Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Songs of the Minorities

Are the Rusyns of the Carpathian mountains a people?  The Slovaks and Hungarians think so, the Ukrainians don't.  That's the problem with a language continuum like East Slavonic, where you draw the line between a dialect and a language is essentially a political decision.  As they say a language is a dialect with an army and likewise if Scotland had remained an independent country, the guid Scots tongue might have developed as a distinct language of government.

According to the Ukrainian census there are 10000 Rusyns in the country, however, like the Welsh in 2001, this census did not make provision for such an identity.  Others claim that there are more like 500000.  No doubt many of these unrecorded Rusyns would identify themselves as Ukrainian, but others don't - they campaign for basic language rights against a disdainful Kiev.

The turnout figures for Transcarpathia in the recent Ukrainian presidential election are interesting. In parts of Transcarpathia this fell below 40% whereas in neighbouring Galicia it was often more than 80%.  This may be due to abstentionism on the part of the Hungarian minority but perhaps Rusyn identity played a part as well.

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