A Silent Genocide: Rusyns in Talerhof Concentration Camp and Ellis Island

    

Would it surprise you to know, that in 2020, there is a silent genocide happening in the middle of Europe? St. Alexis Toth’s people, Andy Warhol’s “people from nowhere”1—who practically brought the Orthodox Faith to North America, are now disappearing from their homeland in the lonely Carpathian Mountains.

They are the Carpatho-Rusyns, also called Carpathian Ruthenians, or simply Rusyns/Rusyns,2 and for centuries, there has been push to marginalize, assimilate, or even exterminate them. (For more on their history, see here.)

A little-known fact is that Andy Warhol was a Carpatho-Rusyn. Many think he was simply being mysterious when he claimed that he “came from nowhere”, however in reality, like many Rusyns, he simply didn’t know how to explain where his people came from, considering their land is divided between the territory of several states and often shifted hands. Rusyn lands are part of modern-day Ukraine, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, and Romania.

Rusyn lands shown in blue over a map of Eastern-Central Europe Rusyn lands shown in blue over a map of Eastern-Central Europe   

Rusyns suffered greatly when the powers-that-be clashed over their lands.

The first concentration camp in Europe could in fact be considered Talerhof3, where in WW1, the Austrian army mass murdered and tortured thousands of Rusyns.

This article is not sufficient to describe the war crimes committed against the Rusyns—that would require several articles. This article instead is written in the hopes that it can help raise awareness for the Carpathian Ruthenian people, and also to explain why their story should matter very much to American Orthodox Christians—the short version—according the history of the Orthodox Church in America alone, whether Americans realize it or not: Rusyns built hundreds of churches in America and literally laid the foundations for what we recognize today as much of American Orthodoxy.

These people do not deserve to be forgotten, especially not after what they’ve been through.

Talerhof internment camp. Photo: Wikipedia Talerhof internment camp. Photo: Wikipedia   

Over 30,000 men, women, and children were interned in the brutal death camp of Talerhof, with around 800 priests.4

According to U.S. Congressman Medill McCormick, the prisoners were beaten and tortured;5 the photos are an eerie foreshadowing of the holocaust to come. The numbers may be smaller, but Rusyns are a tiny nation of less then a million people, which made this crime all the more horrible for such a close-knit society.

Many Lemko victims of Talerhof were from the same region of Galicia and Poland as Holocaust victims would later come from. The Carpathians truly are the Galician Golgotha, or arguably, the Golgotha of Europe, where thousands of these peaceful shepherds were slaughtered.

Some sources list that between the camps of Talerhof and Terezin, 10,000 people were murdered in around three years’ time.6

If you read the account of the execution of Rusyn Hieromartyr Maxim Sandovich in the prison camp, it sounds just as horrifying as any Holocaust story—and the only thing scarier than a heinous crime is one where the perpetrators get away with it, and everyone is none the wiser.

Well… when was the last time you’ve heard someone shed a tear for the Rusyns?

Virtually everyone knows about and condemns the Holocaust, and the ideology of racial supremacy (rightly so!), but today, there are few people who know the story of the Carpathian Ruthenians. Thousands of them faced the same fate as St. Maxim in concetration camps before WW2.

Glory to Jesus Christ, there are no more concentration camps, Rusyns are not being mass murdered by Austrians, mass exiled by Stalin, or forcefully converted to Unaitism by… well… basically all of their neighbors, though violent Church seizures are still a very real threat in Western Ukraine since the 1990s.

In 2019 alone, the rector of a Transcarpathian Church, Priest Ioann Deket was threatened with murder.

And there is still a cultural genocide happening—a conscious and even subconscious effort to erase the name Rusyn from the history books—and it’s happening in their own native towns and villages.

Despite the fact that the Transcarpathian region of Western Ukraine is arguably one of the capitals of Rusyn civilization, the Ukrainian state to this day does not recognize the Rusyn people as a nation, or even sub-ethnos, classifying them simply as Ukrainian “Highlanders” or Verhovyntsy. This is how an entire people are taught about in Ukrainian schools and media to the children of even uninformed Rusyns. Take this clip from a song performed by Ukrainian children in the Subcarpathian Drohobych region of southern Lviv, which says “Our (Ukrainian) Highlanders, Boikos and Hutsuls, Lemkos and Mazurs who danced across the mountains…” They mentioned every obscure tribe of Rusyns, but leaving out the word Rusyn itself. There is another song entitled simply, “Carpathians”, were the girl sings about growing up in the Carpathians and being proud to be Ukrainian.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with any of those songs, or certainly not being Ukrainian; however especially in the second case, the dress and music style is clearly Carpatho-Rusyn. As a matter of fact, the people are essentially Galician Ruthenians; however their ancient name Rusyn is left out of the history books and all media, so children are intentionally not exposed to it in schools or on television.

As a result, they have been effectively denied an opportunity to express their unique cultural and ecclesiastical life, whether you consider them an entirely separate nation like related Slovaks, or an independent Slavic sister in the greater Rus’ family, which includes modern Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians.

Sadly, many schools in Western Ukraine only teach the Ukrainian nationalist perspective, and therefore Rusyn children and people of Rusyn descent are unable to learn about their history. If they’re lucky, some may encounter the word Rusyn as a footnote in a history book—an archaic term for Ukrainians—as their whole people are literally written out of history.

The result is many Rusyns don’t even realize their nation is disappearing, because they don’t even realize they’re Rusyn!

See this video from Pennsylvania, in which Carpatho-Rusyn expert, Professor Paul Robert Magocsi is translating into English, as Rusyn cultural leader Valerij Padiak from Uzhhorod amazingly recounts the story of how a Rusyn electrician came to the Ruysn center in Uzhhorod to work, and after becoming interested in some of the displays, asked him, “And so… who are these Rusyns anyways?” The best part is that he asked in the Rusyn language. That is how serious the Rusyn situation has become.

Rusyns are asking the director of a Rusyn cultural center, in the Rusyn language, “What are Rusyns?” because they aren’t quite sure. He’s heard the word in some songs or from his grandmother perhaps. The issue is not so much that in the villages the Rusyns completely lost their way of speaking or culture, but that they are deprived of the intellectual platform from which to articulate and broaden their knowledge and self-awareness.

Do you think it is implausible that a member of a certain nation can forget that it exists?

If so, then here is something even more impossible which actually happened:

Did you know that between 1921 and 1931, Poland made an entire nation appear out of thin air, and half of another disappear, all without touching a hair on anyone’s head?

Understanding how that happened is the key to understanding why this most Orthodox Rusyn people are in danger of disappearing.

Here is an excerpt from the Polish Census of 1921. Rusyns are listed at the top in the red box. To be clear, this does not refer to the people we call modern Russians today, or Muscovites, as they are listed at the top as Rosijski, in the blue box.

    

Now, here is the Polish Census of 1931.

    

Low and behold, out of nowhere, now we have Rusyns and Ukrainians (Ukrainski; highlighted together with Rusyns in red)! Where did the Ukrainians come from? As you can see, the number of Ukrainians increased, and the number of Rusyns is around three times smaller than before.7

The reality is that the “Ukrainians” and the “Rusyns” on the census were essentially the same people. The Rusyns were just written out of the history books and given another name, whether they wanted one or not.

Whoever is currently in power can simply decide whether “Rusyn” is a valid ethnicity or not—and Rusyns do not possess a Rusyn state…

It is said that the difference between a dialect and a language is that a language is a dialect of human speech, which possess its own army and navy—this too is the fundamental aspect of consistent nationhood throughout history. And that is sadly a fact of the human condition.

While a large portion of the clergy and intelligentsia were “Galician Russophiles”8 (which does not always mean Moscophile) at the end of the nineteenth century, a movement began with Austrian support around WW1 to forcefully rename all Ruthenia.

Ruthenia—being the Latin name for the Slavic “Rus”, or the Greek, Ros(sia)—includes not only Carpathian Ruthenia, but essentially most of the lands which are Ukrainian today.

As a result, the Ruthenian people—or Rusyni, as they call themselves, are the ancestors of todays Ukrainians.

Carpatho-Rusyns, are the unique Ruthenians from the Carpathian Mountains, who were probably baptized as part of Great Moravia by Sts. Cyril and Methodius—and as a result, in the words of Rusyn Archpriest Dimitry Sydor, Carpathian Rus’ may in fact be the oldest Rus’.9 They preserved their ancient name, the common root word Rus’, also found in the name of Russians and Belarusians.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire wanted this name to disappear for that very reason—that Catholic empire ruled many Orthodox Slavs and they wanted their subjects in Transcarpathia and Galicia to forget or renounce their ethno-religious ties with the Russian Orthodox identity.

We remember that in WW1, St. Nicholas Romanov, the martyred Tsar of Russia, was fighting Austro-Hungary to prevent the destruction of the Serbian state and people—a fight he knew Russia, and he personally, could pay dearly for.

Against this backdrop, the last thing the Austrians wanted was their Galician Rusyn subjects identifying with their culturally similar enemy (Russians), so they required a new name for these peoples, previously ruled by the Catholic Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

They needed a name with no connections to Ancient Kievan or Carpathian Rus’, in the hopes that they would more strongly embrace the Latin Uniate faith and not ally with the enemy of Austria—Orthodox Russia—which under the rule of the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas, was championing the pan-Slavic cause.

On this forceful renaming of the children of Kievan Rus’, St. Lavrenty of Chernigov—a city in modern-day northern left-bank Ukraine—spoke heavily.

“And it’s absolutely necessary to know, remember, and not forget that it was the Baptism of Rus’, and not the baptism of Ukraine. Kiev is a second Jerusalem and the mother of Russian cities […] The Jews hated the words ‘Rus’ and ‘Russian’, so at first they called the Russian lands conquered by the Poles and rented out to them ‘Malorossia’ (Little Russia). Then they realized that it contained the word ‘Ros’, and they named it Okraina (Ukraine). The word Okraina is a disgraceful and humiliating word! What ‘remote, outlying district’? What ‘borderland’? Why and for what is it ‘Okraina’?! You see, beyond this supposed ‘borderland’ there lie other countries and states. And later the Poles legitimatized the concepts of the Ukraine and Ukrainians to us, so that we would willingly forget our own name of 'Rus' forever, so that we would be torn away from Holy and Orthodox Rus’ forever.”10

The modern Ukrainian state, however, unlike Poland, Slovakia, the United States, and many other countries, refuses to recognize the Rusyn people, and at times even considered Transcarpathia and the Rusyns to be separatists! This is despite the fact—as Rusyn leaders such as Archpriest Dimitri Sydor,11 and Valerij Padiak12 have pointed out—that Rusyns helped Ukrainians to form the Ukrainian state, and supported Ukraine’s separation from the Soviet Union.

The reason for this essentially all goes back to what St. Lavrenty explained about the very formation of Ukrainian nationalism as a movement that was at the core, originally designed as an anti-Rusyn movement, intending to strip the people of their nationality. It was, therefore, Russophobic.

This is not anything against the Ukrainian people—a Rusyn could in fact be the strongest defender and advocate of the Ruthenian-Western Rus’-Polish-Lithuanian Rus’ cradle, and prefer all things Galician to all things Muscovite; therefore the Russophobic argument that those who defend the unity of the Russian Church, like the Rusyn Metropolitan Laurus, are somehow “agents of Moscow”, is ridiculous.

And it is literally Russphobic—a certain phobia or fear of a united Rus’, or even the name Rus’, because that entire movement was dedicated to taking Rusyns, removing the name Rus’ from that name, and leaving them with the name Ukrainian, which means essentially “borderlander”, according to St. Lavrenty. This is a name completely removed from Old Kievan Rus’, or the knightly land of Ruthenia at the height of the commonwealth. It is a name that ironically expresses exactly what Ukrainian nationalists use in their accusations against the idea of the “Russian world”; it is a name without nationality.

As a result of this, the long-persecuted Rusyn people, who are a traditional cradle of Orthodoxy, are being forced into a position where, within a few generations, more and more people will forget they even exist and will lose their beautiful traditions—and this is despite the lively Rusyn awareness movements in Ukraine, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, the United States, Canada, and other places.

Again, this is nothing against those modern Ukrainian people, be they from Kiev, Lviv, Kharkiv or Odessa, who wish to identify as Ukrainians. After all, we have a wonderful Ukrainian Orthodox Church, led by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and all Ukraine. If anything, this should illustrate that Ukrainophiles can also be a part this idea of Holy Rus’—as it cannot, and should not be a political ideology—as His Holiness Patriarch Kirill said in his talk with the youth of Kiev.

At the same time, Rusyns should not be forced to disappear; and I would argue, as fellow Orthodox Christians, that all of us should take the time to get to know our Carpathian brothers and sisters. They may be closer than you think…

Why should this matter to American Orthodox Christians?

Christ the Savior Cathedral and seminary in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, of the ACROD Diocese, shares a name with the Cathedral in Uzhhorod, Transcarpathia. Photo: wikimedia.org Christ the Savior Cathedral and seminary in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, of the ACROD Diocese, shares a name with the Cathedral in Uzhhorod, Transcarpathia. Photo: wikimedia.org     

Considering there is a good chance many readers may be Americans or Canadians, you may ask, “Okay. So this is a European issue? What does this have to do with Orthodoxy in America?”

Carpatho-Russians, in fact, have everything to do with Orthodoxy in America.

St. Alexis Toth St. Alexis Toth On this matter, I will let the website of the Orthodox Church in America speak as to why a Rusyn priest from modern-day Slovakia—St. Alexis Toth—is practically the apostolic father of North American Orthodoxy:

“He was instrumental in the formation or return of seventeen parishes, planting a vineyard of Christ in America, and increasing its fruitful yield many times over. By 1909, the time of his blessed repose, many thousands of Carpatho-Russian and Galician Uniates had returned to Orthodoxy. This was a major event in the history of the North American Mission, which would continue to shape the future of Orthodoxy in this country for many generations to come. Any future growth or success may truly be regarded as the result of Father Toth’s apostolic labors.”13

Few Americans realize this fact, but there are easily hundreds of parishes in America founded by Rusyn or Galician immigrants—parishes which still function to this day.

In the immigration, the classic issue of Rusyns—their lack of understanding and self-awareness of their own identity and history—arose in an odd place: at Ellis Island. The Rusyns, due to their history, have a very weak national identity, but a very strong religious identity; in Galicia to this day, religious affiliation is a very important aspect of people’s identity. As a result, thousands of Rusyns faced Andy Warhol’s dilemma in coming to America: explaining where they were from. Here is an example from an academic study of the diaspora written by a convert to Orthodoxy, Doctor of Theology and Hieromonk Constantine (Simon), Ph.D., of Red Ruthenian decent:

“Upon their arrival, almost none of the early immigrants from Galicia or Transcarpathia were able to reply to the immigrant official’s inquires… The best reply that these early immigrants…could offer was Rusyn or Rusnak… These terms could hardly have helped the immigration official, whose job it was to place all immigrants in a national identity category. Thus, many of those immigrants ultimately represented themselves as members of the neighboring nationalities—the Poles or the Russians. Others gave the state from which they came; thus, they became Austrians or Hungarians in the immigration records. Still others gave their religious membership as a means of their identification; they consequently were referred to as Greeks or Greek Catholics. Obviously the American immigration records are confusing and hardly a reliable source.1415

Despite the fact that Rusyns came to America unable to even name their nationality, they came with a deep Christian piety, and it was the mass conversion of Rusyns from Uniatism to Orthodoxy that practically built what we now call the OCA.

If you simply study the OCA’s list of parishes you will find a similar story: The vast majority of parishes around the Great Lakes Region, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York State have this archetypical story of being founded between 1900-1925 by these Carpathian immigrants who came to labor like slaves in the steel mills and coal mines of Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Little did they know that they would come to labor like servants of God Almighty in the vineyard of eternal life—as it was these simple people who built the cradle of American Orthodoxy.

St. Michael’s Church in Pennsylvania, displaying typical Rusyn-Galician style domes; the land behind the church displays features very similar to Transcarpathia, which is one of the reasons Rusyns fell in love with these regions. This is merely one example chosen from literally hundreds: http://orthodox360.com/tours/stmichael-jermyn/ St. Michael’s Church in Pennsylvania, displaying typical Rusyn-Galician style domes; the land behind the church displays features very similar to Transcarpathia, which is one of the reasons Rusyns fell in love with these regions. This is merely one example chosen from literally hundreds: http://orthodox360.com/tours/stmichael-jermyn/     

It is also no coincidence they ended up in these regions. When the first Rusyns came to New York City they were often depressed, because as simple pastoral people, the concrete jungle looked nothing like the rural Carpathian Mountains, which are incredibly green. And so the directors of steel mills and coalmines, particularly in Pennsylvania and Ohio, knowing this enticed the Rusyns to come work for them, as this region in particular had a strong resemblance to the Carpathian foothills.

Saint Nicholas Monastery, Mukachevo region Saint Nicholas Monastery, Mukachevo region   

The immigration of Slavic Orthodox people to America can broadly be classified in three periods—the Carpathian Immigration, The White Immigration, and the Red or Post-Soviet Immigration.

The Carpathian Immigration laid such a foundation of Orthodoxy that the Russian Orthodox Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate (which became the OCA) moved their headquarters from San-Francisco to New York, to be close to the center of that Great Lakes-Pennsylvania-New York cradle. In other words, the OCA—the Russian Metropolia—relocated to be closer to the Rusyns.

Bare in mind that today there is only an estimated half a million Rusyns in the world, many of whom are in the U.S., but that tiny Carpathian nationality has built hundreds of churches in North America, and been monumental in the history of three great American seminaries.

There is also an entire jurisdiction—ACROD—the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese.

This means that a stateless nation of less than a million people has arguably played a greater role (per capita) in the establishment of Orthodoxy in America than nations of tens or hundreds of millions. In other words, that small nation was able to produce as many churches in America, or more, than nations more then ten times larger then them.

Whether people realize it or not, the old Russian culture, which most people prior to the 1990s may have encountered in the United States and Canada, has an incredibly strong South-Western Rus’ character to it. The diaspora in general was influenced more by Galicia than Siberia, and certainly by Transcarpathia.

America has one of the largest Rusyn diasporas, comparable to the number in some of the home regions.

People have no idea how influential the Carpathian traditions were in diaspora—it could be argued, at least for a time, that they were the dominate tradition in the diaspora.

Mother Alexandra. Photo: oca.org Mother Alexandra. Photo: oca.org This includes not only the Rusyn traditions, but even the nearby Romanian as well. Princess Ileana of Romania lived out the rest of her life as Mother Alexandra in monastic tonsure, Abbess of the Elwood City Transfiguration Monastery in Pennsylvania.

The majority of the Romanians in the core Great Lakes region, and the center of the mission of the ever-memorable hierarchs Polycarp and Valerian, were from the Carpathian region of Transylvania and not the capital, Bucharest, for example. In fact, the majority of the Ohio Romanians are from Brasov and Fagaras.

In Romania they have a patriotic song about crossing the Carpathian Mountains, which is set to the same melody as a Polish song; and there is certainly a great diaspora of Poles in the same Great Lakes region, particularly Chicago.

Another great figure is Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko of blessed repose, Dean Emeritus of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, whose hundreds of podcasts on Orthodoxy are beloved by all who listen to them.

Saint John of Shanghai and San-Francesco was a spiritual son of Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky of Kiev and Galicia, the founding First Hierarch of ROCOR, who himself championed the Carpathian Orthodox Cause, and directed many individuals, including St. Dosifey, a Serbian hierarch who studied in Kiev, to labor for Carpathian Orthodoxy. Transcarpathia itself was once part of the Serbian Orthodox Church prior to being annexed by Stalin.

St. Dosifey himself was a friend and contemporary of the Syrian St. Raphael of Brooklyn, who knew him from Kiev, and later became the first hierarch consecrated on American soil, by St. Tikhon of Moscow—who also worked closely with the Rusyns. St. Alexis Toth is buried and was glorified at St. Tikhon’s Monastery in Pennsylvania, which was closely associated with St. Raphael.

The first monks who founded Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville came from St. Tikhon’s, and were later bolstered and arguably revived by monks coming from the monastery of St. Job of Pochaev in Transcarpathia, among them the future First Hierarch of the ROCOR, Met. Laurus, of blessed repose.

In fact, the majority of the ROCOR First Hierarchs are of South-Western Rus’ heritage, or had some connection to Transcarpathia.

It could be said that all of American Orthodoxy has been touched by the Carpathian tradition to some degree or another. We are all interconnected.

Transcarpathia, after all, means “The Land Beyond the Carpathians”; and I suppose in a metaphorical sense, wherever we are, we are all somewhere beyond the Carpathians. Wherever in the world we go, Transcarpathia can be our second home.

For everything our venerable Carpathian Fathers have done for Orthodoxy in the world, the least we can do for them is to learn more about their history and keep the legend alive—legend of the small Carpathian Lambs, beleaguered and persecuted, who sojourned beyond their mountain homes and across an ocean, to become the shepherds of Orthodoxy in the new world.

Matfey Shaheen

6/29/2020

1 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/07/world/europe/andy-warhol-slovakia-mikova-medzilaborce.html

2 The very name Rusyn is a topic of debate—which spelling in Latin is used? In Cyrillic it is essentially agreed upon that it is spelled: Русин and the plural form Rusyns: Русины, however in English there is much debate. The Rusyn language does not currently have a universally agreed upon alphabet, it can range between 32 to 39 letters. This author ascribes to the standard established in the book Grammar of Rusyn Language for the Rusyns of Ukraine, Central Europe, and America” by Archpriest Dimitri Sydor, in which there are 39 letters, and и is transliterated as a Y, and is representing a sound which does not exist in Russian, however which more or less corresponds to the Russian ы or the i in Big (Граматика русинського языка для русинов Украйины, центральної Європы и Америки, Pg. 31). For this reason, this author tends to use the spelling Rusyn, however the Academic journal “Rusyn”, uses the i spelling. As it is this author’s firm conviction that the people of Rus’ are one in Christ, and whether we say Rusyn, Ruthenian, Rusyn, Rusian, Carpatho-Russian, or Rusnjak, we are expressing the same thing, throughout these articles, many of these terms will be used interchangeably and should be understood as synonymous. For more information, see this article.

3 Also spelled Thalerhof

4 http://www.carpatho-rusyn.org/kr/taler.htm

5 https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1917/12/16/102387079.pdf

6 http://orthodoxengland.org.uk/pdf/talerhof.pdf

7 The version from Polish Census of 1931 is based on national language (języka ojcystego); Poland also grew in population since 1921, and the borders had changed, therefore, these numbers should not be taken as a tool of precision but rather perception. We can observe that an entirely different nation, absent from the previous census has appeared by 1931 (Ukrainians), and Rusyns have diminished. In many cases, these are the same people, but millions of Rusyns were simply reclassified as Ukrainians. This is not to promote animosity between these peoples, who have more reasons to live in harmony then to be in conflict, however it merely serves to illustrate the vanishing of the Rusyn people throughout history, as their lands and people are divided between at least four to five countries and an extensive North American diaspora.

8 See the lives of the famous Priests Ivan Naumovich and Alexander Dukhnovych.

9 Сидор Димитрий. "Карпатская Русь изначальная Русь!" Русин, no. 1, 2007, pp. 101-107. (Sydor, Dimitry. “Carpathian Rus’—the original Rus’” In Rusyn. no 1, 2007, pgs. 101-107)

10 The given English version was lightly edited for context after examining the Russian original on the site of Pochaev Lavra in Western Ukraine. http://pochaev.org.ua/?pid=1335

11 Русины помогли украинцам создать государство - о. Димитрий Сидор Trans: Rusyns helped Ukrainians form their state — Fr. Dimitri Sydor (video in Russian) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfXGvzf9dsk

12 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pwhi87tCXPI

13 https://www.oca.org/saints/lives/2016/05/07/101300-repose-of-saint-alexis-toth-confessor-and-defender-of-orthodoxy

14 Procko, “The Rise…” p. 52 Magosci also describes the problems involved in obtaining statistics on the Ruthenian emigration: “One of the greatest problems of immigration studies concerns the number of people who actually came to this country. From the existing published sources there is no way to obtain exact figures on the actual number of members from any specific group who came to the United States…Until 1899, the Bureau of Immigration recorded the country of origin; thus we have no way of knowing whether an immigrant from Austri-Hungary was an Austrian, Hungarian, Italian, Rumanian , Jews, or any of the eight Slavic peoples living within the boundaries of the Hapsburg Empire. After 1899, the Commissioner on Immigration Reports did provide statistics based on the mother tongue of each immigrant, and there is an entry for Ruthenian/Russniak. The census reports beginning in the 1910 employ the same principle. (Magocsi, “Problems in the History…,” p. 6).

15 Simon, Constantine. Ph.D. “On the Eve of Emigration.” In Europe and America: the Ruthenians Between Catholicism and Orthodoxy In Orientalia Christiana Periodica Volume 59 Fasciculus I 1993. Pg. 209-210

Comments
Matfey Shaheen7/1/2020 5:42 pm
I used the photo of St. Michael's because the background reminded me of Mukachevo. I was looking for a photo that showed geographic similarity between Pennsylvania and Subcarpathia. The picture was chosen only for the topography it displayed, because this played a role in attracting the Rusyns---jobs were the primary attraction, it helped to find a place that looked like home. As to losing ethnic identity, well, sadly this has always been an eternal Rusyn issue. The fact of the matter is Rusyns always struggled to describe their identity, mainly because their nationality at times was ambiguous, and we must also bear in mind that the idea of nationalism and the *modern* nation is a relatively late development. I would say, for the most part, nationalism enforced the modern concept of many nations, rather then nationalism being a part of their natural ethnic identity. That is a separate debate, but in short, if you asked a pre-revolutionary Russian who he was, he would answer "Orthodox Christian" first, then maybe the region, city, or village he is from, or his social class (Blacksmith, Cossack, Soldier, Innkeeper, Chinovnik, Clergyman, etc), and then finally, he may answer Russian, in the context of a Slavic ethno-religious group, not with the image of a flag and a national anthem, and defined borders between what is a Russian and what is a Belarusian. When Rusyns came to America, many of them were listed as Hungarian, Poles, etc. later as Czech-Slovak, sometimes Ukrainian. They understood the religious tradition of the local village more then they understood the issue of the Filioque. I have met Rusyn catholics who do NOT recite the filioque, but read it the "Orthodox" way, because they consider themselves Orthodox. I am not in any way defending Ecumenism, or the idea that all religions are the same, and we should all pray together regardless of confession. I am merely illustrating that this is the Transcarpathian reality both then, and I think for the most part still now, though it has gotten much better. People attend the local church, a random shepherd from the mountains did not have the vocabulary to express theological differences, but he could recognize the local form of plain chant. When these people came to America, they were more or less assimilated, by the 1970s and 80s, we are already dealing with the grandchildren or great-grandchildren, by the 2000s we are already with the great-great-grandchildren. You also have to remember during the McCarthy era, being Russian was not something you advertized, all the more so if you were connected to the Moscow Patriarchate, unlike the ROCOR, even though more or less in spirit, the abroad was all unified in their anti-communism. It was hard to promote a Russian environment under those conditions, especially with people who were famous for melding into the surrounding nation, and copying their traditions, even more so by the 20th century. Today there are many more issues, both in American Orthodoxy and the homeland. The whole Orthodox world is under lots of pressure, there are many heresies and conflicts now, as there were in the era of the Ecumenical Councils, but now, there seems like such a lower amount of piety to resit it, unlike in those days. In any case, the point of this article is just to draw attention to the Rusyns, get people talking about it, and point out that some of the most foundational groups in the history of American Orthodoxy have almost disappeared as a solid ethnic group, and so hopefully the more people talk about them, the more the traditions stay alive. For more on the Rusyns, please see here: http://orthochristian.com/132028.html Thank you to everyone for reading!
Eddie7/1/2020 7:39 am
Why do you use a picture of St Michael's in Jermyn, PA? I worked in northeast Pennsylvania for two years and know the churches. St Michael's no longer wants to be Russian. They even went on the New calendar. You should use St John's in Mayfield which is only a mile away. They're a large Carpatho-Russian parish that still uses lots of Russian in the services, uses the Orthodox calendar and belongs to ROCOR. When I was there I saw they even have a Russian flag showing they keep their heritage. I'm Orthodox Latino but they were nice to me and do missionary work. You should show their picture.
Gary Cox6/30/2020 5:11 am
To the editors. The media review ( black lives matter and the Kosovo issue) is a rude and crude article. It is way below below the standards I have come to expect on Pravaslavie. The language used is awful. I left this message here because I couldn't leave anything there. Please don't destroy the good reputation of Pravaslavie by publishing such trash. Gary
Evangel6/29/2020 9:54 pm
Well, it's ironic and sad that the OCA is touted as being founded by Rusyns. No jurisdiction is more committed to cultural nihilism and genocide than the OCA, of which Rusyns are also its victims. It gets to the point that it even breaks down the American identity it tries to force onto its constituents. Also, it does seem that many Rusyns came with strong Uniate biases that seem alive today, again in groups like the OCA.
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