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2007 | 42 | 137-152

Article title

In 'The Republic of Teachers'. The Evolution of Political Relations in Subcarpathian Rus' during the Autonomy Period, 1938-1939


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Already at the very onset of its existence Czechoslovakia committed itself to grant autonomy to Subcarpathian Rus', but neglected to keep its promise. Only the growing threats posed by Nazi Germany, the deteriorating condition of the state, and the Munich crisis accelerated the actual introduction of autonomy. This opportunity was appreciated by the up to then competing groups of three basic political and linguistic currents: the Russophile Autonomous Agricultural Union and Rus' National Autonomist Party (RNAP), the Ukrainian Social Democracy and Christian-Peasant Party, and the local so-called Rusnak orientation, composed primarily of members of the Agrarian Party and the supporters of governors K. Hrabar and I. Parkanyi; they briefly consolidated their efforts and created the Russian-Ukrainian National Council. Talks held in Uzhhorod on 7 and 8 October 1938 led to the establishment of an autonomous government. During the ensuing rapid Ukrainisation campaign the country became known as 'Carpatho-Ukraine'. The resultant purges affected not only Czech officials but predominantly rivals from the Russophile and Rusnak circles. S. Fentsyk, the leader of the RNAP, fled to Hungary. A grave blow was dealt to autonomous rule by the annexation of part of Rus' upon the basis of the first Vienna Arbitration of 1 November 1939, which granted Hungary the largest cities of Uzhhorod and Mukachevo; the small town of Khust became the administrative capital. Officially, the autonomous status was enacted by the National Assembly (both parliamentary chambers) on 19 and 22 November 1938. The further fate of 'Carpatho-Ukraine' was uncertain: Poland and Hungary did not conceal their intention to achieve a joint border and thus liquidate the 'Ukrainian Piedmont'. By aiming at a destabilisation of 'Carpatho-Ukraine', in October and November both states conducted a number of sabotage campaigns, known in Poland under the cryptonym 'Lom' (Crowbar) and ultimately halted under German pressure. The consolidation of the new country progressed despite economic difficulties and the inefficient and inexperienced administration. Elections to the Soim (parliament) of autonomous Rus' were held in February 1939, and almost all the seats were won by the ruling Ukrainian National Union. Anxious about the development of events in Rus', the authorities in Prague attempted to restore their influence. The politicians of Subcarpathian Rus' were unaware of the fact that Hitler actually did not have any precise plans regarding their small country. Naively believing in a Third Reich protectorate, they never anticipated that the Fuehrer would decide to liquidate their autonomous state for the sake of an agreement with the Hungarians and to avoid aggravating the Soviet Union, disturbed by the course of events. In mid-March 1939, the Hungarian army, with German consent, occupied Rus' after several days of battles. The proclamation of independence by A. Voloshyn on 14 March 1939 was merely symbolic. Poland, which for years had been intending to establish a joint frontier with Hungary, was not overjoyed at the new developments. After all, the whole spectacle had been directed by the Third Reich and not by Warsaw or Budapest.







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  • M. Jarnecki, Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza, Filia w Ostrowie Wielkopolskim, Instytut Nauk Politycznych i Dziennikarstwa, ul. Wolnosci 12, Ostrów Wielkopolski, Poland


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