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When in Ruthenia . . ., Part 2

Last week we published a translation from Izvestia about the potential interest the Russian government may have in supporting an obscure nationalist movement in Transcarpathia, Western Ukraine, including the distribution of passports.  Below is part 2 of the article, which proposes a possible energy and pipeline play motivating Moscow’s support of the Ruthenians.

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Ruthenians will wake up and bloodlessly separate from Ukraine? Part two

A new republic is this close to appearing in Transcarpathia

Yuri Snegirev

The Soim of the republic of Subcarpathian Rus’ on 25 October adoptsan “Act of the proclamation of the restoration of Ruthenian statehood”.To the Transcarpathian Oblast Rada was in essence delivered anultimatum: if the deputies do not recognize Subcarpathian Rus’ as aUkrainian autonomy within the composition of Ukraine, then theRuthenicans are declaring themselves totally independent. Our observerended up in the center of the struggle for Ruthenian statehood.

Everybody’s running, running, running…

I found my way to Uzhgorod on a simple Ukrainian electric commutertrain. If Gogol were alive, he would have written yet another immortalcreation about the peculiarities of national transport. While in onepigeonhole were taking place intensive arguments about morality,smoothly spilling over into face-smashing, right alongside a little oldlady – God’s dandelion – was calmly finishing up eating a boiled egg.Cripples of all stripes and simply beggars prowled around the railcar,like in the “Happy family” relay. Conductors were going through the cara fifth time already, collecting money for unpurchased tickets. I satdown next to a sprightly granny with two grandkids. We got to talking -it’s a long road, after all.

Romania – that’s how the elderly woman introduced herself – wasreturning the grandsons to a son in Uzhgorod after a trip amongstrelatives. And she herself hasn’t been living in the Ukraine for a longtime already.

“Romans we are!” – Romania laid bare her heart. “My sister and Iwork in shifts as housekeepers in Italy. Salary? Well, 1500 euros itcomes out to. And the social package besides. Why, half of Italy overthere is our people, Transcarpathians.”

Even in the Soviet time, Transcarpathia was considered just aboutbeyond the border – the provision, the contraband goods, the resorts…On a teensy clump of land were concentrated four state borders at once:the Polish, Slovak, Hungarian, and Romanian. As soon as the Unioncrumbled to pieces and the borders opened – the Transcarpathians beganto flow, including the Ruthenians, to earnings in Western Europe. OnFridays and Mondays it’s best not to go to the border: all the roadsare clogged with “businki” (kind of like our marshrutki [public transit mini-buses–Trans.],only of pan-European conveyance). That’s Gastarbeiters coming in forthe weekend from Italy, Spain, Hungary, and Austria. Those who have notgone away for earnings also aren’t sitting around doing nothing. WithUkrainian passports and a local residence stamp you can penetrate allof 50 kilometers into the European Union. So it is that the little oldladies and little old men take cigarettes and diesel fuel to Europe(you can take across one canister and one carton of cigarettes in yourhands). They get around 20 dollars from each outing. And back to theUkraine they export (you aren’t going to believe this!) pork lard andsausage. Since a certain time, when the “oranges” began to manage theeconomy, European meat delicacies became cheaper than domestic ones.

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The outflow of working hands to the West has affected not only the male population of Transcarpathia. The intergirls [foreign-currency prostitutes–Trans.]in the hotel, where I lived, to say it directly, were not distinguishedby beauty and youth. The security guard explained this metamorphosis tome:

“The young ‘uns have all gone to you Moskali [derogatory Ukrainian term for all “Russkies”, even those not from Moscow–Trans.],and to the West. And these gals – housewives. While the husbands arestraining their backs in Hungary, they also earn a kopeck for the home.So as not to sit idly by!”

But from Transcarpathia they don’t only leave. Every year therearrive here, according to the estimation of the Ruthenians, no fewerthan 100 thousand illegals from Africa and South-East Asia. They livein basements and on abandoned farms. And then in groups run across theborder. They get caught and sent back to Transcarpathia, to a campoutside Mukachevo. The European Union even pays Ukraine money for this.But this doesn’t reduce the number of illegals.

I always considered that the western Oblasts of Ukraine had amicablyvoted for the “oranges”. Turns out – no! In Transcarpathia, everybodywith whom I met amicably damns Yushchenko. Although Yanukovych gets hisfair share as well.

“Can’t live like this any more!”, declared to me Andrey, owner of atire shop. “There, in Kiev, they’ve gone completely bonkers! How manymonths without [government] power! But they keep on pulling taxes [outof us]!”

And against the background of universal dissatisfaction theresounded the ancient hymn of Subcarpathian Rus’: “SubcarpathianRuthenians, leave your deep sleep!” Just the time for the collapse ofthe country. And here on top of that we’ve also got an economic crisisand imported lard… Russian political scientists often assert thatpolitical processes in the Ukraine go almost the same was as in Russia,but with a delay of 10-15 years. If one believes this, then still aheadis the “White house”, tanks in Kiev, and the other horrors of the timeof troubles.

Interview from the underground

The next day after my meeting with the leader of the Ruthenian”insurgents”, father Dmitry Sidor, in the church of Christ the Saviour,elections of the government of Subcarpathian Rus’ were supposed to takeplace. This I found out under great secrecy, having made a swornpromise that I would publish this information only after the elections.Therefore we appointed the next meeting for the evening. But fatherSidor’s plans were not fated to be. Right after the morning service,policemen burst into the church.

“That was me they were looking for”, I would be told later by one ofthe ideologists of the movement, chairman of the party “SubcarpathianRus'” Petr Grecko. “But I was in a conspiratorial place at this time.”

The policemen broke down the doors, searched the facilities. Themighty father Sidor stood up in defense of Orthodoxy. With one hand, heattempted to photograph the police mayhem with a photo camera, with theother – was beating off the invaders. He ended up having to sacrificethe photo camera – the policemen smashed it, but didn’t start to touchthe padre. And so they left with nothing. The elections of the organ ofself-administration did not take place. The telephones of the entirepinnacle of the Ruthenian movement with the aims of conspiracy wereturned off. The “insurgents” lay low. But I nevertheless managed tospeak with Petr Grecko in this uneasy time for the Ruthenians.

“We don’t want civil war and bloodshed!”, he declared to me from theunderground. “But after those repressions to which you were witness, wedon’t have another way than to proclaim ourselves an independentrepublic. Our road does not lie together with Ukraine’s. We don’t havecommon historical roots. This land was ours, until we lost it by thewill of Stalin. And then there was forced Ukrainianization. They didn’teven recognize us as a people. They wrote in passports – Ukrainian andthat’s all! And how Ukraine plundered us over the years of Soviet andanti-Soviet power! How many beech forests perished! The climate haschanged! The rivers have turned shallow! The rains have washed away thesoil. But all the resorts and juicy morsels of land were bought bygentlemen from Kiev. We did a calculation here. Ukraine in the capacityof compensation has to pay the Ruthenians 20 billion euros. The numberis precise.”

“What are you going to live on, if you separate? Until the compensation comes…”
“Andwhat are pipelines for?” ‘Urengoi-Pomary-Uzhgorod’ – two pipes. Andthen there’s ‘Druzhba’. And then Poland-Romania. Every branch 200kilometers. If you take money for transit, then you can live [on that]!Then there’s tourism. We’ve got 14 castles. Waterfalls and mineralsprings. Just like Switzerland!”

“Well, and if the European Union doesn’t recognize you?” – my doubts- an homage of respect to the undergrounder. It’s clear anyway that itwon’t recognize.

“How’s this? But we’ve already met privately with Hungariandeputies. And Slovakia also isn’t against. After all, they see therethat the Ukrainian powers are systematically annihilating theRuthenians. Look, the Banderovtsy [followers of Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist fighter assassinated by the KGB in Munich in 1959–Trans.]promised to hold their next congress here, in Uzhgorod. They’rethreatening us. In Kiev they’ve taken up criminal cases against us.While we’re trying all these 17 years to assert the right to autonomyin a parliamentary way. According to the latest information, theBanderovtsy are preparing a frightful provocation: they’ll blow uppipelines, but will lay everything on us. Therefore we’re going todemand the introduction into Subcarpathian Rus’ of the rapid reactionforces of the European Union and the Russian Federation. Only then willeverybody be able to sleep peacefully.

Pipelines – this is serious. This is your money and mine. This isn’tonly the yachts of “bizneses”, but also pensions and benefits for thepoor. Indeed, if they yank “Druzhba” – the whole world will turn itsgaze at the problem of the Ruthenians! Both freezing Europe, and Russiathat heats it. And that’s just what the Ruthenians need. So that’s it -the secret weapon of Subcarpathian Rus’!

A revolution doesn’t have a beginning…

Et the very end of Orthodox embankment (formerly Muscovite. Goodthink at least they didn’t call it the Dudayev [embankment]. What, inLvov, and indeed in all of Western Ukraine in every town there’s aDudayev street–Auth.) [named after Dzhokhar Dudayev,first president of the self-proclaimed Chechen Republic of Ichkeria,evaporated by two laser-guided Russian missiles in 1996–Trans.],across from the Oblast procuracy stands the cathedral of theProtection. It was built in the year 1930 by Russian emigrants inmemory of compatriots who had perished in the First world [war]. Theabbot there is father Nikolai. I found him as he was donning seculardress and getting ready to go home after a service. We talked nearly anhour about the problem of the Ruthenians.

“There is no such problem!”, father Nikolai assured me.”Transcarpathia this is such a multi-national Oblast. And I personallysee no difference between a Ruthenian or a Ukrainian. Besides this,historically other nationalities reside here. Hutsuls, and evenGypsies. So what – everyone’s supposed to break away?

I won’t say [anything] about the Hutsuls – I didn’t see them. But ofGypsies there is a great multitude here. They’re not at all like theyare in Russia. They don’t harass with all kinds of nonsense on thestreet. They walk quietly around the town, dig around in scrap heaps.Or sit in a corner – ask for alms. And aren’t thinking at all aboutbreaking away.

“I don’t know what our bishop father Fedor thinks about Ruthenianstatehood. How he tolerates that such strange things go on in thecathedral. I only know that a clergyman must perform services. And apolitician engage in politics. And you shouldn’t mix the one with theother.

I had already written that in the Transcarpathian Oblast Duma, theone to which the Ruthenians had delivered the ultimatum, I was unableto meet with a single deputy – they all ran from the Moscowcorrespondent as from fire. But one intrepid deputy nevertheless didagree to talk. Under the condition that I would not name his name evenat the Last Judgment. I’ll only say that by nationality he is not aRuthenian. Indeed, quite the opposite – a hundred-percent Ukrainian.

“The Kievan power took both the Ruthenians and the non-Ruthenians’for a ride’ back in the year 1991. Then there was a referendum, inwhich there stood two questions: ‘for an independent Ukraine’ and ‘fora self-administered territory (an autonomy) of the Ruthenians’. 78percent of the population of Transcarpathian Oblast voted ‘for’ the oneand the other. But the Supreme rada ratified a decision with respect tothe first question, but the second one it ignored. But the referendumconsisted of two questions. Therefore, at the given moment, strictlyjuridically, our Oblast doesn’t have anything to do with Ukraine.

Ifyou dig deeper, then, when Stalin based on the results of the Secondworld war annexed Transcarpathia to Ukraine, a delegation of Rutheniansarrived in the Kremlin, in order to ask about the founding of a 16threpublic in the composition of the USSR. Stalin did not receive them.And quickly conducted a ‘phoney’ referendum on the annexation ofTranscarpathia to Ukraine. Then there were still combat operationsgoing on, and the results of this ‘phoniness'” in any case areillegitimate! But the Ruthenians existed then and they exist now, evenif all of 10 thousand people called themselves Ruthenians. And we areobligated to reckon with this.”

“In Kiev they blame ‘the hand of Moscow’ in all this…”

“This is “the hand of Kiev’! I will reveal a small secret to you.Today’s head of the administration of president Yushchenko, ViktorBaloha, is a native of these parts, a Ruthenian by nationality. Onlywith an assist from him did the Ruthenian displays begin. I can’t tellyou everything, but this is advantageous for Baloha. He’s pursuing hisown objectives. The creation of a Subcarpathian Rus’ is not among them.In your history you had father Gapon. Here is something similar…”

“How will the deputies react to the ultimatum of the Ruthenians? 1 December is just around the corner…”

“They’ve already bought 15 deputies from our faction… If therewill be voting, then its outcome isn’t obvious. To sit and not noticethe problem – is not a way out. I’ll tell about myself: the Ruthenianpeople ought to be given self-administration. At the very least so thatthe people would quiet down. I will note: no withdrawals from thecomposition of Ukraine whatsoever are being spoken of!”

…When I returned to Moscow, Petr Grecko called me from an unknown telephone:
“Yuri! Director of the Security service of Ukraine ValentinNalyvaichenko promised live on the air to transplant [lock up–Trans.]all our activists. In connection with the open terror againstRuthenians on the part of the Ukrainian power a decision has beenadopted that within days we will declare ourselves independent. Notwaiting for 1 December!”

The revolution continues…