The Shortest Lived State

Carpatho-Ukraine is currently seen as one of the shortest lived states, if not the shortest,  having been independent for only one day.  More commonly referred to as Carpathian Ruthenia, it is a small region of Eastern Europe that is currently mostly located in western Ukraine, and has smaller parts in Slovakia, Romania and Poland. It became an autonomous region of Czechoslovakia from 1938 to march 15, 1939 when it declared itself as an independent republic after. It was then returned back to Hungarian control by the next day on March 16 and remained that way until 1944.

To see why this region may have wanted the right to be recognized as an independent state we should look at its culture. The region is mostly populated by, and the origins of the Rusyn people who are also known as Ruthenes and many other variations of the name, they are an Eastern Slavic Ethnic minority and speak their own Slavic language of Rusyn. They are a mostly diasporic ethnic group who are split into two major groups; Pannonian Rusyns, who migrated to the area in and around Serbia, and Carpathian Rusyns who are the ones who stayed in the area of Ukraine and chose not to be known as Ukranian in the early 20th century. Carpatho-Rusyns are the group that is tied to Carpathian Ruthenia, and seeing as they have been unrecognized as an ethnic minority for the better part of the 20th century, it is clear to see why they wanted the independence of their own region.

The aim for Carpathian Ruthenia to achieve at least some level of independence started with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy after World War I, which briefly released their control over the region. Carpathian Ruthenia then became part of the new Hungarian state briefly in 1918-19. However Rusyn immigrants in America called on the American government for help in getting the region its independence, or at least autonomy under a different state. The US government gave them unification with Czechoslovakia as their only option, and Czechoslovak and Romanian forces took control of the area. This action caused Hungarian Communist sympathizers to accuse of war crimes and of the French controlling the whole situation for anti-communist reasons.

Unification with Czechoslovakia brought many changes to the region when it was made into a province of the state and named ‘Sub-Carpathian Rus’. The Czechoslovak government brought the very underdeveloped region up to national standards, sending thousands of teachers, police and other professionals into the region, along with building railways, roads, airports and schools. So for a time, it seemed that the region had chosen the right nation to join. However, it is still debated whether the choice was actually down to the Rusyns at all, or was really decided by the USA and Allies as part of their anti-communist plan at this time.

This situation did not last however. As part of the ‘Munich Agreement’ in November 1938, Nazi Germany had Czechoslovakia give up the southern part of Carpathian Rus, which was then given back to Hungary as part of Germany’s ‘First Vienna Award’. This did cause the remainder of the region to become fully autonomous under Czechoslovakia with a prime minister and autonomous government. But then, on March 15, the Nazis seized Czech lands. Following this Carpathian Ruthenia declared its independence as the Republic of Carpatho-Ukraine. So for one day, this small independent nation existed between Hungary, Romania, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

The following day on March 16 1939, Hungary responded to this by immediately occupying and annexing the country, taking away its newly gained independence. From there, Carpathian Ruthenia once again, the region stayed under Hungarian control until the end of the Second World War when it was captured by the Red Army, and started being given back to Czechoslovakia. However, this work was obstructed so that the region could be given to Soviet Ukraine, eventually settling in its state, unwillingly incorporated into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1946. The region is currently a province within Ukraine today, officially known as ‘Zakarparria Oblast’.

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