

Bibliography: Pid praporom Velykoho Zhovtnia: zbirnyk dokumentiv (Uzhhorod, 1959); Borys Spivak and Mykhailo Troian, 40 nezabutnikh dniv (Uzhhorod, 1967); Ivan M. Hranchak, ed., Vstanovlennia Radians’koi vlady v Uhorshchyni ta na Zakarpatti v 1919 rotsi (Uzhhorod, 1989).

Ivan Pop

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.
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