On the Ruthenians

10 posts

Bohdan Khmelnytsky
It doesn't make a distinction probably because the distinction is impossible to delineate. Some Ruthenians maintain their unique dialect and culture while others embrace Ukrainian identity. For historical and political reasons some Ruthenians will not identify as Ukrainians while other Ruthenians will only identify as Ukrainians.

My grandparents identified with the latter as they never called themselves Ruthenian. This was even the case even with my Lemko grandfather who was Ruthenian as fuck (spoke "funny Ukrainian" and did really weird pagan shit at Easter). He was even born and raised in the very heart of Ruthenian nationalism in the area of Komancza which was a short lived (4 months) Ruthenian Republic ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Komancza_Republic ).

Ruthenian/Rusyn (Ruthenian is the Latin-Polish term, Rusyn is what they call themselves) is simply the historic term for East Slavs who found themselves living in the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth in the centuries after the fall of Kyivan-Rus (14th-19th centuries). At this time there was a continuum of dialects and cultures among the Ruthenians and there was really no such thing as a Ukrainian or Belarussian.

Then in the mid 19th century two Ruthenian nationalist movements rose in response to Austrian and Russian imperialism. The northern most Ruthenians became Belarusyns while the southern Ruthenians became Ukrainians. By the 21st century most Ruthenians had become either Belarusyns or Ukrainians and there were only a few hundread thousand Ruthenians left. These modern Ruthenians are made up of the most remote and isolated tribes who lived along the Carpathian highlands and were cut off from the rest of Ruthenian society.

All that's left today are a few dozen thousand Carpathian hillbillies who speak strange, isolated dialects, and maintain their own unique cultures. Only some will identify as Ruthenians while others will maintain that they are Ukrainian and all seem to excel at not giving a fuck and are mostly interested in their kvas, cheese and bimber. At the time of the above map, many of these Ukrainian/Ruthenians were stirring up trouble with the Polish government and they were a very serious terrorist problem at the time. Before and during WWII these Ruthenians mostly sided with pro-German Ukrainian nationalists and I yet to hear of anyone taking up the Ruthenian cause at this time. So given the fact that the map is of the interwar period, it's not suprising at all that these Ruthenians are called Ukrainians.

My grandfather was a Lemko. Lemkos are regarded as the most isolated of the Ruthenians. Their dialect is the most isolated of East Slavic speakers and their culture is very strange and has very large traces of Slavic paganism throughout it. They also have a very unique dna; they have the highest known percentage of mtdna group I in Europe (75+% vs 3% in europe) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_I_(mtDNA) .
My understanding is that there was a good amount of abuse of Ruthenians (and Ukranians) under the official 1920s & 1930s Polonization policy, so perhaps some of the terrorism is understandable.

niccolo and donkey , it might be worthwhile to break off this into its own thread on Ruthenians starting with Bohdan Khmelnytsky 's excellent post.
Niccolo and Donkey

Map referenced in original post:


Niccolo and Donkey
Bohdan Khmelnytsky

Boykos and Lemkos. IIRC, West Ukes are the only East Slavs that speak an 'ikavian' dialect in which the word for milk is 'mliko' instead of mleko or mlyeko. Is this correct? My dialect is also ikavian which is why I ask.
Bohdan Khmelnytsky
If it's true that the Lemko accent is Ikavian, then yes, he would have naturally said mliko. It's hard to say because I know he suppressed his own peculiar accent, i'd have to ask to make sure. What are some other examples of this accent?

Otoh, my bojko grandmother definitely says mlykeo; that was one of the first words I learned. I learned mlyeko before I learned milk because that's what my own mom would call it when I was a kid. Though I only learned random words, never the actual language.
Niccolo and Donkey
It's not an accent, but rather a dialect. It involves the old Slavonic -yat. Here are the variations:

Milk - mlyeko/mleko/mliko
Beautiful - lyepa/lepa/lipa
White - byelo/belo/bilo


Croatian uses the ije/iye as its language standard. The ikavica variant is a Croatian dialect while the ekavica (mleko) is the Serbian standard even if Serbs west of the Drina River will speak ijekavski (mlyeko).
Team Zissou

this never gets old
The Ukrainian word for milk is молоко́ (molokó) which is similar to Russian and Belrussian (East Slavic) but noticeably distinct from the Western and Southern Slavic languages. Note the family tree for this word here.


If mlyeko is the Rusyn word, then clearly there's been non-Eastern hence non-Ukrainian influence on the language (which in turn is a small sign of a distinct Rusyn identity). The Slovakian word mlieko seems the obvious source.
Bohdan Khmelnytsky
It should be said that I'm not a speaker of Ruthenian/Ukrainian so I'm almost certainly not transcribing the words correctly. I plan on slav-spergn' and taking a closer look at the Lemko dialect and the Rusyn question in general. This thread is making me realize just how confusing Rusyns are because of how liquid the ethnic/historical definition is.

I guess this (possible?) dialectical similarity between this Croat dialect and Ruthenians is due to Ruthenians living in the region of white croatia. You probably know more about the white croatian hypothesis (I know nothing) so I'd be curious to know if you've come across the Ruthenian-Serbo-Croat relationship. You seem to think there is one.

Also, do you know of any good sources on early slavs in general? I seem to mostly come across bullshit wild theories from the last half century.
Bohdan Khmelnytsky
Yes, moloko is Ukrainian. That said the relationship between Rusyn and Ukrainian is not straightforward and there's debate over whether Rusyn is its own East Slavic language or whether it's a dialect of Ukrainian.

There's also a good amount of divergence amongst Rusyn languages (and even within Ukrainian) so who knows, the word I know could be specific to Bojkos or Lemkos or even just a region.

I wonder where nic got his dialect question from. Maybe that will shed some light on the idea. But I'll try not to sperg too hard on the word milk.

In any case, the home of the Rusyns has arguably been Europe's most murderous region because Gallicia/Halyhchnya has always been a complex patchwork of various slavs, jews, armenians, gypsies, germans, tatars etc. Ethnic cleansing is a constant in the regions history. This is afterall, the home of the pogrom (TM). In other words dissecting various ethnic influences is going to be very complex, probably futile.