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Chapter 23

This webpage reproduces a chapter of

The Story of the Ukraine
by Clarence Manning

published by
Philosophical Library
New York,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 25

 p265  Chapter Twenty‑Four


The fate of Carpatho-Ukraine was quite different. It was represented in the negotiations that led up to the formation of the Republic of Western Ukraine, but when the Western Ukrainian armies were forced eastward by the Poles, the district was left isolated and the various groups came together and decided upon union with Czechoslovakia.

The ideas of the population on this point were somewhat hazy. They envisaged a situation where they would form a state within a state, possessing practically complete autonomy, very similar to the position of Hungary in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In this connection they were also influenced by the Slovaks, who had dreams of holding a similar status. On the other hand, the Czechs certainly thought of a unified state of the same general type as France and it was the Czech ideas that were carried out in practice.

On the whole the population of Carpatho-Ukraine was far more undeveloped politically and nationally than were the other sections. There were practically no schools in the area and what schools there were conducted instruction in Hungarian. The Hungarian government also had been extremely effective in imbuing the educated classes of its minorities with the idea that their future depended upon merging their own interests with those of the dominant Magyars. As a result there were few, outside of the clergy, who had any vital understanding of the cause of the people.

Besides that, the Ukrainian revival in these northern Hungarian counties had not progressed as far since 1848 as it had among the other sections of the Ukrainian people.  p266 While there was an active Ukrainian group in the area, there were also many people who insisted, contrary to all philological and cultural facts, that their language was an archaic dialect of Russian and they looked to Russia for all improvement in their status. This was particularly true of the Orthodox in the area, even though their bishops were still nominally dependent upon the Patriarch of Constantinople who retained the same vague powers of control that he had in mediaeval Kiev. Many of these people, even when they desired to be free of Hungarian control, still treasured some sort of belief that they should be attached to Russia and refused to consider merging their lot with that of the other Ukrainians.

Economic conditions were very bad and the mountainous nature of the country was responsible for difficulties in communication between the various mountain valleys, which formed the headwaters of the rivers flowing down into the Hungarian plains to the south. Many of the younger men and women emigrated or at least went down to Hungary as seasonal laborers and the relations with the northern slopes of the Carpathians were rather weak.

With such a background, effective organization was very difficult and the Czechs, although they signed a definite agreement with the representatives of the Carpatho-Ukrainians to grant the country as much autonomy as was consistent with the unity of the state, did not hurry themselves to apply this. On the contrary, they took the attitude that the people would fall of necessity under the control of the Hungarians and the Jews if they were allowed to handle their own affairs, and they sent large numbers of Czechs into the area to carry on the essential government services. There was at times a Carpatho-Ukrainian governor but his powers were severely limited by the Czech officials who surrounded him.

At the same time the Czechs opened large numbers of  p267 schools in the area and they did much to spread literacy among the population. It is certain that during the first ten years of Czech control, the people of the area were far better off than at any time under Hungary. Yet the improving conditions could not fail to increase the national consciousness of the people. It was the Czech hope that when a new generation, educated in Prague, came into the important offices of the region, they would be completely satisfied with their position in Czechoslovakia and that any separatist feelings would be assuaged.

The increase of literacy had another effect upon the people. In the past many had been content to talk their own dialect without any thought of grammatical accuracy. Village differed from village and there were the same differences that had appeared earlier throughout Ukraine when the first writers were adopting and working out literary Ukrainian. It became evident that the old ambiguous situation would pass away. The children in school read Shevchenko and Franko and the other Ukrainian authors and the general trend was to develop Carpatho-Ukraine along the same general lines. This displeased many of those people who had a sentimental attachment to Russian. They tended to gravitate toward the use of true Great Russian and many of them fell under Communist influence.

Thus, the period between the Wars was one largely of intensifying the national feeling in the country and one of considerable material and intellectual improvement and development. On the whole there were relatively few of those disorders which had marked the liquidation of the Republic of Western Ukraine by Poland. Yet tensions continued to increase, especially after 1925 when the reforms in Hungary by Jeremiah Smith, acting as financial representative of the League of Nations, forced the return to the area of many of the former Hungarian-sympathizing Carpatho-Ukrainians who had been able to establish themselves  p268 in white collar jobs in Hungary. They tried to recover their old position in the community but were prevented by the Czech authorities, and so they began an under­ground campaign to win the country over to its former rulers.

In 1928 the Czechoslovak government reorganized the whole section as the province of Podkarpatska Rus, but it still hesitated to grant local autonomy and the diet that had been promised to the population and had been persistently withheld. As a result there grew up a marked coolness between the population and the central government in Prague, which continued to waver between a definite support of those groups which were conscious of their Ukrainian character and those which believed themselves some kind of Russians. In all this the relations between the Czechs and the Russians played a considerable part. After the signing of a treaty of alliance between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union in 1933, the Czechs gradually lessened any support of the Ukrainophile party and at the same time they dropped some of their more ardent support of the Ukrainians in Prague.

Ill feeling was also generated in the province by the results of the depression. This had struck hardest in the Sudeten German areas, where the glass trade was especially affected. It coincided with the rise of the Henlein party under the influence of the Nazi seizure of power in Germany and with the strengthening of the followers of Monsignor Andrew Hlinka in Slovakia, with their demand for full autonomy there. Naturally all this was carried over into the province of Podkarpatska Rus and some of those groups which had formerly leaned upon Hungary now looked toward Germany for support.

The situation came to a head after the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia at Munich in 1938. The immediate result was the setting up of the so‑called Second Republic,  p269 which was greatly decentralized. As a result, for the first time Carpatho-Ukraine received the local diet which had been promised and refused time after time during the preceding twenty years.

This marked a new period of hope not only for the Ukrainians of Carpatho-Ukraine but also for Ukrainians throughout the world. Satisfaction in this was however mitigated by the fact that the Germans, to please Hungary, had turned over to that country large sections of the land, including the two chief cities of Uzhorod and Mukachevo, in which the leading educational and governmental institutions were located. The government was then compelled to meet in Hust, a small provincial town which contained almost no facilities. Yet despite all the hardships and the difficulties in setting up a government, the Ukrainians were enthusiastic, for now, at last, there was again a centre where Ukrainian life could develop freely without undue foreign interference. The Czech officials were recalled and the increasing autonomy of Slovakia completely isolated Carpatho-Ukraine from Czech influence. Ukrainians from all sections of the dismembered country flocked to Hust and were able to offer great help and assistance to the local population. Steps were taken to organize a small army and as in 1918 they took the name of the Rifle­men of the Zaporozhian Sich. They unfurled the blue and yellow standard of Ukraine and it became clear to all that Carpatho-Ukraine was on the way to becoming a free and independent state.

Under the conditions that prevailed, it was necessary for the young state to remain on friendly terms with Nazi Germany and to seek its protection against Hungary which was claiming the whole of its territory. The first Prime Minister, Andrew Brody, was soon removed by the Czechoslovak government in one of its last acts outside the borders of Bohemia and Moravia. The power then passed to Monsignor  p270 Andrew Voloshyn, who worked hard and steadily to make the new state success­ful.

Through the winter of 1938‑9 progress went on. There were repeated difficulties with Poland, which wished Hungary to annex the territory so as to remove the sympathy and support which the Ukrainians of Eastern Galicia felt for this new centre of Ukrainian freedom. Hungary continued to press demands upon the new state. Yet President Voloshyn had definite promises from Germany that its independence would be safeguarded and that peace would be maintained.

Then came another of those inscrutable changes on the part of Hitler that had so much to do with the downfall of Nazi Germany. It was commonly believed that Hitler, in his hatred of both Communism and Poland, would use the little state of Carpatho-Ukraine as a centre of Ukrainian propaganda. It was thought that he would foment discontent in Eastern Galicia, arouse a revolt there and allow the Ukrainians of Eastern Galicia and Carpatho-Ukraine to unite. Then optimists believed that ultimately the pressure of Germany would result in the liberation of Eastern Ukraine and that Ukraine would again be free, even if it was compelled to remain within the German sphere of influence. Some Ukrainian leaders, even if they were democratic and opposed to the principles of Nazism, saw in this the same situation that had occurred at the time of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk when Ukraine could find no support in any other quarter.

It was not to be. The German policy can only be understood on the assumption that friendly relations had already been established between the Nazis and the Communists. On March 13, at the urging of Hitler, Slovakia declared its complete independence and this completely separated Carpatho-Ukraine from the rest of Czechoslovakia. On March 13, the German troops moved into Prague and on the same  p271 day Carpatho-Ukraine formally declared its independence.

It was almost the last act of the tragedy. The day before, Hungary, more power­ful and willingly a satellite of the Nazis, sent an ultimatum to the new government. Voloshyn appealed to Hitler to stand by his promises to maintain the independence of the country and was rudely rebuffed on the ground that the situation had entirely changed. Without any delay the Hungarian troops, which had been well-armed by the Germans, crossed the border of Carpatho-Ukraine and attacked Hust. The Rifle­men of the Sich fought bravely under the leader­ship of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, the head of which was Colonel Andrew Melnyk, but their light weapons were useless before the heavier guns of the Hungarians. The government with President Voloshyn, was forced to flee to Romania and there offered to place itself under Romanian control. The offer was refused.

The Hungarians met with severe opposition from the little army of Carpatho-Ukraine and from the armed peasants whose knowledge of the country served them in good stead. By the beginning of May, the country had been pacified and brought under full Hungarian control. Its constitution and name were wiped out, the Hungarian language was introduced, and the Hungarian government did everything in its power to bring conditions back to what they had been in 1918. Schools were closed or Magyarized. Ukrainian institutions were liquidated and a new era of oppression opened for those people who had been but a few days before jubilant over their newly won independence.

Apparently the change of policy was connected with the plans of Hitler to come to terms with Stalin for the division of Eastern Europe, and the weakening of anti-Communist movements was part of the larger design. Yet it had a very important result. It completely destroyed the  p272 unnatural alliance between the democratic Ukrainians and the Nazi Germans. It ended any lingering dreams that there might be a real friendship between the Germans and the Ukrainians. The result was that during the next months and years there were no further attempts to secure German support. When in the fall of 1939 Germany attacked Poland, there did not come any revolt in Eastern Galicia against the Poles, despite the increasingly severe measures taken by the Polish government, and when Germany finally attacked the Soviet Union, she secured more aid from the dissatisfied Russians than she did from the Ukrainians whom she had so flagrantly abandoned.

The development of Carpatho-Ukraine was then only another one of the unsuccess­ful Ukrainian attempts to win liberty for at least one part of the divided country, but it showed the growing feeling of unity that existed amid the overwhelming tragedies of the past years. It played a disproportionate role in the fateful year of 1939 and it emphasized anew the important strategic position of Carpatho-Ukraine and indeed of Ukraine as a whole in the coming struggles.

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Page updated: 25 Apr 22