Tag Archives: Carpatho-Rusyn

Simeon Pyzh’s 1938 Short History of Carpathian Rus’: Book Review

There isn’t much published on the history of the Carpatho-Rusyn residents who dwell along the Carpathian Mountains in today’s Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine and Romania.

There is even less available when the histories published in the Rusyn language are eliminated.

In 2016, the Lemko Association/Carpathian Institute reprinted the 1938 work of Simeon Pyzh, Short History of Carpathian Rus’, which contains both the original Rusyn text and one translated into English.

Remember that this book was written over 80 years ago – pre-World War II – which provides perspective for his thoughts. Political boundaries have changed and it’s necessary for the reader to have a grasp of the Austro-Hungarian empire, its makeup and its boundaries and to understand the influence on the Rusyns from people to the east – Ukrainians and Russians.


Simeon Pyzh: A Lemko Patriot
Notes to the History

A Short History of Carpathian Ru’

The Carpathians: The Ancient Nest of the Slavic Peoples
Slavic States Before the Arrival of the Magyars in Europe
The Carpathian Slavs Are Annexed to Rus’
The Russian Population Beyond the Carpathians
Village Uprisings
The Position and Role of the Clergy
The Russian Population West of the San River
Popular Revolts Against the Polish Nobles
Carpathian Rus’ After the Imperialistic War: Our “Self-Determination”
The Unifying Work of the Lemkos
Subcarpathian Rus’
Why the Czechoslovak Government Did Not Grant Autonomy to Subcarpatian Rus’
Presov Rus’ (Hungarian Lemkovyna)
Galician Lemkovyna in Bondage to the Polish Pans
The Lemko Association

The Carpathian Institute

Korotka Istoriya Karpatsoi Rusi (Original 1938 Text)

This history was a very interesting read to me for several reasons.

I have read several histories of the Carpatho-Rusyn people. Their origins are not fully known, except that they were Slavic people. Many claim that Rusyns were from Ukraine.

Pyzh makes the case that Rusyns were always in the area and it was their ancestral homeland, not Ukraine or anywhere else. I found that one statement to be fascinating.

The reasons he stated for the Rusyn people struggling through history were also right on the mark. Due to centuries of serfdom and poverty, coupled with no opportunity for education or economic improvement, there were no leaders to unite the people. The geographical restrictions caused by the mountainous region added to difficulties in bringing about any life changes.

The powers-that-be, regardless of who ruled at the moment, had no interest in helping Rusyns, because the serfs provided labor, food and taxes.

Pyzh pointed out that even the lowly clergy had some social standing, which provided benefits for their own families. Thus, those closest to the common people – the priests – did nothing to elevate anyone else’s social, economic or educational statuses either.

His final point is that the official language of the Rusyns shouldn’t be Ukrainian or Russian or even Church Slavonic (a variation of the Rusyn language with Latin and other slavic influences), but that it should be the daily spoken language of the Rusyn people.

I learned a lot from Simeon Puzh’s book. The Carpathian Rus’ people have pretty much been ignored by history and Mr. Puzh has done an excellent job setting future goals, some of which are only now being adopted by the people.

Simeon Puzh’s 1938 sort History of Carpathian Rus’, reprinted in 2016 in both English and Rusyn, can be ordered online for $20.00 from the Lemko Association/Carpathian Institute.







Color Coding by Religion: Figuring Out My Rusyn Heritage

Sometimes a picture is worth 1,000 words. In this case, the picture is a pedigree chart.

My paternal family tree is Carpatho-Ruysn in terms of ethnicity. The Rusyn people have never had a country of their own. Instead, for centuries, they’ve lived along the north and south sides of the Carpathian Mountains in areas that today are part of Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine and Romania.

Rusyns are easily identified in church records because they historically have been members of the Greek Catholic (today’s Byzantine Catholic) Church, as opposed to Roman Catholics, who are more often ethnic Slovak or Polish in the area of eastern Slovakia where my ancestors lived.

Ancestry gives me an DNA estimate of  44% Eastern Europe & Russia, while MyHeritage’s estimate is 23% Balkan and Baltic heritage and places me in this genetic group:

Absolutely correct, because this is the area – Presov region – where my Rusyn ancestors all lived.

How much Rusyn ancestry do I really have? Well, it’s definitely close to half because most of my paternal ancestors were all Greek Catholics.

However, mixed Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic marriages were frequent and socially acceptable. They were certainly acceptable to priests of both faiths.

One of my great grandmothers, Maria Kacsenyak, was Roman Catholic. Does that mean that 1/4 of my paternal family tree is ethnic Slovak? Not exactly.

Take a look at my color coded (Green = Greek Catholic, Red = Roman Catholic) pedigree chart:

Maria Kacsenyak (pronounced like Kachenyak), my great grandmother was not the first in her Roman Catholic father’s family to marry a Greek Catholic.

In fact, she was just the most recent ancestor to intermarry. Her father was Roman Catholic, but her mother Anna Haluska, Greek Catholic AND both of her grandparents had mixed Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic marriages. That dilutes down the possible ethnic Slovak percentage quite a bit.

I’ll never be able to fine tune the Rusyn estimate any further because the church records begin in the early 1800s. My knowledge of the ancestors in this branch of the family tree is complete because of that limitation.

Only 4 of my 31 Rusyn ancestors were Roman Catholic, which is roughly 1/8 or 12%. Looking at it from the other direction, 88% of my paternal ancestors were Rusyn.

I’d say Ancestry’s estimate of 44% is a bit low, but way closer to accurate than 23%.

FamilyTree DNA is the most accurate. It estimates 44% West Slavic plus 4% Magyar (Hungarian) for a total of 48%.

I’ve previously color-coded ancestors by place of birth, but this is my first attempt at color coding by religion. I won’t even attempt to do the same to my maternal tree. None of those ancestors was as religious as my paternal side.

Church attendance in the 19th and 20th century was more by social custom. Which churches did they attend? Well, Congregational, Lutheran and Anglican. While all are Protestant, that is still quite a mix when I’ve only covered back to my 2X great grandparents!

In reality, though, the religions do align closely with the ethnic and historical backgrounds of my ancestors. Congregational Church members descended from my New England colonial lines, the Lutheran Church is represented by my Danish and Swedish ancestors while the Anglican Church is tied into my Loyalist ancestors who fled to Canada in 1783.

Have you tried sorting your ancestors by religion?


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.