Transcarpathian Region

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Transcarpathian Region

Transcarpathian Region (trănz´cärpā´thēən), Ukr. Zarkarpattya Oblast or Zakarpats'ka Oblast, Rus. Zakarpatskaya Oblast, administrative region (1989 pop. 1,252,000), 4,981 sq mi (12,901 sq km), SW Ukraine, on the southwestern slopes of the Carpathian Mts. Uzhhorod (the capital), Mukacheve, and Khust are the chief cities. The region is bordered by Romania to the south, Hungary to the southwest, Slovakia to the west, and Poland to the northwest. It is thickly forested and largely agricultural. The plain in the southwest, which is drained by the Tisza River and its tributaries, supports crops of wheat, corn, tobacco, sugar beets, and potatoes. There are vineyards, fruit orchards, and walnut groves in the foothills. The region's mineral resources include brown coal, rock salt, fire clays, marble, and limestone. Forests occupy nearly half the area of the oblast, and lumbering, along with the production of such items as wood chemicals, furniture, and cartons, is a leading industry. The majority of the population is Ukrainian, with Hungarian, Russian, Slovak, and Rusyn minorities.

Inhabited by Slavic tribes from the 8th cent., the region was part of Kievan Rus in the 10th and 11th cent. but was conquered by the Magyars, who ruled it until 1918. It has been variously known as Ruthenia or the Carpathian Ukraine, or by its Czech name of Podkarpatská Rus [Subcarpathian Ruthenia] or its Ukrainian name of Zakarpatska Ukraina [Transcarpathian Ukraine]. Its inhabitants were historically called Ruthenians; many were Rusyns, closely related to Ukrainians but culturally differentiated (see Ruthenia). Until the early 20th cent. the region was an area of severe economic underdevelopment. Hungarian absentee landlords owned virtually all the land, and the peasantry was mired in abysmal poverty.

After World War I the Khust Ukrainian congress voted for union with Ukraine, but after prospects for an independent Ukraine declined, the Central Ruthenian People's council called for the region's union with newly independent Czechoslovakia, which incorporated Transcarpathia in May, 1919. Although a guarantee of provincial autonomy embodied in the Treaty of St. Germain (Sept., 1919) did not materialize, the region began to undergo economic modernization. The peasants were freed from their servile status, but agrarian reform failed to break up all the large estates.

In the wake of the Munich Pact (1938), the reorganized state of Czecho-Slovakia was pressured by Germany to grant autonomy to Transcarpathia. After Czecho-Slovakia was dismembered in Mar., 1939, the region proclaimed its independence; but it was shortly occupied by and annexed to Hungary. Transcarpathia was taken over by Soviet troops and local guerrillas in 1944. In 1945, Czechoslovakia was persuaded to cede the area to the USSR. The region was formed in 1946 and has remained part of Ukraine since; under Soviet ruled Rusyns were forcibly regarded as Ukrainian and their identity suppressed.

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