The Rusyns of Slovakia by Paul Magocsi: Book Review

I’ve recently added one more book to my now good-sized reference shelf on Carpatho-Rusyn history and culture.

Dr. Paul Magocsi is a recognized authority on Carpathian Ruthenians and is also a prolific author with many books to his credit.

The Rusyns of Slovakia; An Historical Survey, by Dr. Magocsi, has been out of print for several years, but reasonably priced copies (around $30) can be found online.

This book is a translation of the original Rusyn language version and was published by Columbia University Press, New York as part of its East European Monographs series. It is copyrighted by the Carpatho-Rusyn Research Center, which I believe is planning to reprint the book.

Rusyns settled along both side of the Carpathian Mountains, in today’s Romania, Ukraine, Poland and Slovakia.

As my Rusyn family lived in Slovakia, I was very interested in reading this book.


I. The Ethnogeographic Setting
II. Early History
III. The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
IV. The Habsburg Restoration and Reform Era
V. The National Awakening of 1848
VI. Cultural and National Decline, 1868-1914
VII. World War I and the Revolutionary Years, 1918-1919
VIII. The Interwar Years
IX. The Decade of International Crisis, 1938-1948
X. Life Under Communism, 1948-1989
XI. The Revolution of 1989

As you can tell from the Contents, this compact 185-page book covers centuries of Rusyn life in what is now Slovakia. The sad thing is that life remained much the same for the people for hundreds of years.

Rusyns lived in poverty with no chance of an education. Wars and epidemics contributed to the already short life span expectations. My grandmother’s village didn’t even have electricity until the 1960s!

Even if your Rusyn ancestors lived in one of the other countries I’ve mentioned, their lives were equally difficult.

Professor Magocsi has done an excellent job providing a clear picture of both peasant life and the efforts of a few leading men of the time to build a national Rusyn spirit and pride.

For much of the time, those efforts were pushed aside by clerics seeking to retain their places in the Greek Catholic or Orthodox churches.

Rusyn history sadly has been full of strife.

As you might have noticed from my past book reviews, I tend to like non-fiction and scholarly historical works. I learned a LOT about my ancestors’ lives and times. I also realize that although my grandmother never mentioned being Rusyn, she and her family, both in the village and here in America would have been very aware of the political goings on covered in chapters 6-11. That pretty well covers modern Rusyn history as my great grandfather was born in 1868 and my grandmother passed away in 1985.

If you have Rusyn roots in today’s Slovakia, this is a book you’ll surely want to add to your own home library.



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