March 15, 1939 – In a move that brought a European War inches closer, the Nazi government of Adolf Hitler announced it had taken over the Moravian and Bohemian zones of Czechoslovakia – and other portions, most notably the area historically known as Ruthania were now independent, but bout to fall under Hungarian Fascist control. It was a calculated set of moves that had begun months earlier, during what had been known as The Munich Crisis – the potential flashpoint of the area referred to as Sudetenlan. Dr. Emil Hacha, president of Czechoslovakia was summoned to Berlin from Prague and ostensibly told he no longer had a country. When he left for Berlin on March 14, 1939 he was still Czechoslovak President, even though truncated and in his heart transformed by the Munich Agreement and the arbitration in Vienna in the autumn of 1938. When he began to negotiate with Hitler the Czechoslovak state actually no longer existed, because the parliament in Bratislava declared its independence at noon of that day. Following brutal pressure on the night of March 14 to 15, exhausted, almost “half dead” Hacha committed Bohemia and Moravia into “the protection of the Reich”. On March 16 Hitler declared in Prague the establishment of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and Hacha became its State President.
Next was the issue of Ruthenia, an area south of the Carpethia Mountains in what was, until 1918, the Kingdom of Hungary. 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, regular troops of the fascist Hungarian Army invaded the region.
This broadcast by Commentator Theodore Huntley, discusses the then-current situation in the region and its implications for the peace in the future – or for the prospect of war in that future.
So in case you were wondering just what and where Ruthania was, Theodore Huntley will tell you all about it.