Rahul Sharma (Editor)


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Ruthenia (/rˈθniə/; Old East Slavic: Рѹ́сь (Rus'), Рѹ́сьскаѧ землѧ (Rus'kaya zemlya), Ancient Greek: Ῥωσία, Latin: Rus(s)ia, Ruscia, Ruzzia, Rut(h)enia, Old Norse: Garðaríki) is a proper geographical exonym for Kievan Rus' and other, more local, historical states. It was applied to the area where Ruthenians lived.


The word Ruthenia originated as a Latin rendering of the region and people known originally as Rus'. Although Rus' is used as the same root word for Russia in the Russian language, the allusion holds a direct link to the ancestors of the Rus', Varangians or Varyags, sometimes called "Vikings" in English publications. A group of Varangians known as the Rus settled in Novgorod in 862 under the leadership of Rurik. In European manuscripts dating from the 13th century, "Ruthenia" was used to describe Rus': the wider area occupied by the Ancient Rus' (commonly referred to as Kievan Rus'), most of it known alternatively as the Kingdom of Galicia-Volhynia. After the devastating Mongolian occupation of the main part of Ruthenia, then the incorporation of Ruthenian principalities into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, then into the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the territory was converted into the Ruthenian Voivodeship, which existed until the 18th century. A small part of Rus', probably starting from the 8th–9th centuries, historically belonged mainly to the Kingdom of Hungary, with strong cultural ties both to Ruthenia and Hungary, now in Ukraine as a part of Zakarpattia Oblast (annexed by USSR in 1946), with a small part in Slovakia. A territory long disputed as an early part of Hungary, and from the 10th century Ruthenia and Poland, formed the Chervian Towns (hun.: Vörösföldnek, pol.: Grody Czerwieńskie, ukr.:Червенські городи), now mostly in Poland, partly in Ukraine.

The Polish until 1939, and residents of Transcarpathia still today, continued to use the Slavic variation of the term as the Subcarpathian Rus' and thus regard themselves or their neighbours as Rusyns or Rusini (Ruthenians).

Late Middle Ages

By the 15th century the Moscow principality (or Muscovy) established its sovereignty over a large portion of ancient Rus' territory, including Novgorod, Pskov, and parts of Chernigov and Pereyaslavl principalities, often displacing, exchanging with eastern parts of Russia, or murdering a large part of the Ruthenian population of towns (for example, the former Novgorod Republic). From 1547 the Moscow principality adopted the title of The Great Pricipat of Moscow and Tsardom of the Whole Rus, and claimed sovereignty over "all the Rus'" - acts not recognized by its neighbour Poland. This laid the foundation of the modern Russian state. The Muscovy population was Eastern Orthodox and used the Greek transcription of Rus', being "Rossia", rather than the Latin "Ruthenia".

In the 14th century the southern territories of ancient Rus', including the principalities of Galicia–Volhynia, Kiev and others, became a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which, in 1384, united with Catholic Poland to form the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Due to their usage of the Latin script rather than the Cyrillic script, they were usually denoted by the Latin Ruthenia. Other spellings were also used in Latin, English and other languages during this period.

These southern territories have corresponding names in Polish:

  • Ruś Halicko-Wołyńska — Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia
  • Ruś Halicka — Galicia
  • Ruś Biała — White Ruthenia, White Russia or Belarus
  • Ruś Czarna — Black Ruthenia, part of modern Belarus
  • Ruś Czerwona — Red Ruthenia, Galicia
  • Ruś Podkarpacka — Carpathian Ruthenia
  • The Russian Tsardom, until 1764, has been called Moskva, which means "the Moscow", and in official language Wielkie Księstwo Moskiewskie, The Great Principat of Moscow.


    The use of the term Ruthenia in the lands of ancient Rus' survived longer as a name used by Ukrainians for Ukraine. When the Austrian monarchy made Galicia a province in 1772, Habsburg officials realized that the local East Slavic people were distinct from both Poles and Russians, and still called themselves Ruthenians, until the empire fell apart in 1918.

    By 1840 the superior term, Малая Русь (or Малороссия), Little Rus', or Rus' Minora, for Ruthenians became derogative in the Russian Empire, and they began calling themselves Ukrainians, for Ukrayina. In the 1880s and 1900s, the popularity of the ethnonym Ukrainian spread and the term Ukraine became a substitute for Ruthenia among the Ruthenian/Ukrainian population of the Empire. In time the term Ruthenian became restricted to western Ukraine, an area then part of the Austro-Hungarian state.

    By the early 20th century, the term Ukraine had replaced Ruthenia in Galicia/Halychyna and by the mid-1920s also in the Ukrainian diaspora in North America.

    'Rusin' (the Ruthenian) has been one of official self-identifications of the Rus' population in Poland. Until 1939, for many traditional Ruthenians and Polish, the word "Ukrainiec" meant a person involved in or friendly to a nationalist movement.


    The most numerous population of the ancient Rus' cultural descendants, the Muscovites, according to Russian authors, still keep the same name for their ethnicity (russkie), while the name of their state, Rus', was gradually replaced by its Greek transcription, Rossia. However, some other Slavish languages definitely separate the "Ruthenian" meaning from its "Russian" neighbour (i.e. Polish). Russian population dominates the former territory of Muscovy, Vladimir Rus', the Grand Principality of Smolensk, Novgorod Republic, and Pskov Republic, and they are also a significant minority in Ukraine and Belarus.

    Modern Ruthenia

    After 1918, the name Ruthenia became narrowed to the area south of the Carpathian mountains in the Kingdom of Hungary, named Carpathian Ruthenia (including the cities of Mukachevo, Uzhhorod, and Prešov) and populated by Carpatho-Ruthenians, a group of East Slavic highlanders. While Galician Ruthenians considered themselves to be Ukrainians, the Carpatho-Ruthenians were the last East Slavic people that kept the ancient historic name (Ruthen is a Latin deformation of the Slavic rusyn). Nowadays, the term Rusyn is used to describe the ethnicity and language of Ruthenians who are not forced to the Ukrainian national identity. Carpatho-Ruthenia formed part of the Hungarian Kingdom from the late 11th century, where it was known as Kárpátalja. In May 1919, it was incorporated with nominal autonomy into Czechoslovakia. After this date, Ruthenian people have been divided among three orientations. First, there were the Russophiles, who saw Ruthenians as part of the Russian nation; second, there were the Ukrainophiles who, like their Galician counterparts across the Carpathian mountains, considered Ruthenians part of the Ukrainian nation; and, lastly, there were Ruthenophiles, who said that Carpatho-Ruthenians were a separate nation, and who wanted to develop a native Rusyn language and culture. On 15 March 1939 the Ukrainophile president of Carpatho-Ruthenia, Avhustyn Voloshyn, declared its independence as Carpatho-Ukraine. On the same day Hungarian Army fascist regular troops, allies of Adolf Hitler, brutally invaded the region. The Hungarian invasion was anti-Ruthenophile. In 1944 the Soviet Army occupied Carpatho-Ruthenia, and in 1946, annexed it to the Ukrainian SSR. Officially, there were no Rusyns in the USSR. In fact, Soviet and some modern Ukrainian politicians, as well as Ukrainian government claim that Rusyns are part of the Ukrainian nation. Nowadays some of the population in the Zakarpattya oblast of Ukraine consider themselves Rusyns (Ruthenians) yet they are still a part of the whole Ukrainian national identity. A Rusyn minority remained after World War II in northeastern Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia). According to critics, the Ruthenians rapidly became Slovakized. In 1995 the Ruthenian written language became standardized.

    Cognate word

    The element ruthenium was isolated in 1844 from platinum ore found in the Ural mountains. Ruthenia is the Latin word for Rus'.


    Ruthenia Wikipedia