The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 2/Carpathian Russians and the Czechoslovaks

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The Bohemian Review, volume 2, no. 5  (1918) 
Carpathian Russians and the Czechoslovaks

Carpathian Russians and the Czechoslovaks.

In the latter part of April, 1918, representatives of Carpathian Russians appeared before Secretary Lansing to submit to him a memorandum expressing the political aspirations of their people. Before discussing the memorandum it will be well to say something about the little known race of the Carpathian Russians.

The war has taught America a good deal about European geography. It has made the average newspaper reader acquainted not merely with the Great Powers of Europe, but with the smaller independent states and even with some of the submerged races of Central and Eastern Europe. It has introduced new names, almost unknown four years ago, but today glibly, if not correctly, pronounced in the everlasting discussions of the war problems. How many of the educated Americans knew before the war that the Bohemians called themselves in their own language Czechs? There was no such term in existence as the Jugoslavs, and very few of the people who knew of the existence of the Little Russian race were aware of the fact that there was another name for them—the Ukrainians.

It is with this last race that we are now concerned. Everything about it is hazy, even its very existence as a separate race. The Russian government to which the great majority of this people were subject held to the view that there was no Little Russian or Ukrainian nationality, that the people of Southern Russia were Russians speaking a different dialect from that of the Northerners. The Austrian government, which ruled over the smaller portion of this race insisted that they were a distinct people and to make the distinction between them and the Russians wider gave them the name of Ruthenians.

There are some thirty or more million of this race within the boundaries of the former Russian Empire, inhabiting the most fertile parts of Russia. And it is this part of the Little Russian race of which we have heard so much recently, when the Germans by a trick set up the Kieff Rada for an independent government, in order to get into their grasp the granary of Russia without openly violating the principle of no annexations, and when they more recently overthrew the Rada, because it presumed to exercise some of the functions of sovereignty and stood in the way of German-Austrian robbery.

The division of Poland in the 18th century, which took no account of ethnological boundaries brought under the rule of the Hapsburgs a considerable fraction of this race of many names. The eastern half of Galicia and half of the Bukovina had a population in 1910 of 3,608,844 Ruthenians, as the Austrian census called them. In Hungary their number in that year was found to be 472,587, though it was undoubtedly much larger. They live on both sides of the high Carpathian mountains; their western neighbors north of the mountains are the Poles, south of the mountains Slovaks. In fact the Slovak and the Hungarian-Russian speech is so similar and the transition between them so gradual that it is hard to fix the ethnological boundary between these two kindred races.

The Russian population of Austria-Hungary was divided before the war into two camps. One of them magnified the distinctions between Russians and Little Russians, adopted the name of Ukrainians for their people and hating Russia as the oppressor of their race placed themselves at the service of the Austrian government. The other party looked upon themselves as Russians and looked to Moscow as the capital of their race. The events of the war disappointed both the pro-Austrian and the pro-Russian parties. For one thing Austria has treated the population of Eastern Galicia barbarously. Thousands of Little Russians were executed summarily and tens of thousands were sent to the awful internment camp at Tallerhof where they died like flies under the brutal treatment of Magyar and German guards. And while upon the collapse of Russia the Central Empires met the separatist aspirations of the Ukrainians by promptly recognizing an Ukrainian republic, they had no thought of surrendering to the new republic Austro-Hungarian territories inhabited by the Ukrainians. On the contrary the course of events made it clear that the Ukraine under the guise of independence merely exchanged Russian masters for German.

But so were the Russophils disappointed in the expectations they had placed in Russia as their deliverer from German-Magyar tyranny. The big brother of the Slav

Central Europe as Austrian Slavs Plan It.

family, the powerful Russian people, failed most miserably in the hour of need. There was just one Slav race from which the Slavs of the Austrian northeast received sympathy and help. The Bohemian deputies in the Austrian parliament took the part of the Russian helots of Galicia and attacked the government for the cruelties perpetrated upon the Russian subjects of Austria-Hungary.

There was no thought of self-seeking in the friendship of the Czechoslovaks for the Russians of the Carpathian Mountains. And Bohemians in this country were surprised when they learned the political program of the Russians of Austria-Hungary, as embodied in the memorandum presented to Secretary Lansing. The delegation spoke in the name of the great national organizations of this people in the United States, numbering 150,000 members.

The program of the Russians of Austria-Hungary, or the Carpathian Russians, to distinguish them from their kinsmen of the great Russian plain, naturally contemplates as their first choice the erection of an independent Carpathian republic. But if the large considerations of European or world politics make that impossible, then their second choice is to be joined to the future Czechoslovak state as an autonomous province. They declared that they no longer looked to Moscow but to Prague as the spiritual capital of the Slav race.

The action of the delegation, representing the only free portion of the Carpathian Russians, was promptly communicated to the Czechoslovak National Council in Paris, and perhaps by this time it is known in Prague. It is bound to cement more firmly the union of all Austrian Slavs against their German-Magyar lords. Among the Bohemians and Slovaks in America it has naturally raised tremendous enthusiasm. For one thing, this pronouncement of the Russian delegation, totally unsought as it was, is a flattering recognition of the wise, brave and manly course of the Czechoslovaks during the present war. What people would not be proud of receiving such a proof of confidence! And should the alternative choice of the Russians of Austria-Hungary be realized, what an important position in the new order of things in Europe would be held by the Czechoslovak-Carpathian state. Bohemia would be connected both with Roumania and Russia, and the barrier holding back the German Drang nach Osten would be immeasurably strengthened. Western Slavs would be in immediate contact with the Eastern Slavs and Bohemia would be better enabled to play the great role, for which it is so well fitted, in the construction of a New Russia.

This work was published before January 1, 1928 and is anonymous or pseudonymous due to unknown authorship. It is in the public domain in the United States as well as countries and areas where the copyright terms of anonymous or pseudonymous works are 95 years or less since publication.