Rusyn Report: Ukraine will lose Transcarpathia to Hungary

Rusyn Report: Ukraine will lose Transcarpathia to Hungary

The other day I met with representatives of the Rusyn movement from Transcarpathia residing in one of the countries of Eastern Europe. For security reasons, I cannot name these guests of mine, since in Transcarpathia they have relatives and friends who are under constant threat.

According to them, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) is unleashing a real hunt for Rusyn leaders, and many people have disappeared without a trace, while others are forced to cease their operations in the face of threats of physical violence.

As is well known, SBU officers are now being trained by their CIA colleagues, thanks to which their professional skills have greatly improved, as well as their equipment. My friends from Transcarpathia very highly estimate the capacities of the “Ukrainian Gestapo,” as the SBU is called in anti-fascist circles. The main factor behind the success of this service is not so much its professionalism as its brutality and disregard for legal norms.

As a result of the harsh and cruel actions of the Ukrainian authorities, Carpathian Rusyns, who are an indigenous population of Ukraine’s Transcarpathian region, are currently heavily Ukrainianized and often call themselves Ukrainians. After all, this is the only way to survive in such a Nazi state.

Nevertheless, returning to the topic, my confidantes are sure that the SBU cannot save Ukraine. They believe that the Transcarpathian region will not remain part of Ukraine for long, and will be occupied by Hungary. The Ukrainianization of Transcarpathia, they say, is being counterbalanced by the active work of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to their sources, already 250,000 Hungarian passports have been distributed in the Transcarpathian region. Around half of those who have received Hungarian passports are Rusyns. Romania as well, as we have discussed elsewhere, is actively working on part of Ukraine’s population, particularly the Chernovtsy region and in South Budzhak (in the Odessa region), where numerous Romanian and Moldovan communities can be found. The precise number of how many Romanian passports have been distributed is unknown to me and my confidantes, but Ukrainian sources claimed around a year ago that 100,000 had been given out. We do know from Polish sources, however, that around 700,000 Polish cards (Karty polaka) have been granted which greatly help Ukrainians find work in Poland and further employment in the EU.

According to my sources, the vast majority of Rusyns are “pro-Hungarian” and believe that Subcarpathian Rus (of the Transcarpathia region) returning to Hungary would be an optimal scenario. The majority of my Rusyn friends, for example, also have second, Hungarian passports. However, some in Rusyn circles oppose pro-Hungarian sentiments, instead believing a return to Czechia to be ideal. Subcarpathian Rus was part of Czechoslovakia between 1919-1939 and in March 1939 was seized by Hungary, at that time an ally of Hitler’s Germany, and then handed over to Soviet Ukraine on the request of the President of Czechoslovakia, Edvard Benes (the famous “territories swap” in which Subcarpathian Rus was granted in exchange for expelling the German population of the Sudetenland).

The latter, Czech option seems to me to be unlikely due to geographical factors (primarily the lack of a shared physical border between the Czech Republic and Transcarpathia), and the fact that Prague, unlike Budapest, has not yet shown any activism around this issue. However, both of these “wings” of the Rusyn movement are convinced that Ukraine will lose Carpathian Rus, and most likely to Hungary. And it is Ukraine itself that is increasingly making this a possibility.

The new education law adopted by Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada on September 5th is a trap for President Poroshenko and Ukraine as a whole. My Rusyn partners believe that this bill was forced onto Kiev by the Americans with the goal of aggravating ethno-political conflicts across Ukraine and thereby exacerbating contradictions with neighboring European countries leading to the subsequent split of Ukraine. While I believe this explanation to be a bit naive, I cite it here to illustrate the Rusyn movement’s activists’ mindset.

No matter what, the political consequences of this law look pessimistic for the territorial integrity of Ukraine. The local Transcarpathian establishment is trying to take advantage of these circumstances in their own interests. The governor of the Transcarpathian region, Gennady Moskal (who after the Maidan occupied the position of governor of the Lugansk region) is playing a double game. Moskal has sharply criticized the education law insofar as the majority of his region’s population is against it. However, Rusyns have rather passively accepted this law, whereas it is local Hungarians that are actively – and very effectively – protesting. Moskal is betting on such a “separatist” position to establish dialogue with official Budapest and, in the case of secession from Ukraine, maintain power.

In an earlier article, we wrote about how, in late December 2016, the former governor of the Transcarpathian region and the most influential man in the region, Viktor Baloga (a Rusyn) stated in an interview for Ukrainian media that Poroshenko would “soon be compelled to dismiss his whole political gang, and he will go right after them. If the president does not want to go peacefully, then he will be ‘carried out’ by force.” The Transcarpathian elites are indeed anti-Poroshenko and are flirting with Hungary. According to the reports our Rusyn partners have shared, Baloga is holding unofficial meetings with Hungarian politicians and discussing the possibility of Carpathian Rus joining Hungary. Thus, the “crown” of a future Transcarpathian region within Hungary is being claimed by two governors – the former and the current.

The gradually unfolding possibility of a Maidan 3.0 in Kiev confirms Baloga’s purported scenario of the Poroshenko regime being overthrown. Thus, the group of oligarchs apposed to Petro Poroshenko have in Transcarpathia a serious foothold to realize their plans.

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