With Their Backs to the Mountains: A History of Carpathian Rus' and Carpatho-Rusyns

With Their Backs to the Mountains: A History of Carpathian Rus' and Carpatho-Rusyns

With Their Backs to the Mountains: A History of Carpathian Rus' and Carpatho-Rusyns

With Their Backs to the Mountains: A History of Carpathian Rus' and Carpatho-Rusyns

Synopsis

"This is a history of a stateless people, the Carpatho-Rusyns, and their historic homeland, Carpathian Rus', located in the heart of central Europe. At the present, when it is fashionable to speak of nationalities as 'imagined communities' or as transnational constructs 'created' by intellectualselites who may live in the historic 'national' homeland or in the diaspora, Carpatho-Rusyns provide an ideal example of a people made--or some would say still being made--before our very eyes. The book traces the evolution of Carpathian Rus' from earliest pre-historic times to the present and the complex manner in which a distinct Carpatho-Rusyn people, since the mid-nineteenth century, came into being, disappeared, and then re-appeared in the wake of the revolutions of 1989 and the collapse of Communist rule in central and eastern Europe. The book, while based on the author's four decades of erudition on the subject, eschews scholarly jargon and is written in an accessible reader-friendly style"--Provided by publisher.

Excerpt

In 2006, I published a small illustrated book titled The People from Nowhere. Meant to be a reader-friendly, heavily illustrated introduction to the history of Carpatho-Rusyns, it seemed to fulfill that role not only through the English edition but also through editions in several other languages (Croatian, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Rusyn, Slovak, Ukrainian, and Vojvodinian Rusyn), which made the book accessible to readers in countries where Carpatho-Rusyns traditionally live.

Some readers were taken aback by the title of the book, a light-hearted paraphrase of a statement attributed to the most well-known person of Carpatho-Rusyn background, the American artist and cultural icon of the late twentieth century, Andy Warhol. It seems Warhol’s irony, reframed as “the people from nowhere,” did not sit well with overly sensitive—and usually recently reborn—Carpatho-Rusyn patriots, who seemed personally insulted that “their” ancestral people might have no real roots and concrete origins like other respectable peoples.

To be sure, The People from Nowhere made clear in its very first pages that Carpatho-Rusyns did, indeed, come from somewhere and that they did have a historic homeland which over the centuries spawned a distinct and respectable culture. Aside from its easy-to-read narrative, The People from Nowhere fulfilled another important function: it provided the conceptual framework and methodological approach to writing about a people which never had its own state. Many readers got the message about the existence of a distinct Carpatho-Rusyn people and historic homeland (especially critics who do not accept the very premise of the message), but some were still displeased that the text was too short. Brevity, of course, was the point of writing a popular book. The author knew all along that a fuller, more comprehensive history was in the making, and that version is in your hands: With Their Backs to the Mountains: A History of Carpathian Rus’ and Carpatho-Rusyns.

What is the implication of the metaphor couched in the title of this book? Perhaps an even better title would have been: “no friends but the mountains.” But that formulation was already used in a book about the Kurds, also a mountain people who in recent decades have been compared to . . .

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