Category Archives: Carpatho-Rusyn

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.

Contents

Preface
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
Notes
Bibliography

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.

 

 

Andy Warhol’s Religious & Ethnic Roots: The Carpatho-Rusyn Influence on His Art by Raymond M. Herbenick: Book Review

I just realized that although Genea-Santa granted my Christmas wish last year and left my “most wanted” book under the tree last year, I’ve never shared it with my readers.

Andy Warhol died in 1987 and, while living, never said much about his ethnic and cultural roots. It wasn’t until after his death that researchers looked more closely at his family tree and ancestral origins and realized that he was of Carpatho-Rusyn ancestry..

For those who are interested in Warhol’s art, which went beyond the Campbell Soup label, and factors that influenced his works or for those who want to learn more about America’s most famous Carpatho-Rusyn citizen, Raymond Herbenick’s book will provide an excellent overview.

This isn’t one of those glossy coffee table books with lots of color images. It’s a scholarly work, well referenced, that examines the Rusyn cultural and social factors that made Andy Warhol who he was.

Table of Contents

Foreword
Preface and Acknowledgements
Essay One – Andy Warhol’s Carpatho-Rusyn Roots: Ethnographic Studies
Essay Two – Andy Warhol’s Carpatho-Rusyn Art Roots: Biographical Studies
Essay Three – Andy Warhol’s Carpatho-Rusyn Roots: Autobiographical Studies
Essay Four – Andy Warhol’s Carpatho-Rusyn Art Roots: Aesthetic Studies
Conclusion
Bibliography
Index

The text of the book is 116 pages; the incredibly detailed index is 26 pages longer than the book at 142 pages!

I found the essay format an easy way to follow the author’s train of thought and compartmentalize all the information in my own mind. the author examined everything from Rusyn religious icons to Warhol’s mother’s New York city church of worship (St. Yary’s Byzantine Catholic Church at 246 E. 15th Street in Manhattan) to the Pittsburgh neighborhood in which Warhol grew up (the Warhol Museum)to many earlier scholarly works done by others that looked closely at his life and art.

Because of its cost, this book isn’t for everyone, but library collections make it accessible to all to read.

It’s an oldie, but goodie, first published in 1997 by the Edwin Mellen Press in New York. It’s still available on their website for a hefty $199.95. Other online copies are listed for double that price! I guess Santa was lucky when he found my book for little more than half that price.

If you are interested in reading the book, my first suggestion would be to check WorldCat for a library close to you that has it. Then, if interested in buying a copy, be patient and check often online for a reasonably priced copy (under $150, which is still steep).

Although Andy Warhol didn’t verbally point to his Rusyn heritage, there is no doubt that it directly affected his artistic works. There were a couple of comments in particular that I think describe Andy Warhol very well.

First, there is Andrew Warhola, the Carpatho-Ruysn American, who is the least known, then there is Andy Warhol, the celebrity artist, who is the most publicly known and, finally, there is Andy Warhol, the artist known by art critics.

The key here is in the statement “most PUBLICLY known,” because Warhol went to great lengths to maintain a very private life. He didn’t really want anyone to know about his deep belief in Greek Catholicism, his ethinicity or about his daily life in general.

Second, his art contains multiple references to Rusyn folk art, as seen in psyanky (decorated Easter eggs) and to religious images found in Greek Catholic churches.

I am very pleased that Genea-Santa found my book when he did and it sits proudly in my ever-growing Rusyn reference book collection.

 

 

A Carpatho-Rusyn Studies Bibliography

As many of my readers already know, my ethnic heritage is 50% Carpatho-Ruysn, due to my paternal family that lived in what is today Slovakia, in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountians.

If you are of Carpatho-Rusyn descent and would like to read more about your heritage, here is bibliography of printed works.

Several of the books on this list include prices from C-RRC, which is the Carpatho-Rusyn Research Center, P.O. Box 35, Grand Isle, Vermont 05458-0035. They have a fairly extensive catalog of books about Carpatho-Ruthenia and ship quickly. Ask for a publications list – sometimes their prices are way better than online. (For example, The Lemko Studies handbook by Horbal online is $1495.50 !!!)

In addition to the listed books, I’d highly recommend purchasing the Map of Carpatho-Rusyn Villages – only $18.00 from C-RRC! All known villages are included on this large (30″ x 40″) map. It’s worth every penny of$18.00!

1. With Their Backs to the Mountains, Paul Robert Magocsi, Central European University Press, Budapest- New York, 2015. This is the premier book written about Rusyn history in terms of details and depth of information. Dr. Magocsi is a professor at the University of Toronto and has published many books and articles about Carpatho-Ruthenia and its peoples. I’d highly recommend purchasing this as a reference book. ($45.00 from C-RRC)

2. Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, Stephan Thernstrom, Editor, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England, 1980. This book has nine pages (200-209) dedicated to statistical information about Rusyns who settled in the United States. There are also numerous footnotes identifying scholarly works for further reference. An added benefit is that information on the collateral ethnic group to which your family belongs (Polish, Romanian, Ukrainian or Slovak) can be found in this book, too. (There are copies on eBay now for under $25.00.)

3. Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture, Revised and Expanded Edition, Paul Robert Magocsi and Ivan Pop, University of Toronto Press, 2005. ($75.00 from C-RRC)

4. Carpathian Rus’ A Historical Atlas, Paul Robert Magocsi, Governing Council of the University of Toronto, 2017. ($28.00 from C-RRC)

5. The People from Nowhere, Paul Robert Magocsi, V. Padiak Publishers, Uzhhorod, Ukraine, 2006. ($24.50 from CRRC – see below)

6. The Rusyns of Hungary, Maria Mayer, East European Monographs, Columbia University Press, New York, 1997. ($24.50 from C-RRC)

7. The Rusyns of Slovakia, Paul Robert Magocsi, 1994 ($65.00 on Amazon)

8. Our People, Carpatho-Rusyns and Their Descendants in North America, Paul Robert Magocsi, 2006 (Out of print from C-RRC. $50.00 on Amazon)

9. Lemko Studies: A Handbook, B. Horbal, 2010 (Out of print at C-RRC)

10. The Rusyn-Ukrainians of Czechoslovakia, Paul Robert Mabocsi, 1993 (Out of print at C-RRC)

11.  Byzantine Rite Rusins in Carpatho-Ruthenia and America by Walter C. Warzeski, 1971 ($45.00 on EBay)

12. The Byzantine Rite – A  Short History, Robert F. Taft, 1992 ($10.00 online)

13. Mapping Stateless People: The East Slavs of the Carpathians (revised), Paul Robert Magocsi, 2018, ($8.75 from C-RRC)

14. The Lost World of Subcarpathian Rus’: Photographs of Rudolph Hulka, 2016 ($45.00 from C-RRC)

15. God Is a Rusyn: An Anthology of Contemporary Carpatho-Rusyn Literature, edited by Elaine Rusinko, 2011 ($30.00+ online)

16. Peoples of North America: The Carpatho-Rusyn Americans, Paul Robert Magocsi, 1989 ($20.00 online)

These are just a sampling of books, many of which are available from the C-RRC.

There are two other books, which are definitely in the collectible category, as they are somewhat rare and expensive.

Andy Warhol is arguably the most famous Rusyn. Raymond M. Herbenick wrote Andy Warhol’s Religious and Ethnic Roots: The Carpatho-Rusyn Influence on His Art. Mellen Press still carries the book, but it’s $200.00. However, that is much cheaper than the $350-500 prices when the book is found on Amazon or EBay.

Another fun book is Rusyn Easter Eggs from Eastern Slovakia by Pavlo Markovyc, 1987. It costs around $100.00 when copies are sold online.

Learning to speak the Rusyn language is not for the faint of heart. C-RRC has several language books for sale, including Let’s Speak Rusyn (Presov Region edition, Transcarpathian edition and Lemko Region edition. Each is just $15.00.

These books are basic vocabulary and phrase guides, but are helpful because they present information in 3 columns – English translation, Cyrillic alphabet appearance and a pronunciation guide using our alphabet.

Stefan M. Pugh published an actual textbook (бітаеме! Welcome!) for learning Rusyn in 2021, but a sound knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet and its sound system is essential, as there are no tapes or videos to help with pronunciation. ($32.75 from C-RRC)

The Carpatho-Rusyn identity, after centuries of being ignored or subjugated, is flowering in the 21st century. If you have Rusyn heritage, now is the time to learn more about it.