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Transcarpathian Ukraine/Zakarpats’ka Ukraina

Transcarpathian Ukraine/Zakarpats’ka Ukraina — a temporary buffer state created by the Soviet military in Subcarpathian Rus’ (October 1944-January 1946) to camouflage its annexation of the region. As part of the campaign to detach *Subcarpathian Rus’ from Czechoslovakia the Soviet leader Iosif Stalin, in cooperation with the political commissars Lev Mekhlis, S. Tiul’panov, and Leonid Brezhnev, the NKVD, and the military counter-espionage unit SMERSH, created the “state” of Transcarpathian Ukraine and supported the local Ukrainian national movement in its drive to “reunite” the region with the Soviet Ukraine.

Stalin’s plan was carried out by local Communists headed by Ivan I.*Turianytsia, who, on instructions from the Soviet NKVD and the political wing of the IVth Ukrainian Army, was discharged together with 34 other Communist officers of Rusyn background from the *Czechoslovak Army Corps under General Ludvik Svoboda. These soldiers-turned-political activists organized in Mukachevo (November 19, 1944) the first conference of the *Communist party of Transcarpathian Ukraine. The conference approved several documents prepared in Moscow that called for “the reunification of Transcarpathian Ukraine with the Soviet Ukraine” and proposed that a “congress of representatives from all the people” of Subcarpathian Rus’ be convened. On November 26, 1944, under the watchful eye of the Soviet military and its secret service units, the first (and last) Congress of People’s Committees of Transcarpathian Ukraine took place in Mukachevo. Congress delegates approved a *Manifesto prepared in Moscow calling for “the reunification of Transcarpathian Ukraine with Soviet Ukraine,” and it elected governing organs for the Transcarpathian Ukrainian “state.” These consisted of an executive body, the 17-member National Council of Transcarpathian Ukraine/Narodna rada Zakarpats’koi Ukrainy, that is, a government with alleged full-fledged authority. While this government issued several decrees, a campaign throughout the villages of Subcarpathian Rus’ was being carried out in order to collect signatures in favor of “reunification.” The signatures were frequently bought from poor villagers in exchange for “gifts” or gathered at meetings where no one was present, the signatures being taken from the school rolls of parents. Those persons reluctant to sign were threatened with deportation. This process the Soviets advertised abroad as a “plebiscite.”

On December 1, 1944, the National Council of Transcarpathian Ukraine submitted a “note” to Frantisek *Nemec, the authorized representative of the Czechoslovak government (at the time in Khust), which proclaimed the secession of Transcarpathian Ukraine from Czechoslovakia. Within a few days, another decree (December 5) forbade all local government organs from having any contact with the Czechoslovak administration and it ended any further mobilization into the Czechoslovak Army of inhabitants living in the territory of Transcarpathian Ukraine. Transcarpathia’s own armed forces consisted of a national guard/narodna druzhyna (under the command of the Soviet officer and partisan commander Oleksander Tkanko) and a national militia/narodna militsiia.

Soon after Hungarian and German troops had retreated from the region a professional court system based on the Czechoslovak model had been re-established; it was now dismantled and replaced by Soviet-style “revolutionary” courts. A decree of December 18, 1944 created an Extraordinary Court for Transcarpathian Ukraine and an “investigative commission” based on the model of the notorious troika used in the 1930s during the height of Stalinist repression in the Soviet Union. Persons found guilty were almost without exception sentenced either to 10-20 years’ imprisonment or to death. The last remaining elements from the previous legal system were finally liquidated on January 1, 1945, after which were established people’s courts at the first level, a Supreme People’s Court/Vyshchii narodnyi sud, and a Prosecutor’s Office. The work of all these courts was directed by the Soviet military administration and its secret service (NKVD). Despite the existence of the new Soviet-style legal system in Transcarpathian Ukraine, the security organs of the Soviet Union (NKVD, SMERSH) continued to arrest and intern at will the region’s citizens.

In the economic sphere, the National Council of Transcarpathian Ukraine also adopted the Soviet model. In December 1944 all banking and credit establishments, mines, factories, railroads, post and telegraph services, and subsequently small businesses and even small trades were nationalized. An agrarian reform was introduced, whereby 113,000 hectares of land were distributed to 27,000 village families. According to two other decrees (December 12, 1944 and May 20, 1945) churches were separated from the state and all schools from the churches. Even Moscow time (two hours ahead of the central European time traditionally used in Subcarpathian Rus’) was introduced and the Soviet national anthem and flag were adopted.

The government of Transcarpathian Ukraine planned to annex those parts of neighboring Romania (the *Maramures Region) and Slovakia (the *Presov Region) inhabited by “Ukrainians,” i.e., Rusyns (see Maramorosh Congress of People’s Committees; Ukrainian National Council of the Presov Region). Moscow was satisfied, however, that its “Transcarpathian bridgehead” into central Europe was already sufficiently large and, therefore, considered such local expansionist initiatives taken by Uzhhorod’s “statesmen” to be excessive.

In essence, Transcarpathian Ukraine fulfilled its role as a cover for the Soviet annexation of Subcarpathian Rus’, which had effectively taken place in the fall of 1944. Consequently, no representative from Transcarpathian Ukraine was invited, not even in the role of an “extra,” to the negotiations and signing of the *Czechoslovak-Soviet Treaty on Transcarpathian Ukraine/Subcarpathian Rus’ that took place in Moscow on June 29, 1945. The manner in which this act was carried out revealed that Stalin considered the “government” of Transcarpathian Ukraine to be little more than a puppet.

It is not surprising, therefore, that “the state of Transcarpathian Ukraine” was abolished on January 1, 1946 by a decree of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and the area demoted to a just another administrative entity—the *Transcarpathian oblast of the Ukrainian SSR—of the Soviet Union. The region lost its juridical status and the validity of any decrees issued by its legislative body. According to some legal theorists the resultant juridical vacuum has provided an opportunity in the post-Communist era to restore Subcarpathian Rusyn statehood within the framework of the Transcarpathian oblast, but efforts toward this end have been unsuccessful.

Bibliography: J.W. Bruegel, “Pripad Podkarpatske Rusi (Sovetska agrese proti Ceskoslovensku, 1944-1945),” in Doklady a rozpravy Ustavu dr. Edvarda Benese (London, 1953), pp. 1-24; I. F. Evseev, Narodnye komitety Zakarpatskoi Ukrainy—organy gosudarstvennoi vlasti, 1944-1945 (Moscow, 1954)—in Czech transl.: Z dejin Zakarpatske Ukrajiny (Prague, 1956); Frantisek Moudry and Vladimir Moudry, The Soviet Seizure of Subcarpathian Ruthenia (Toronto, 1955); Vasyl Markus, L’incorporation de l’Ukraine subcarpathique a l’Ukraine sovietique, 1944-1945 (Louvain, 1956)—in Ukrainian transl.: Pryiednannia Zakarpats’koi Ukrainy, 1944-1945 (Kiev, 1992); Zakarpats’ka Ukraina: shliakh do vozz’iednannia, dosvid rozvytku: zovten’ 1944-sichen’ 1946 rr. (Uzhhorod, 1995); Mykhailo Boldyzhar and Oleksandr Hrin, Zakarpats’ka Ukraina: derzhavno-pravovyi status i diial’nist’ kinets’ 1944 r.—pochatok 1946 r. (Uzhhorod, 1999).

Ivan Pop

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.
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