Grapes of Wrath: A New Interethnic Conflict is Smouldering in Transcarpathia

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



On Wednesday, September 19th, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Klimkin stated that he will throw the Hungarian consul – who organised the issuance of Hungarian passports in Ukraine – out of Transcarpathia to Budapest. The publication “” found out that, being indignant concerning the distribution of Hungarian passports, the government in Kiev doesn’t want to notice a much more serious ethnic problem.

It is strange that the scandal with the issuance of Hungarian passports to the inhabitants of the Transcarpathia region of Ukraine, with an oath of allegiance to Hungary and champagne, seriously alarmed the Kiev regime precisely now. The “Ukrinform” agency (at the suggestion of the SBU) published a video showing the process of obtaining a Hungarian passport in the consulate of Hungary in the city of Beregovo in the Transcarpathia region of Ukraine. In this video citizens of Ukraine repeat the text of an oath three times in front of the Hungarian flag. After listening to the anthem, newly made citizens of Hungary (EU) receive instructions from diplomats. In particular, they undertake to conceal from the government institutions of Ukraine the fact of obtaining Hungarian citizenship. And at the end – the sound of clinking glasses.

Ukrainian legislation forbids to have dual citizenship, however responsibility for its existence isn’t stipulated. For example, one of the sponsors of the coup in Ukraine in 2014, the oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, had a whole three passports. And he didn’t hide this. However, today this founder of “volunteer battalions”, who appointed awards for obtaining the head of a “Moskal”, hides himself in Switzerland.

During the time after the coup d’etat, Ukraine, having followed the way of Nazism, completely logically managed to fall out with absolutely all its neighbors. In particular, with Hungary. The pretext for the conflict was given by Kiev, after having adopted a racist and nazi law obliging teaching to take place in exclusively Ukrainian, ignoring the languages of other nationalities living in Ukraine. This law revolted Romania, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. The Russian Foreign Ministry also expressed its indignation with the current situation, because it is obvious that this law was aimed first of all against the Russian language, I.e. Russia.

But an especially hard line was taken by Hungary. Firstly, because the number ethnic of Hungarians populating Ukraine reaches an impressive quantity — over 100,000 people. Although, for example, Russians in Ukraine are from 7 to 14 million (estimates differ depending on the interpretation of experts). Secondly, because Budapest also previously declared its real support for the consanguineous compatriots in Ukraine, and allowed them, via a very simple procedure, to obtain Hungarian nationality. But the Ukrainian authorities raised the propaganda wave only in 2018. It is strange and isn’t logical.

While on the territory of Ukraine any flags except the state and Banderist ones are forbidden, in this same Beregovo in the Transcarpathia region the flag of Hungary has been hoisted for a very long time, everywhere, except courts, the police station, and the prosecutor’s office. But the flag of Hungary can be found on the village councils, administrations, schools, and simply on the streets, anywhere. And it is authorized by the laws adopted at the beginning of the 90’s.

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But the so-called “Hungarian question” hides another, much more important, pressing, and old problem. Hungarians in Transcarpathia are an ethnic minority, and most of the population is represented not at all by Ukrainians, but by Rusyns.

If you open the page of Wikipedia, you will see that in the Transcarpathia region Ukrainians make up most of the population. But this is a lie. Those who were forcibly written down as “Ukrainians” in reality consider themselves as Rusyns. They have their own language, culture, and history. Rusyns are recognised in many countries of the world as a separate people. But not in Ukraine.

The city of Khust is small and cozy. 100 years ago it was a hopeless remote place of Austro-Hungary. In 1938-39, when after Hitler-Chamberlain-Daladye’s pact of Czechoslovakia (which Khust was a part of) ceased to exist, the uniate priest Avgustyn Voloshyn declared the previously-unheard-of Carpathian Ukraine. And he addressed to Adolf Hitler for patronage like he was the closest and influential signer of the Munich agreement on the division of Czechoslovakia. But the Fuhrer of the German people politely answered that he can’t take Carpatho-Rusyns under protectorate, because the ally of the Reich – Hungary – has claims for this territory.

The Rusyn Avgustyn Voloshyn was the president for only a day, then Hungarian troops entered the territory. And Carpatho-Rusyns who tried to continue to insist that they are Rusyns — a separate people that want to live in their national state — were caught and executed without trial. Photos of these executions are available in a large quantity on the Internet.

Rusyns disagreed with such phrasing of the question and joined not the Banderist UPA at all, but the partisan army of Ludwik Svoboda, which made the Ukrainian Insurgent Army for brave partisan Rusyns the same enemy as the Wehrmacht and the SS. But Hungary didn’t possess Transcarpathia for long – only until 1945. And it is precisely partisan Rusyns that helped the Red army liberate their territory. Unlike Galicia, no anti-Soviet partisan movement existed in Transcarpathia.

But back then Avgustyn Voloshyn was arrested by SMERSH and brought to Butyrka, where he died. Today Rusyns very much regret that instead of creating the autonomous Carpatho-Rusyn republic, which the population of Transcarpathia aspired to have since the moment that the Russian armies of General Ivanov in 1914 appeared 100 kilometers from Uzhgorod, Stalin made from their territory the Transcarpathia region of Ukraine.

Today Rusyns prefer the Czechoslovak period as alternative history, which, of course, they idealise a lot, because Czechs and, especially, Slovaks were closer to Rusyns by birth and language than to Hungarians.

The most severe truth for today’s Ukraine is that Rusyns still don’t consider themselves to be Ukrainians, but consider themselves to be Rusyns – a separate, unique people. Ukrainian nationalists object that during the inter-war period Rusyns, like Galicians, participated in so-called “Ukrainization”, an example for which had been set by Bolsheviks in the USSR. In reality, for Voloshyn and his adherents, “Ukrainization” was only a cover. In order to understand this it is enough to look at the literary works of that time in the Rusyn language. They differ little from the Russian language, but they kept pre-revolutionary spelling.

The Russian armies in 1914 didn’t reach Transcarpathia. That’s why the bloody cleansing of Russophiles, akin to what happened in Galicia, didn’t happen there after the Russians retreated. And it is precisely for this reason that “Moscowphilia” continued to dominate in the moods of the inhabitants of the territory after World War I. Having become a part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Transcarpathia’s moods contrasted to the moods in the Lvov, Ivano-Frankovsk, and Ternopol regions.

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And it is precisely for this reason that Transcarpathia, unlike Western Ukraine, after the collapse of the USSR voted in all elections for the same candidates that Donbass and the Kharkov, Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk regions – i.e., the Southeast, historical Novorossiya – voted for. And it is also for this reason that the Transcarpathia region in 1991, along with Crimea, demanded autonomy and carried out, with the consent of Kiev, on December 1st, 1991 a referendum on this occasion. However, the cunning official Kravchuk persuaded the leaders of the region to soften the tone and call for a vote not “on autonomy”, but on “special status”.

He is what the still living and happy to give interviews main ideologist of the Communist Party of Ukraine Leonid Makarovich Kravchuk said back then.

“It might be possible to give Transcarpathia the special status of a self-governed territory. This territory independently solves its cultural and linguistic problems, the character of elections, and economic affairs. Of course, in accordance with the laws of Ukraine. So, it seems to me,” stressed Leonid Kravchuk, “that if such special status is given to this territory, then this act absorbs a whole range of problems — economic, national, linguistic, cultural, political, and others. This status will have legislative force, and it will be an element of the Constitution. It means that the further destiny of this territory won’t depend on good or bad presidents, good or bad prime ministers. It will mean that the way to full self-realisation opens. And the status of a self-governing territory grants the full authority to dispose of their own riches, resources, and economic, cultural, and national problems”.

This direct speech of the first president of independent Ukraine can be read in the “Novini Zakarpattya” newspaper No. 223 from Thursday, November 21st, 1991.

And this is how it was settled. 78% of inhabitants of Transcarpathia supported special status. In 1992 the Verkhovna Rada recognised the referendum in Transcarpathia as lawful. But the inhabitants of the region were deceived all the same. The results of the referendum weren’t implement and were shelved, and then some people were bribed, some were intimidated, some (like the priest Father Sidor) were jailed, and some backed away.

The Ukrainian nazis didn’t forget anything and didn’t learn anything. Kiev didn’t recognise Rusyns as a separate people, it forbade the publication of books and the press in the Rusyn language, and banned it from being taught. The word “Rusyns” fell under a ban in Ukraine much earlier than the word “St. George’s Ribbon”. This topic was tightly sealed off.

Rusyns are subject to violent Ukrainisation. They are silent because the repressive apparatus of Ukraine is strong and the government in Kiev is apocalyptic. But when in 2015 armed Banderists from “Right Sector” came to Transcarpathia and staged a massacre in Mukachevo, Rusyns took up arms. And “Right Sector” then disappeared from this region.

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But even this didn’t teach Kiev anything. The regime strengthened cultural expansion, imposing on Rusyns the “Maidanist” canons. What has this led to? Remember 2017. The so-called “Day of Carpathian Ukraine”. Rusyns boycotted it. Without declarations, but they voted with their feet. Here is an excerpt of the news of that time in regards to this topic, in my translation from the Rusyn language.

“Uzhgorod residents ignored the All-Ukrainian ‘Carpathian Ukraine’ festival”. The musicians performed to themselves. And this is despite the fact that all the state media agencies acted as media sponsors. There was a concert, and there were only ten people in front of the stage, among which there were some participants of the festival and some gapers. There was nobody at the fair either.

All of this is strange and oppressing. It is clear that we don’t like it when people are herded by force to some event. But where is this same “Carpathian Ukraine” (the Banderist organisation that has the same name) that usually the day after events publishes bravado and photos of them in masks and with weapons? Where are members of Svoboda(a Ukrainian nazi party), where is Sokol (a Ukrainian nazi organisation), where are members of other nationalist organizations? Why didn’t they come to at least make up the numbers?

Many residents of Khust didn’t hear about the festival – it isn’t interesting to many since it has a propaganda character. And there were also those who tried to convince others that holding a nationalist festival in Uzhgorod is an absurd idea, because Ukrainian nationalism has no support here. 

The celebration of May 9th in this same 2017 was also indicative in Transcarpathia. To spite the local oligarch Viktor Baloga, whose people staged a massacre in 2015, and who destroyed, being covered by the law on “decommunization”, a memorial to Soviet soldiers, the local governor Gennady Moskal forced officials, having arranged them in three ranks, to lay flowers at the symbolic grave of the Soviet liberators of Transcarpathia. And here is how people live here.

All the information that I provided can also be found on the Internet today. And it becomes obvious that today Transcarpathia is not the problem of issuing Hungarian passports to ethnic Hungarians, or the acceptance of an oath of allegiance by them towards Budapest with champagne. Transcarpathia is not Hungary or Hungarians. The Transcarpathia region of Ukraine hides in itself much more serious risks for Kiev. 

To not recognize Rusyns, to deprive their children of the right to study in their native language, and to forbid literature and the press is dangerous. Despite being silent, the grapes of wrath of people who are forcefully written down as Ukrainians ripen daily. And against this background the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Klimkin, who appeared on September 20th in Uzhgorod, where he brought cargo of embroidery for distribution to children in schools, is similar to someone who walks around a superheated cauldron and welds every second the cracks that appear. But one day the overheated cauldron will rip away such a piece from the architecture of Ukraine so much so that it will be impossible to weld it together again.

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