Ruthenians are not national or cultural minority of the Ukrainian people or an ethnic group that belongs to the Ukrainian nation. Ruthenians worldwide have their own ethnic and cultural identity, based on the Slavic tradition, which differs from the "Ukrainian". When Ruthenian identifies himself as Ruthenian, he does not identify himself with the Ukrainian people. Ethnonym "Ruthenian" is much older than "Ukrainian" and it equally belongs to all the Eastern Slavs and Holy Russia. On the Internet could be found plenty of material about the Republic of Subcarpathian Ruthenia, which was proclaimed in the Transcarpathian region, but operates mainly in the virtual space. What is Subcarpathian Ruthenia - part of the Russian world or part of Central Europe? We interview the prime minister of this formally yet unrecognized republic of the Ruthenians - Petr Ivanovich Getsko. Petr Ivanovich Getsko was born Jan. 1, 1965, in the village Kushnitsa Irshava district, Transcarpathian region, in a large family. After graduating high school in Kushnitsa in 1981, he worked as a bricklayer in the construction department of the 52nd trust "Lvovzhilstroy". In 1983, he was called up for military service in the airborne troops. He served in the Baltic States and Moldova. He is a candidate for Master of Sport in Sambo. After serving in the army, entered the Faculty of Automation and Electronics at Moscow Engineering Physics Institute, from where he graduated with a degree in systems engineering. Afterwards, he worked in Kiev in JSC “Rostock“. Since 1997, he heads the public organization "Employment". He joined the Ruthenian movement in 1996. At the II European Congress of Subcarpathian Ruthenians was elected Prime Minister of the Government of the Republic of Subcarpathian Ruthenia.
- Peter Ivanovich, what prompted Ruthenians to define their self-identity? Almost half a century (since the accession to the Soviet Union in 1945 and until now), they considered themselves to be Ukrainians, and then suddenly "realized the mistake," and declared themselves a separate Ruthenian nation?
- First of all, I would like to mention briefly that there is a false impression about the inhabitants of Western Ukraine, - that they are all 100% Bandera nationalists. Not many know that Lvov and Uzhgorod represent two different mentalities and cultures, even though they are close neighbours. In 1946, all Ruthenians of Subcarpathian Ruthenia in the census were recorded Ukrainians: the authorities promptly issued new birth certificates in which all the inhabitants of Transcarpathia became Ukrainians, and their place of birth was changed for USSR, instead of Austria-Hungary or Czechoslovakia. The state did everything to strengthen the Ukrainian influence in the region, in particular, supported the resettlement of ethnic Ukrainians from Central Ukraine and Galicia, and replaced the language of study in almost all schools for Ukrainian. In such circumstances, self-identity of the Ruthenians became impossible, and sometimes even dangerous… In all countries where Ruthenians live, they are considered a separate minority group. However, in Ukraine, even after the collapse of the Soviet Union and independence, almost nothing has changed in the Ruthenian issue - much of the population of the Transcarpathian region (Ruthenians) live with "Ukrainian" self-identity not knowing Ruthenian language, culture, or history, because the authorities continue to argue that the Ruthenians are "part of the Ukrainian people." Still yet, I would highlight 1991 (the year of the collapse of the USSR) in the history of the Ruthenian nation. For the Ruthenian intelligentsia this period provided the impetus for unity of the Ruthenian nation, shaping the Ruthenian self-identity. The reason, in my opinion, was the threat of takeover of Ruthenians by Galicia. Galicians were hoping that they surely would be able to make the Ruthenians not only speak, but also think solely in Ukrainian, despite the fact that the Hungarians did not make us speak and think in Hungarian over 900 years of their rule over us! After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ruthenian intellectuals began discussing the Ruthenian national identity, development of the Ruthenian nation, adopted first Ruthenian declarations. The essence of the problems of the Ruthenians is expressed in the necessity of a clear definition of the nation's two main positions - separation of the ethnic territory (to the south of the Carpathians) and national identification. In 1991, the Ruthenians had the same foundation for their independent state as Ukraine. Yet still, having put trust in Ukraine, Ruthenian elite offered steps for implementation of autonomous status of the Ruthenians within Ukraine - peacefully, in accordance with relevant legal mechanisms (through referendum). I would like to note that the Ruthenians are peaceful and trustworthy people, and therefore the option to solve their problems was based on their confidence in Ukraine. I would like to remind that in December 1991, in compliance with all legislations and regulations was conducted a referendum on the independence of Ukraine, which discussed the question of granting Transcarpathia status of self-governing territory. As a result, the will the Ukrainian people was implemented, but the will of the Ruthenian people was ignored ... but in those conditions, Ruthenians, of course, could not have foreseen such a deceit on the part of Ukraine. Therefore, later, in 1993, Ruthenians formed their own provisional government with the Prime Minister Professor Ivan Turyanitsa, and continued to fight for the recognition of the Ruthenian nation. In 1996, Ukraine once again subjected Ruthenians to even bigger shock, when unveiled its State "Action Plan to address the issues of Ukrainians-Ruthenians." This document intended to conduct a series of measures aimed at strengthening Ukrainization of Transcarpathia (in particular on issues of language, culture, employment preferences), as well as integration of the population of Transcarpathia in the socio-political, spiritual and cultural space of Ukraine, that is, the assimilation of Ruthenians in the Ukrainian ethnic environment . Therefore, back then Ruthenian activists made their final decision about the necessity to secede from Ukraine. SSU in response began to infiltrate the Ruthenian movement with their agents, whose "impact" essentially reduced to "writing letters". ? In 2007, new people took the leadership of the Ruthenian movement. They analyzed all the setbacks and failures, have developed a new tactic. As from December 2007, we have not changed this tactic. We fully agreed with the chosen path. In addition, the new team is formed from reliable people, who do not succumb to provocations. The new leadership of the Ruthenian movement resolves issues with funding, personnel, and information support without any problems. In addition, I would like to note that now we can only rely upon our own resources and ourselves, not on the resources of Moscow, Budapest and 6 other foreign capitals, whom "conscious" accused of supporting the Ruthenian movement. We now liaised with the Ruthenian Diaspora around the world, and within three years brought up the consideration Ruthenian issue on a global level, outside of Ukraine.
- The official position of Kiev for all these years have been expressing opinions of Galicia that all Ukrainians had called themselves Ruthenians, and later began identify themselves as Ukrainians. How do you comment on such a position?
- There is one significant difference: Subcarpathian Ruthenians have always called themselves so, up until now. Historical heritage links them with the Carpathian territory, but not with the new Ukrainian nation and the ideology that emerged in the early twentieth century. In the historic cultural heritage and memory of today's Ruthenians there is no sense of belonging to the history of the Ukrainian people, in particular the reasons for national pride in Bogdan Khmelnitsky, Taras Shevchenko, Ivan Franko and other heroes of Ukrainian historical myths, and even less so in Mazepa, Bandera, and Shukheyvich. As once did Austria-Hungary, Ukraine now persecutes the Ruthenians. Galicians use this fact in their attempt to nullify the Ruthenian question in modern Ukraine. What can I say! I could mention as an example an attempt of political persecution of father Dimytry Sydor for separatism, at the request of the Security Services, issued by Galicians without any facts, but merely nationalist slogans. Ruthenians smashed to smithereens all charges against father Dimytry in court, having opposed life pragmatism and the will to survive in impossible conditions of Ukrainian reality, to the nationalistic sentiments of Galicians. Ruthenians demonstrated their will to survive throughout whole period of “independence” of Ukraine, including the government of Yanukovych. Our difference from Galicians is benevolent and respectful attitude towards the Russian language and Russians. In addition, Ruthenians defend their independence only in their territory to the south of the Carpathians, where they already had the experience of an independent state. On the contrary, Galicians, who have been unable to create statehood even before, began their ideological expansion throughout Ukraine. Although, if they concentrated their efforts only on their three regions, their success could have been much greater. For a start, they could demonstrate their power at a regional level. That is, Ruthenians concentrate their energy within, Galicians, on the contrary, waste it on external causes… There are so many differences between the Galicians and Ruthenians. Behind the apparent similarity and closeness lies an abyss of contradictions. Of course, we understand that part of Transcarpathians during forced assimilation forgot ethnonym "Ruthenians." However, instinctively, at the subconscious level, Ruthenians feel their own particularity and mental distance from Galicians. Ruthenians are not national or cultural minority of the Ukrainian people, not an ethnic group that belongs to the Ukrainian nation. Ruthenians worldwide have their own ethnic and cultural identity, based on the Slavic tradition, which differs from the "Ukrainian". When Ruthenian calls himself a Ruthenian, he does not identify himself with the Ukrainian people. Ethnonym "Ruthenian" is much older than etnonim "Ukrainian" and equally belongs to all the Eastern Slavs and Holy Russia.
- How do you assess the ideological methods of Galicians?
- For their ideological work Galicians use methods, founded in due time by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. They are based on terrorism and intimidation. For instance, Tyagnibok now uses aggressive street opposition. As for us, as the basis of our ideological work, we use scientific conferences, congresses and individual promotional activities with the Ruthenians, and the result is obvious. Last year alone, Ruthenian movement joined more than 10 thousand people. In addition, Ruthenians to the south of the Carpathian are now talked about. If earlier talks about the Ruthenians were just hypothetical, as of fourth East Slavic nation, now, referring to the Ruthenians, there is understanding of a particular place of their residence and number. Thanks to the activity of the Ruthenian movement in Ukraine, Ruthenian organizations around the world have also boosted their activity. At the same time, Galician activity decreases. They compromised Ukrainian idea by their actions. They have no positive role models. This is evident in their organizations. Earlier it was said about Ruthenian organizations that they were small, and didn‘t have many members. Now there are exactly same talks about shrinking of Ukrainian Nationalists’ movements. Ruthenian organizations are gaining in popularity, especially among youth. Ruthenian movement is joined by unaffiliated to the various "isms" youth. In contrast, the Galician nationalist movement is joined by quite aggressive youth.
- What in your opinion are the reasons for the successful revival of the Ruthenian identity in Transcarpathia?
- The Ruthenian movement has a purpose; there is the Ruthenian idea, Ruthenian ideology, a program of socio-economic and cultural revival of the territory of the Ruthenians to the south of the Carpathians, while Ukraine has no purpose, no plan. Providing there is no plan (other than the Ukrainian State Action Plan for the assimilation of the Ruthenians), there is no structure behind this plan. Although the structure is still there - the state apparatus is working, there is no meaning in this work. If we multiply the economic crisis in Ukraine with planned "economic reforms", respectively, we could find out the reasons for success in the revival of the Ruthenian identity in Transcarpathia.
- Petr Ivanovich, thank you for your interview. If our readers have questions, they can pose them to our interlocutor in his online blog at
Text prepared by Sergei Siberiakov
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