Carpatho-Ukraine in the Twentieth Century: A Political and Legal History

By Grelka, Frank | Canadian Slavonic Papers, March 2001 | Go to article overview

Carpatho-Ukraine in the Twentieth Century: A Political and Legal History


Grelka, Frank, Canadian Slavonic Papers


Vincent Shandor. Carpatho-Ukraine in the Twentieth Century: A Political and Legal History. Cambridge, MA: Distributed by Harvard University Press for the Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University, 1997. xvii, 321 pp. Selected Bibliography. Index. $32.95, cloth.

Writing in 1939, the Prime minister of Carpatho-Ukraine, Avhustyn Voloshyn, stated: "Much is written about the Great [i.e., Eastern] Ukraine, especially in the press. Today, we are certainly the only part of the great Ukrainian people with an independent state. Great Ukraine, however, is still a thing of the future. Seriously, we cannot pursue politics like a great power and provoke Poland and the USSR.... It does not take dreams in order to be a precious home of the common Ukrainian territory; let it be in Europe or overseas. What it really takes is earnest and zealous work in our Carpatho-Ukraine" (Cited according to "Besuch bei Woloschin," Frankischer Kurier, 01.03.1939, Bundesarchiv Berlin-Lichterfelde, R 4902 Deutsches Auslandwissen-- schaftliches Institut/3389 [translation mine-F.G.].)

Voloshyn's ideas about Carpatho-Ukraine guide the course of the book under review. To Vincent Shandor, who served the Prague Federal Government as head of the Carpatho-Ukrainian Representation, Voloshyn's legacy is a precious source for a political analysis of the Ukrainian cause. Written from the first-person-perspective, Shandor's book gives us an intimate overview of intrigues, influences and independence efforts on the eve of World War II. The Ukrainian cause became a matter of European politics when Transcarpathia, together with the Federation of the Czechoslovak Republic, received self-government on October 11, 1938. The creation of a Ukrainian government in Transcarpathia had a great impact on West Ukrainian territories, especially among young revolutionary members of the well-organized Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), who hailed from neighbouring Galicia. Many of them saw the Voloshyn government as the beginning of independence for "Great Ukraine." They crossed the border and joined the Carpathian Sich, a paramilitary detachment organized by the OUN leadership in order to take the first step towards Ukrainian statehood.

Shandor analyzes the interchanging political and legal status of CarpathoUkraine. He covers the period from the twilight of the Habsburg Empire, through its two decades as Czechoslovak "Subcarpathian Ruthenia" (Part 1), its period of autonomy within the Czechoslovak Federation (Part II), its wartime reoccupation by Hungary, and its ultimate incorporation into the Ukrainian SSR (Parts III and IV). His autobiographic work is based on a wide selection of secondary sources and memoirs from the different countries of the region.

Shandor's is the first thorough thesis on the Carpatho-Ukrainian question as part of World War II diplomatic and occupation history. Writing from a lawyer's perspective, the elder statesman presents a personal reflection on the history of a state he once served, more so than a historical work. He seems intent to write about the international legislation that states should observe. Modern history, however, is the chronology of trespasses against international law and bilateral settlements as the main modus operandi by statesmen in order to protect the raison d'etat. In this respect, Shandor, nolens volens, focuses on the matryrdom of legal statesmanship in the democratic eye of the fascist storm. …

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