Transcarpathia under Threat of Imminent Invasion
Vladislav GULEVICH | 28.01.2014 | WORLD

Transcarpathia under Threat of Imminent Invasion

According to Romanian media reports, Bucharest will have to guarantee security for Romanians in Bukovina and Odessa. If the situation in Ukraine gets worse, it will have to deploy troops in the areas of their residence. The Transcarpathian Hungarians also raise the issue of their security. It is reported that Budapest keeps the option of bringing troops into the Transcarpathian region (Zakarpatie) on the table. Euromaidan has an obvious radical Transcarpathian taint, Transcarpathia and Galicia (Galitsiya or Galichina) have had divisions since a long time ago. Even in the days of WWI and after nationals never stopped attempts to ukranize Hungarian Ruthenia or Uhorska Rus, the historic name of Transcarpathia. In 1920-1938 Hungarian Ruthenia belonged to Czechoslovakia. Prague tried to ukranize Ruthenians (or Rusyns), using Galician nationalists for the purpose. Transcarpathia had never been associated with Ukraine till 1939. Hitler’s stooge Avgustyn Voloshyn created the puppet state of Carpatho-Ukraine launching the process of ukrainization. Literally in a couple of days after the puppet states came into being, Hitler gave Transcarpathia (Carpatho-Ukraine) to his Hungarian ally Miklós Horthy. In 2002 by the decree of then Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma Avgustyn Voloshyn was awarded the title of the Hero of Ukraine and given the Order of State posthumously. It was an open affront to Transcarpathian Ruthenians, who remember the concentration camp Dumen created for those who did not want to ukranize and defended the right to remain a Rusyn even under the threat of death. 

As Euromaidan in Kiev goes on a rampage, the attempts are undertaken to spread the unrest to other regions of Ukraine. It has made Transcarpathia place cordons at the border with Galichina to keep extremists away. There are voices raised calling for returning to the historical name of the region - Subcarpathian Rus. 

The situation is complicated enough being artificially exacerbated by the influence of maidan events. Hungary feels a temptation to take advantage of what’s going on and ultimately annex Transcarpathia (Hungarian Ruthenia), the territory it has always considered to be its own, by taking it away from contemporary Ukraine. Ethnic Hungarians account for the majority of population in the Transcarpathian border areas. The land has been under the trusteeship of Budapest for a long time. Historically the relations between Ruthenians (Uhorska Rusyns) and Hungarians have always been better than, for instance, between Galician Russians and Poland. Under Hungarian rule Ruthenians had their own schools (they are destitute of this right now being part of democratic Ukraine), they were recognized as people belonging to certain nationality. It does not mean the history of Ruthenian - Hungarian relations is a bed of roses. «Madyarization» was an element of Hungarian government policy towards Slav peoples (Ruthenians and Slovaks). As a result special strata – madyarons - emerged among Ruthenians. These people have Ruthenian blood but madyar souls. Hungarians believed it was to their advantage if Ruthenians were not allowed to become Ukrainians and were kept away from getting close to Russia. Hungary always stressed the word Uhorska (Hungarian) to claim Uhorska Rus as part of Hungarian state. 

The threat maidan poses is great because it creates the preconditions for the division of Ukraine, in particular it provokes Budapest into putting forward claims to restoration of historic justice by making Uhorska Rus part of Hungary again. 

How imminent is the threat of Hungarian invasion? Transcarpathia is important oil and gas transportation hub, the control over the region makes possible reshaping the whole structure of Russia’s energy exports to Europe. The stakes are high. The conditions are extremely favorable: the Ukrainian law enforcement agencies are partially paralyzed, the contradictions between the western and the south-eastern parts of Ukraine have got exacerbated to the utmost, Kiev is being overtly too cautious, radicals enjoy the support offered by Brussels and Washington. Hungary will have to wait for a long time till another opportunity like this occurs. The country is a member of NATO, all “peacemaking” operations (that the kind of action to be undertaken in case the decision to “rescue” Transcarpathian Hungarians is in force) will be conducted in concert with the allies. Will Washington say yes in case President Yanukovych does not cede to the pressure of street protests and continues the policy aimed at getting closer to the Customs Union after the association agreement with the European Union is suspended? Is the West resolute enough to resort to extreme steps, like the division of Ukraine, for instance, to prevent the emergence of East Slavic pole of strength (Moscow-Minsk-Kiev)? In this case it will convert Ukraine into a kind of buffer zone to keep Eurasia away from the European Union and undermine the process of integration in the post-Soviet space. There are no clear-cut answers to these questions at present, but the practice of destabilizing Ukraine has made it all a part of agenda. West Ukraine is perfectly fit to become a buffer area, especially if Uhorska Rus – the most Russia leaning region of West Ukraine - is nibbled away and made part of Hungary. In this case a new political and territorial entity with strong Russophobe ideological taint will emerge in the heart of Europe. Budapest will only have to continue the policy of educating Hungarian Russians «Magyar orosz» to integrate them into Hungarian cultural and political space. In theory the hypothetical accession of Transcarpathia into Hungary would be a big step on the way of NATO expansion to the East. It’s a small piece of land with great geopolitical importance. The strategic advantage of exercising control over this territory is immense. 

Carpathian Rusyns will not stay idle, they have always remembered their Russian roots, and they see their chance of survival only as part of common Russian civilization. If Hungarians swing over to Budapest, then the majority of Rusyns will move to Moscow and Kiev hoping for an alliance. There are already voices raised among them saying Transcarpathia choose Kiev in case West Ukraine gets separated…

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