Orthodox Holiness - The Unknown Rusins And The Third Millennium
- Orthodox Holiness - The Unknown Rusins And The Third Millennium
The author of this article, Fr Dimitry Sidor, is Carpatho-Russian, that is
Rusin, and a spiritual leader of contemporary Carpatho-Russia. Born in
1955, he studied Physics at the University of the Rusin Capital Uzhgorod,
at present in the Ukrainian ‘Transcarpathian Region’. After this he studied
at the Moscow Theological Academy. Since 1990 he has been the rector of the
Orthodox Cathedral in the Rusin capital of Uzhgorod and is also the
architect of the new Cathedral there.
He chairs the Sts Cyril and Methodius Society, runs the main Rusin Orthodox
website, as well as taking a very active role in Rusin media and political
life and translating the Gospels into Rusin. He is a keen advocate of Slav
Orthodox unity, especially of what we would call the ‘four Russias’: Great
Russia, Little Russia (at present called the ‘Ukraine’), White Russia
(Belarus) and Carpatho-Russia, under the leadership of the Patriarch of All
Rus, His Holiness Alexis II.
Fr Dimitry is of the new generation which is fighting for the renewal of
Orthodoxy, after the compromises of the tragic Soviet era. He is therefore
like us. For, as part of the ‘Western Rus outside Russia’, we too are
fighting for the restoration of the thousand-year old Orthodox heritage of
our ‘Rus of the Isles’, after the compromises of the tragic Heterodox era.
Like him, we too are struggling for Holy Orthodoxy against the powers of
secularism and atheism. Like him, we too are struggling for the spiritual
purity of Holy Orthodoxy against an older generation of Orthodox
representatives, who largely fell into compromise with the powers that be,
and so thwarted the growth of authentic Orthodoxy.
Below we have translated a slightly abbreviated version of the recent
interview with him, which first appeared at the end of July 2006 on the
excellent website www.pravoslavie.ru.
Fr Dimitry Sidor
As we know, God gives each people its own mission in this world. One of the
most ancient peoples of Central Europe, the Rusins, have by no coincidence
been preserved by the Lord for a very important mission in the third
What is the mission that the Rusin people is to accomplish at the beginning
of the third millennium and who is this people which remains unknown to
many, even to ‘qualified’ academics? Why has this ancient Slav Orthodox
people had to endure so much sorrow and oppression at the hands of nomadic
peoples, so frequently changing places with one another, then occupiers,
then the usual ‘liberators’, then some other ‘benefactors’? Looking at the
past millennium, we can boldly assert that the Rusin people has borne and
undergone a great trial in its faithfulness to Slavdom and Holy Orthodoxy!
Settled in the cradle of the Slav peoples between the Danube and the Tisa,
the Rusins are the descendants of the Subcarpathian White Croats. (Not to
be confused with the Croats who lived near the Carpathians, as were later
mentioned by St Nestor the Chronicler in his story of the campaign of
Prince Vladimir against the Croats). As early as the mid-seventh century
Subcarpathian White Croats had been invited by the Roman Emperor Heraclius
to settle both on the territory of present-day Croatia, and on Greek
territory around Thessalonika, on the frontiers of the Roman Empire.
Establishing Slav settlements, they remained there right up until the first
half of the twentieth century.
It was probably in this very setting, among the White Croat Old Rusins,
that Sts Cyril and Methodius were born, brought up and mastered the
Slavonic tongue. Their parents may possibly have been of White Croat
extraction. This hypothesis, that the Old Rusin Slavonic tongue was spoken
around Thessalonika, is supported even now by the fact that Rusins today
have (and in the future will still have) their own original, living Rusin
language, almost 70% of which coincides with Old Slavonic. This
demonstrates the possibility that it is Old Rusin, so similar to Old
Bulgarian, which could have been taken as the basis of the Slavonic
language, codified by the peers of the Apostles, Sts Cyril and Methodius.
The White Croats or Old Rusins, living on the southern slopes of the
Carpathians, kept their ancient name for themselves – Rusins. They were
part of Greater Moravia (and some part of the Old Bulgarian Kingdom), long
before the foundation of Kievan Rus. At that time a salt road led from
Bulgaria to the present-day Rusin town of Solotvin (now in Transcarpathian
Ukraine) and therefore this was one of the most convenient routes into
Moravia for Sts Cyril and Methodius. Moreover, at that time Transcarpathia
was part of the Moravian State. In the same way, this was also the quickest
route for the disciples of the brothers and peers of the Apostles, when
they were forced to flee from Moravia to Bulgaria. It is little known that
at that time all one had to do to get from Moravia to Bulgaria was simply
to cross the little River Tisa in the area of present-day Rusin
Tiachevo-Solutvin in Transcarpathia.
Nomadic Hungarian tribes have left stories about the local population of
Subcarpathia. At the end of the ninth century they crossed the Carpathians
highlands with difficulty and there found a local people called Rusins. And
100 years after their baptism it was Rusins who, together with Bulgarians,
went to baptize Kievan Rus. After the arrival of the Hungarians, towards
the beginning of the twelfth century, the newcomers gradually forced the
Rusins out of their lowlands into the hills. For long they became an
unknown people, cut off from Europe by the Hungarian State and cut off from
the east by the Carpathian highlands and forests some 100 miles deep.
The Subcarpathian Rusins were for long little noticed by historians. But
none of this was by chance. God was keeping the ancient Slavic Rusin people
from assimilation with neighbouring peoples, who often became like elder
brothers for the Rusins. It is a curious fact of history that, without
lifting a finger, the Transcarpathian Rusin has been the citizen of more or
less six States, each in turn attempting to pass itself off as the
legitimate age-old occupier of the Rusin territory.
In 1917 the Bolsheviks mounted an anti-Orthodox coup d’etat in Russia.
Overt anti-Christians came to power. They were in no hurry to give the land
to the people, but set about the systematic destruction of churches,
monasteries, the clergy and even the language. At the same time, in Central
Europe amid the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, there appeared small
Slav states, among them the Rusin, with the strange but hallowed name of
‘Subcarpathian Rus’. The Rusins of the age of ‘the springtime of the
peoples’ sang the songs of O. Dukhnovich (later they became Rusin anthems):
‘O Rusins from beneath the Carpathians, forsake your slumber deep…’ and ‘I
was, am and will be a Rusin, I was born a Rusin’.
In the twentieth century, Rusins living on the southern slopes of the
Carpathians saw their native identity guaranteed and enshrined in the Saint
Germain peace agreement of 1919. They became part of the new democratic
European State of Czechoslovakia with the right to self-government. In 1921
the Carpatho-Russian Autonomous Orthodox Church was formed under the
Patriarchate of Serbia. In 1938 Subcarpathian Rus officially received
autonomous status within the now Federal Republic of Czechoslovakia. In
November 1938 and at the beginning of 1939, on orders from Berlin, Galician
nationalists, as former Polish citizens, crossed the border in Austrian
military uniform and carried out a coup d’etat on part of the territory of
Subcarpathian Rus. They unlawfully renamed it Carpathian Ukraine with a
centre in Khust. The main part of Subcarpathian Rus, with its historic
capital in Uzhgorod, was occupied by Hungarian troops.
All Subcarpathian Rus territory was liberated by Soviet forces only in
November 1944. After the War, the independent status of Subcarpathian Rus
within Czechoslovakia was renewed automatically. However, on the advice of
Mekhlis and Khushchev, Stalin decided to annex the territory of
Subcarpathian Rus to the Soviet Union, seeing it as a suitable bridgehead
for expansion into Europe. As for the Rusins, they were not against joining
a large Slav State, as long as they could keep their status as an
independent republic with the support of their East Slav brothers.
Authorized Rusin delegates, both ecclesiastical (Archimandrite Alexis
(Kabaliuk), now canonized as a Carpatho-Russian saint) and secular, visited
Moscow in November 1944, where they left a written memorandum with the
senior leadership of the Soviet Union. Understanding that they would
inevitably become part of the Soviet Union, they still set out the Rusin
position, asking for Subcarpathian Rus to become an independent
Carpatho-Russian Republic. This document has now officially been published
in the Ukraine.
The viewpoint of Mekhlis and Khrushchev won the day. The greater part of
Subcarpathian Rus (lacking Presov Rus in northern and eastern Slovakia, the
south-east Lemko corner of Poland, the Rusin town of Sighet (which had
already been occupied by Romania in 1918) and the territory up to Debrecen,
was joined to Soviet Socialist Ukraine. Its inhabitants, Rusins from time
immemorial, were by force renamed indigenous Ukrainians. The Bolsheviks
simply renamed Subcarpathian Rus the Transcarpathian Region of the Ukraine.
And the Carpatho-Russian Autonomous Orthodox Church of the Patriarchate of
Serbia entered the Russian Orthodox Church, not as an autonomous part, but
as a diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate.
In 1991 the inhabitants of ‘Transcarpathia’, tired of the atheist Soviet
regime, took a difficult decision and voted for the independence of the
Ukraine. At the same time 78% of them voted to become a self-governing
territory within the Ukraine. Once again the Rusins conscientiously
accomplished their historic mission – to remain faithful to eastern
Slavdom. True, the collapse of the Soviet Union showed that once three Slav
brother peoples had formed their own States, their economies began to
disintegrate. The canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church was subject to
attacks on the part of Ukrainian nationalists and politicians of a
pro-Bolshevik mentality, who set up for themselves pocket autocephalous
groups, that the Church of Christ might be torn apart all the more easily.
The Rusins in Transcarpathia bravely took the side of Holy Orthodoxy and to
this day they have not let schismatics into their ancient Rusin land.
At the IX All-Slav Council in Uzhgorod on 8 and 9 May 2002, that is, at the
beginning of the third millennium, Rusins demanded that the Ukrainian
government restore the historic truth and return their lawful ethnic name
‘Rusins’ and their right to be recognized as an indigenous people on their
At the same time, we Rusins are accomplishing our God-given mission, in
other words: Again and again we remind the three Slav brother peoples
(Russians, Ukrainians and Belorussians) that the dismemberment of the
spiritual and historic entity of Ancient Rus into separate parts is
unacceptable. And it is vital to keep our millennial Slav Orthodox
civilization for mankind, as a counterweight to Western civilization, which
is secular and also, in the very near future, occult and atheistic. May God
on High bless all the Slav peoples, among whom is our peaceful, God-fearing
Orthodox Rusin people.
Today, God has allowed that Rusins live in the Ukraine. Over half a million
Rusins live in the USA, Canada, Australia, Serbia, Slovakia, Poland, the
Czech Lands, Romania and Hungary. Everywhere they are openly recognized as
an independent nationality, except in the Ukraine, where, without basis and
unlawfully, the Ukrainian authorities silence this issue. But here too
Rusins are accomplishing their mission: none of us Rusins is a separatist
or an enemy of the Ukraine. We Rusins are only too happy to be in the
Ukraine, together with Ukrainians and others, that is as a people which is
able to form its own State, with the right to live as equals in that State,
to do good, to keep faith with the Orthodox Church and to look with
confidence to the future.
However, at the same time we are reminded that, unfortunately, the word
‘Ukrainian’ does not contain in it the ancient root ‘rus’. This means that
Ukraine in itself cannot be considered to be the lawful heir to Kievan Rus.
The barbaric hatred of certain Ukrainian officials for the very word
‘Rusin’ is therefore all the more incomprehensible. Or, perhaps, Ukrainian
powerbrokers have set themselves the aim of eradicating not only the word
‘Rusin’, but also the very mention of Kievan Rus. Meanwhile, they also
cloud the minds of their own citizens regarding the ‘great antiquity’ of
the Ukrainian nation and provocatively reckon that Slovak, Polish and
Serbian territory is ethnic Ukrainian, since there live ethnic Rusins, whom
Kiev would recognize only as indigenous Ukrainians. I say that the mission
of the Rusins of Transcarpthia is not yet finished. I think that it will
continue further, in order to cool the fantasies of the Ukrainian
nationalist hotheads of the third millennium.
Spiritually, while awaiting the Second Coming of Christ, we Rusins wish to
live and work in the Orthodox Faith, with love and hope. At the same time,
we know full well that at the Last Judgement the Lord will address us
Rusins in our own Rusin mother tongue. And woe to us Rusins, if we do not
understand the Lord, if we do not recognize our own Rusin tongue. For our
mission, accomplished conscientiously, we hope that God will grant us the
salvation of our souls and the Kingdom of Heaven.
Protopriest Dimitry Sidor,
Head of the Subcarpatho-Rusin Orthodox
Society of Sts Cyril and Methodius