Ruthenia (rōthēˈnēə) [key], Latinized form of the word Russia. The term was applied to Ukraine in the Middle Ages when the princes of Halych briefly assumed the title kings of Ruthenia. Later, in Austria-Hungary, the term Ruthenians was used to designate the Ukrainian population of W Ukraine, which included Galicia, Bukovina, and Carpathian Ukraine. After 1918 the term Ruthenia was applied only to the easternmost province of Czechoslovakia, which was also known as Carpathian Ukraine, or by its Czech name, Podkarpatská Rus [Sub-Carpathian Russia]; for the history of this area from 1918, see Transcarpathian Region. The inhabitants of Carparthian Ukraine, known as Rusyns or Ruthenians, speak a language (Rusyn or Ruthenian) is closely related to Ukrainian, but culturally, however, the Rusyns were distinct from the Ukrainians, especially after 1596, when the Orthodox Church of the Western Ukraine entered into union with the Roman Catholic Church, and after 1649, when a similar union was effected in Hungary. The Ruthenian Uniate Church of the Byzantine (see Roman Catholic Church) thus included the majority of the Rusyns in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, while the Orthodox Church was fully restored (17th cent.) in the Russian part of the Ukraine. When most Rusyns were united (1945) in Soviet Ukraine, government pressure resulted in the secession of the Ruthenian Uniate Church from Rome and its reunion with the Russian Orthodox Church. At the same time, the Soviets classified the Rusyns, who had been divided as to whether to regard themselves as ethnically Rusyn, Russian, or Ukrainian, as Ukrainian. This position also was adopted by Communist-ruled Czechoslovakia and Poland with respect to their Rusyn minorities. In 1989 the Uniate Church broke with the Russian Orthodox Church and reestablished its ties with Rome. The end of Communist rule in E Europe also brought a resurgence of a distinct Rusyn identity, although Ukraine has not recognized Transcarpathian Rusyns as an ethnic minority, as well as a interest among some in establishing a Rusyn nation.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.