January 26, 2007
Below is an article written by Elisabeth Sewall published by Kyiv Post:
Despite having been granted official minority status by
Kyiv’s reluctance and the persistence of those who champion the Rusyn’s cause may, however, be motivated as much by politics and religion as by national identity.
According to the State Committee on Nationalities and Migration, around 30,000 out of 47 million Ukrainian nationals claimed to be Rusyn in the last national minority census, conducted in 2001 by
There are also Rusyns living in more or less compact parts of
While the exact number of Rusyns in the world is uncertain, Rusyn organizations and scholars claim as many as 1.6 million Rusyns worldwide, with 45 percent of them residing in modern-day
Other estimates, determined by data from official censuses taken in several Eastern European countries alone, indicate a population of around 55,000.
But the State Committee, the official list of which is updated every 10 years in line with state censuses, has still not recognized the Rusyns as a minority.
Granting Rusyns ethnic minority status would mean that
Geopolitics and religion are also believed to play a role in the issue, as recognition would give greater political power to the group.
“There are two reasons why the authorities are reluctant to recognize the Rusyn nationality,” according to Fedir Shandor, a sociologist at the University of Uzhgorod and a member of the People’s Council of Transcarpathian Rusyns, which boasts up to 3,000 active members.
“Firstly, it is believed that Rusyns are the hand of
Shandor added that it is difficult to determine exactly how much money is funneled to Rusyn causes, because it is done indirectly and through religious and political institutions.
According to Oleksandr Solontai, chairman of the National Foundation for Regional Initiatives, 60 percent of Transcarpathia Region’s population consists of impoverished and poorly educated rural residents, some of whom play up or down their national identity for financial gain.
Solontai said that other Rusyns, lacking a strong sense of ethnic identity, are easily manipulated by outsiders.
Shandor said that the politicization of the Rusyn identity, especially its association with Russian interference and fears of secession, has led many Transcarpathian residents to disassociate themselves with their cultural roots.
“Rusyn means politics. It’s not pretty, it’s dirty,” said Shandor, adding that people of Rusyn ethnicity often refer to themselves as the more neutral sounding “Transcarpathians.”
“The most important thing is for
In a December 1991 referendum, 78 percent of voters in Transcarpathia Region voted for regional autonomy, which was never implemented.
Today, the Transcarpathian Special Economic Zone enjoys tax and custom duty breaks meant to stimulate economic growth and development. It is also a major border crossing for trade with the EU.
According to Yaroslav Joganik, a professor of Ukrainian language and culture at
“The pure Rusyns say they don’t have any relation to Ukrainians or
In 1991 in
Joganik said it has now become fashionable to call oneself Rusyn.
“In Diaspora communities in
“Transcarpathia Region has been ruled by 22 different states over its history. If this hadn’t been the case, we would have assimilated,” according to Shandor.