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Language & Culture

Carpatho-Rusyns belong to the Slavic branch of Indo-European peoples. Their dialects are classified as East Slavic, but because they live in a borderland region Carpatho-Rusyn dialects are heavily influenced by Polish, Slovak, and Hungarian vocabulary. These influences, together with numerous terms from the Church Slavonic liturgical language and vocabulary unique to Carpatho-Rusyns, are what distinguish their spoken language from other East Slavic languages like Ukrainian.

In contrast to their West Slavic (Polish and Slovak), Magyar, and Romanian neighbors, Carpatho-Rusyns use the Cyrillic alphabet. Their national name, Rusyn, connects them to the east, since Rus' was the name of the inhabitants and territory of a large medieval state centered in Kiev. The many names by which Carpatho-Rusyns have called themselves or were called by others--Carpatho-Russian, Carpatho-Ukrainian, Rusnak, Ruthene, Ruthenian, Uhro-Rusyn--all relate to their traditional association with the East Slavic world of the Rus'.

Despite the seeming confusion about names, the most appropriate designation is Carpatho-Rusyn. This is drawn in part from the name the nineteenth-century national awakener Aleksander Dukhnovych used in his poetic lines in what became the national credo 'I was, am, and will remain a Rusyn' and in a designation attributed to him in the first line of the national anthem 'Subcarpathian Rusyns, Arise from Your Deep Slumber.' The term Carpatho-Rusyn distinguishes Carpathian Rusyns from others who carried the term Rusyn historically but were not from the Carpathian Region.  Carpatho-Rusyn and Rusyn are also the names used by most of the new cultural organizations and publications established in the European homeland since the Revolution of 1989. In Poland, Carpatho-Rusyns call themselves Lemkos. This is a new name. Before the twentieth century Lemkos, too, called themselves Rusyns or Rusnaks. Aware of their origins, recent publications and organizations in Poland often use the term Lemko Rusyn to describe their people.

When Carpatho-Rusyns published books in the seventeenth through early twentieth century, early on they at times used Latin, but wrote largely in a mix of Church Slavonic with borrowings from Russian, further infused with vernacular Rusyn speech. From the 1990s, Carpatho-Rusyns standardized their literary languages in all their countries of residence and now routinely employ these standard variants in all forms of media and in literature and education. Carpatho-Rusyns residing in Serbia and Croatia beginning from the mid-eighteenth century have enjoyed a standardized form of their vernacular for well over a century.

Carpatho-Rusyn Society

915 Dickson St.
Munhall, PA 15120-1929


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