BELGRADE, December 25. /TASS/. The Ukrainian government is seeking to fully suppress, Ukrainianize and assimilate the Rusyns, a Slavic ethnic minority living in the sub-Carpathian region of Ukraine, Grigory Mironov, a Russian expert on Rusyn history and culture said on Monday during a presentation of his book on the formation of the Rusyns’ ethnic identity.
The presentation took place in the city of Vukovar. It was supported by the Association of Croatian Rusyns.
He also did the presentation in Serbia’s Skupstina, the national parliament, at the invitation of Serbian MPs.
"The actions of the current authorities in Kiev are aimed at the terminal subjugation of the Rusyns inside Ukraine and outside it, too," Mironov told TASS. "Like many times in the past, the Rusyn ethnic movement has to put up resistance to one more attempt to assimilate and Ukrainianize it by force, to fight to keep its ethnic identity."
"It was only at the end of the 20th century that the Rusyns began to develop the awareness everywhere that they are an entirely separate people, a people that doesn’t resemble anyone else," he said. "My book dwells on the causes behind these changes. The events unfolding in Ukraine in the past several years and the [Ukrainian] nationalistic propaganda have compelled many Rusyns to stop speaking openly about their ethnic identity. They have to conceal their ethnicity."
Still, the Rusyns "constitute an absolutely separate European nation that is split by the borders of several countries," Mironov said with confidence.
"They are not Ukrainians because they have an authentic history and culture of their own," he went on. "Their culture was preserved carefully in the Carpathian Mountains and handed down from one generation to another. Most Rusyns have carried the sense of ethnic self-identification through centuries. They have been repelling attempts to assimilate them throughout centuries, and have done so with great success."
The Rusyns have always held Russia in high respect, but orientation towards Ukraine has been coercively imposed on them in recent years. "Russophile tendencies were strong among the Rusyns as of the mid-19th century and they used them as a safety net against immersion in neighboring peoples and as a means of showing their exceptionality."
"Russophile tendencies were voluntary impulsions of the Rusyn people but they were never Ukrainophiles," Mironov said. "The formula claiming the Rusyns are a fraction of Ukrainians was imposed on them, first by the authorities of Austria-Hungary and then by the Communists [during the Soviet era - TASS]."
His book titled "The Rusyn Ethnic Identity" is to roll off the presses in Russia at the beginning of 2018.
The Rusyns, historically known as Ruthenians, are an Eastern Slavic nation. Various sources put its numeric strength at 1.5 million to 4.0 million people.
About 700,000 Rusyns live in the sub-Carpathian region of Ukraine. Large Rusyn communities are also found the Banat and Backa areas of the Balkans.
Their independent state was registered as an object of international law in the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye of 1919.
The state was formally eliminated and annexed to Ukraine in 1945. However, the Rusyns have been pressing the Ukrainian government over the past 20 years for the recognition of their status as a separate nationality.