|30 December 1938 – 18 March 1939 (1938-12-30 – 1939-03-18)|
and largest city
|Historical era||Interwar period|
|30 December 1938|
|18 March 1939|
|1939||13,352 km2 (5,155 sq mi)|
|Today part of||Ukraine|
Carpatho-Ukraine or Carpathian Ukraine (Ukrainian: Карпа́тська Украї́на; Karpats’ka Ukrayina; [kɐrˈpɑtsʲkɐ ukrɐˈjinɐ]) was an autonomous region within the Second Czechoslovak Republic, created in December 1938 by renaming Subcarpathian Rus which full administrative and political autonomy was confirmed by the Constitutional law of 22 November 1938. After the breakup of the Second Czechoslovak Republic, it was proclaimed an independent republic on 15 March 1939, headed by president Avgustyn Voloshyn, who appealed to the Axis powers for recognition and support. Nazy Germany did not reply, and the short-lived state was occupied and annexed by the Kingdom of Hungary, crushing all local resistance by 18 March 1939.
The region remained under Hungarian control until the End of World War II in Europe, after which it was ceded to the Soviet Union. The territory is now administered as the Ukrainian Zakarpattia Oblast.
Soon after the implementation of the Munich Agreement, signed of 30 September 1938, by which Czechoslovakia lost much of its border region to Nazi Germany, a series of political reforms were initiated, leading to creation of the Second Czechoslovak Republic, consisting of three autonomous political entities, including autonomous Slovakia, and autonomous Subcarpathian Rus' (Rusyn: Підкарпатьска Русь). First local Government of autonomous Subcarpathian Rus' was appointed on 11 October 1938, headed by prime-minister Andrej Bródy. In following days, a crisis occurred between two local fractions, pro-Rusyn and pro-Ukrainian, leading to the resignation of Bródy's government on 26 October. New regional government, headed by Avgustyn Voloshyn, adopted a pro-Ukrainian course and initiated the change of regional name, from Subcarpathian Rus' to Carpathian Ukraine.
That proposal opened a new political debate. On 22 November 1938, authorities of the Second Czechoslovak Republic decided to adopt the Constitutional Law on the Autonomy of Subcarpathian Rus' (Czech: Ústavní zákon o autonomii Podkarpatské Rusi), officially reaffirming the self-determination rights of the Rusyn people (preamble), and also confirming full administrative and political autonomy of Subcarpathian Rus', with its own assembly and government. Such terminology was seen as a demonstration of state support for the pro-Rusyn fraction, and on 30 December 1938, local government responded by issuing a provisional decree that proclaimed the change of regional name to Carpathian Ukraine. That lead to the creation of a particular terminological duality. In constitutional system of the Second Czechoslovak Republic the region continued to be formally known as the Subcarpathian Rus', while local institutions continued to promote the use of term Carpathian Ukraine.
In late September 1938, Hungary was ready to mobilize between 200,000 to 350,000 men on the Czechoslovak borders in case the Czechoslovak question could not be solved on diplomatic level, in favor of the Hungarian territorial claims. After the Munich Agreement the Hungarian Army had remained poised threateningly on the Czechoslovak border. They reportedly had artillery ammunition for only 36 hours of operations, and were clearly engaged in a bluff, but it was a bluff the Germans had encouraged, and one that they would have been obliged to support militarily if the much larger, better trained and better equipped Czechoslovak Army chose to fight. The Czechoslovak army had built 2,000 small concrete emplacements along the border in places where rivers did not serve as natural obstacles.
The Hungarian minister of the interior, Miklós Kozma, had been born in Subcarpathia, and in mid-1938 his ministry armed the Rongyos Gárda ('Ragged Guard'), which began to infiltrate guerillas along the southern borders of Czechoslovakia, into Slovakia and Subcarpathia. The situation was now verging on open war, which might set the whole of Europe ablaze again. The appendix of the Munich Agreement concluded Czechoslovakia and Hungary should arrange their disputes by mutual negotiations, which could not achieve a final agreement, so the Hungarian and the Czechoslovak governments accepted the German-Italian Arbitration of Vienna as France and the United Kingdom rejected participation of no interest. This led to the First Vienna Award.
On 2 November 1938, this found largely in favor of the Hungarians and obliged the Prague government to cede 11,833 km² of Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia to Hungary. Not only did this transfer the homes of about 590,000 Hungarians to Hungary, but 290,000 Slovaks and 37,000 Rusyns as well. In addition, it cost Slovakia its second-largest city, Košice, and left the capital, Bratislava, vulnerable to further Hungarian pressure. As a consequence, the Slovak end of the Czechoslovak Army had to be reorganized. It had lost its natural defensive positions on the Danube River, almost the entire belt of fortifications along the Hungarian border and several major depots.
The Arbitration of Vienna fully satisfied nobody, and there followed 22 border clashes between 2 November 1938 and 12 January 1939, during which five Czechoslovaks were killed and six were wounded. The Slovak national militia Hlinka Guard participated in these clashes. The ineffectiveness of the Prague government in protecting their interests stirred Slovak and Ukrainian nationalism further.
On 8 November 1938, the Slovak National Unity Party received 97.5 percent of the Slovak votes, and a one-party state was instituted. Slovak autonomy was formalized by the Prague parliament on 19 November, and to symbolize this new Slovak assertiveness, the country's name was then altered to Czecho-Slovakia. Carpatho-Ukraine was also given autonomy.
Proclamation of Independence
Slovak and Ukrainian nationalism grew more intense, and on March 10, there were demonstrations by the Hlinka Guard and Volksdeutsche, demanding their independence from Czecho-Slovakia.
In the evening of 13 March, Jozef Tiso—the Slovak leader—and Ďurčanský met German leader Adolf Hitler, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Generals Walther von Brauchitsch and Wilhelm Keitel in Berlin. Hitler made it absolutely clear that either Slovakia declared independence immediately and associated itself with the Reich, or he would let the Hungarians, who were reported by Ribbentrop to be massing on the border, take the country over. In fact, encouraged by the Germans, the Hungarians were largely massing on the adjacent Ukrainian border.
During the afternoon and night of 14 March, the Slovak people proclaimed their independence from Czecho-Slovakia, and at 5 a.m. on 15 March 1939, Hitler declared that the unrest in Czecho-Slovakia was a threat to the German security, and sent his troops into Bohemia and Moravia, meeting virtually no resistance.
Following the Slovak proclamation of independence on March 14 and the Nazis' seizure of Czech lands on 15 March, Carpatho-Ukraine declared its independence as the Republic of Carpatho-Ukraine for one day, with the Reverend Avgustyn Voloshyn as head of state.. Voloshin was now supported by the population of Subcarpathia. "The First Constitutional Law of Carpatho-Ukraine" of 15 March 1939 defined the new status of the country as follows:
- Carpatho-Ukraine is an independent state.
- The name of the state is: Carpatho-Ukraine.
- Carpatho-Ukraine is a republic, headed by a president elected by the Soim of Carpatho-Ukraine.
- The state language of Carpatho-Ukraine is the Ukrainian language.
- The colors of the national flag of the Carpatho-Ukraine are blue and yellow, blue on top and yellow on the bottom.
- The state emblem of Carpatho-Ukraine is as follows: a bear on a red field on the sinister side, four blue and three yellow stripes on the dexter side, as well as the trident of Saint Volodymyr the Great.
- The national anthem of Carpatho-Ukraine is "Ukraine has not perished".
- This act comes valid immediately after its promulgation.
The proclaimed Carpatho-Ukrainian government was headed by President Avgustyn Voloshyn, Prime Minister Yulian Révaý, Minister of Defence Stepan Klochurak, and Minister of Internal Affairs Yuriy Perevuznyk. The head of the Soim was Avhustyn Shtephan, his deputies were Fedir Révaý and Stepan Rosokha.
The Slovak declaration of independence caused law and order to break down immediately. The Hungarians had learned that the Germans would not object to a Hungarian takeover of Carpatho-Ukraine on the same day.
|Hungarian invasion of Carpatho-Ukraine|
|Commanders and leaders|
|± 2,000||± 40,000|
|Casualties and losses|
| 72 deaths, 164 wounded, 3 missing and 2 prisoners (official Hungarian statistics)
± 200 killed and several hundred wounded (Czech and Ukrainian estimates)
| Czechoslovak forces lost 40 killed, 150 injured and 17 missing
± 27,000 civilians killed
The Carpatho-Ukrainian declaration of independence was taken as the cue for the Hungarians to demand that the Czecho-Slovak government evacuate its troops and civil servants from the area of the Carpathians immediately. The Czecho-Slovak government did not respond, and instead ordered its troops to attack the city of Munkács (Mukacheve) —previously ceded to the Hungarians on 2 November—on the morning of 14 March 1939.
The available Hungarian forces consisted of an infantry regiment, two cavalry regiments, three infantry battalions on bicycles, one motorized battalion, two border guard battalions, one artillery battalion and two armored trains. These forces were counting for more than two World War II divisions. They were supported by Fiat CR.32 fighter aircraft amounting to one regiment. The Hungarian Border Guard units stationed around Munkács, after throwing back the attacking Czecho-Slovak units on 14 March 1939, pressed forward in turn, and took the town of Őrhegyalja (today Pidhoriany as part of Mukacheve).
On 15 March 1939, the Hungarian Army regular troops invaded Carpatho-Ukraine and by nightfall reached Szolyva. The Carpatho-Ukrainian irregular troops, the Carpathian Sich, without additional support, were quickly routed. The greatest battle between the Hungarian army and several hundreds Ukrainian soldiers (armed with light machine guns, rifles, hand grenades and pistols) took place near Khust. About 230 Ukrainians died in the battle.
Czecho-Slovak resistance in Carpatho-Ukraine was negligible, and the advancing Hungarian troops did not have to face a well-organized and centralized resistance. The Hungarian Army also had the advantage of the First Vienna Award, which made it possible for the Hungarians to take possession of the area where the Czechs built their permanent fortifications against Hungary.
On 16 March 1939, Hungary formally annexed the territory. Prime Minister Yulian Révaý had resisted the Hungarians until then. In the night to 17 March, the last Czecho-Slovak troops left Khust and retreated to Romanian borders. They and the one-day president of Carpatho-Ukraine, Voloshyn, fled to Romania.
The Hungarian Army continued their advance, pushing forward at top speed, and reached the Polish border on 17 March. According to witness recollections, all captured Sich members Hungarian soldiers were tied in fours with barbed wire and thrown into the Tysa river. Those Sich members who came from the province of Galicia as Polish citizens were captured by Hungarians and handed over to Polish soldiers for illegally crossing the border, while some 500-600 were executed by Polish soldiers. The last resistance in the Carpathian mountains was taken out on 18 March.
The invasion campaign was a success, but it also proved that the Hungarian Army was not yet ready for full war. The handicaps imposed by the Trianon Treaty were clearly visible, but the morale and nationalist spirit of the soldiers and the civilian populations were high, which was also important in building a strong national army.
The Hungarian invasion was followed by a few weeks of terror in which more than 27,000 people were shot dead without trial and investigation. Over 75,000 Ukrainians decided to seek asylum in the USSR; of those almost 60,000 of them died in Gulag prison-camps. Others joined the Czechoslovak Army.
World War II and aftermath
In total between 1939 and 1944 80,000 Carpathian Ukrainians perished.
Following the German occupation of Hungary in March 1944, Adolf Eichmann oversaw the deportation of almost the entire Hungarian Jewish population; few survived the Holocaust. At the conclusion of the Battle of the Dukla Pass on 28 October 1944, the Soviet Union had driven the Germans and Hungarians back and liberated Carpathian Ruthenia and the rest of western Ukraine. Control of Carpathian Ruthenia thus "nominally" reverted to Czechoslovakia. The delegation of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile, led by minister František Němec, arrived in Khust to establish the provisional Czechoslovak administration, according to the treaties between the Soviet and Czechoslovak government that year.
However, after just a few weeks, for reasons that remain unclear, the Red Army and the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs started to obstruct the delegation's work and finally a puppet "National Committee of Transcarpatho-Ukraine" was set up in Mukachevo under the protection of the Red Army. On 26 November this committee, led by Ivan Ivanovich Turyanitsa, a Rusyn who had deserted from the Czechoslovak army, proclaimed the "will of Ukrainian people" to separate from Czechoslovakia and to join the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. After two months of conflict and unsuccessful negotiations the Czechoslovak government delegation departed Khust on 1 February 1945, leaving Carpatho-Ukraine under Soviet control.
The Soviet Union exerted pressure on Czechoslovakia, and on 29 June 1945, the two countries signed a treaty, officially ceding Carpatho-Ruthenia to the USSR. In 1946, the area became part of the Ukrainian SSR as the Zakarpattia Oblast.
The Soim of Carpatho-Ukraine was established on 12 February 1939 by the Czechoslovakian constitutional act of 22 November 1938. It consisted of 32 representatives with 29 Ukrainians and three of national minorities. There was only a single session of the parliament that took place on 15 March 1939 in Khust.
At the session the parliament approved the proclamation of the sovereignty of Carpatho-Ukraine, adopted its Constitution, elected the president, and confirmed the new government of Julian Revai. The head of the Soim became Augustin Štefan with his deputies, Fedir Revai and Stepan Rosokha. The presidium of the Soim emigrated out of the country following the invasion of Carpatho-Ukraine by the Hungarian Armed Forces.
Prosecution of Carpatho-Ukraine activists and government officials
- Sevastian Sabol (1909–2003), a native of Presov and a surviving victim of Soviet and Hungarian prosecutions. During the Hungarian invasion of Carpatho-Ukraine in 1939, he was a chaplain in Carpathian Sich in Khust. On 16–18 December 1948, in Prague, Sabol was sentenced in absentia to life in prison for cooperation with the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.
- Avgustyn Voloshyn (1874–1945), died in a Soviet prison after being arrested in Prague by SMERSH in 1945
- Slovak–Hungarian War
- Former countries in Europe after 1815
- Ruthenians and Ukrainians in Czechoslovakia (1918–1938)
- Rychlík & Rychlíková 2016.
- Magocsi 1978, p. 250-251.
- (in Ukrainian) Today is the 80th anniversary of the proclamation of the Carpathian Ukraine, Ukrinform (15 March 2019)
- Skavron, B. Executed State. "Halytsky Korrespondent".
- (in Ukrainian) Resistance in the Carpathians. How Transcarpathians defended the Hungarian aggression in 1939, Ukrayinska Pravda (15 March 2017)
- Dovhei, V. From Beskyds to Katyn. "View behind the scenes. Collection of articles". LvCSTEI. Lviv, 2006
- Sevastian Sabol at the Territory of Terror Museum
- Carpatho-Ukraine, Encyclopedia of Ukraine