Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

The Carpatho-Ukrainian Episode of 1938-39: Canadian and International Ramifications

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

The Carpatho-Ukrainian Episode of 1938-39: Canadian and International Ramifications

Article excerpt


The article examines Canadian Press reports of the Carpatho-Ukrainian autonomous state that existed from November 1938 until March 1939. It describes how Western opinion, including Canadian, reacted to the new state, and how fears that Hitler was about to create a "Greater Ukraine" internationalized the issue of Carpatho-Ukraine, which some feared would be the first step in Germany's destabilization of the Soviet Union. The state's brief existence is also important for what it reveals about the thinking of the OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists), the shift in the organization's politics at the time, and the lesson it drew or failed to draw from this episode.


Cet article porte sur le traitement par la presse canadienne de I'etat autonome carpatho-ukrainien qui exista de novembre 1938 a mars 1939. Il montre comment la reaction de l'opinion occidentale, canadienne y compris, a ce nouvel etat, et la peur de voir Hitler sur le point de creer une "Grande Ukraine" ont internationalise la question carpatho-ukrainienne, certains craignant que ce soit le premier pas de la destabilisation de l'Union sovietique par l'Allemagne. La courte existence de cet etat revet aussi une certaine importance en ce qu'elle a revele a propos de la reflexion de l'ONU (Organisation des Nationalistes ukrainiens), revolution de la politique de l'epoque de celleci, et la lecon qu'elle a tiree ou n'a pas su tirer de cet episode.


The Munich agreement of September 29, 1938 significantly weakened Czechoslovakia, which on November 7 recognized the desire of Slovakia for autonomy and, on the following day, that of Carpatho-Ukraine, which formed a government on November 11. The first president, Andrej Brody (who also used the Hungarian spelling Andras Brody), was arrested by Czech authorities for secret contacts with Hungary, which wanted to annex the territory. On November 26 a Ukrainophile administration headed by Monsignor Avgustyn Voloshyn (Augustin Volosin), a Catholic priest, was installed. (1) Three weeks later the small territory became even smaller, when, after an arbitration in Vienna, Hungary obtained the economically most developed area in the south including the capital Uzhhorod. (2) The administration had to be moved to Khust. During its brief existence (which ended when it was invaded by Hungary on March 14, 1939), the small territory became front-page news in the West. Like most of Western opinion, the Canadian press viewed the appearance of this autonomous state in the context of Hitler's advance to the east and saw the establishment of a Ukrainian state as a real possibility, even, in some cases, as an inevitability. The short-lived state also played a significant role in the evolution of the OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists).


Canadian opinion was relatively sympathetic to the Ukrainian national cause. In 1939 the Canadian scholar Watson Kirkconnell wrote that the Ukrainian question was the "greatest unsolved problem in nationality," and the potent ferment of nationalism led him to believe that there could be no permanent solution to East European politics that did not permit "a reasonable realization of Ukrainian nationhood" (Kirkconnell 1939, 89). These comments were echoed by Canadian newspapers. An editorial in the Toronto Daily Star described Ukrainians as "the largest minority in Europe" which had been treated harshly by Poland (22 Sept. 1938), and a letter to the paper described the Ukrainians as the "forgotten nation" of Europe (24 Sept. 1938).

Canadian newspapers understood the central importance of Ukraine to Hitler's strategy and emphasized the attraction of Ukraine's wheatfields and raw materials. An editorial stated: "Hitler hopes to obtain access within a few years to the wheat, oil, and metals of the Danubian and Balkan countries, and of the Ukraine, which would put him on an even footing with the democracies with respect to raw materials" (Toronto Daily Star, 24 Aug. …

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