The Price of Continued Success

(Original English text of intervention delivered in Rusyn by Paul R. Magocsi, Honorary Chairman of the World Congress of Rusyns, at the XI World Congress of Rusyns in Pilisszentkereszt, Hungary.)

The following observations represent the views of Professor Paul Robert Magocsi—president of the Carpatho-Rusyn Research Center (a founding member of the World Congress of Rusyns), member of the World Council of Rusyns from 1991 to 2009, its chairman from 2005 to 2009, and its honorary chairman since 2009—and of Steven Chepa, chairman of the World Academy of Rusyn Culture.

The original purpose of the World Congress  when it was founded  in 1991 was to raise the national consciousness of Rusyns/Lemkos/Rusnaks and to promote the Rusyn language, history, and culture in each country where Carpatho-Rusyns live as well as abroad. Of particular concern was to assure that Rusyns/Lemkos/Rusnaks be recognized as a distinct nationality/ethnos by the governmental authorities in each country where they reside.

Since 1991, Rusyns have in fact been recognized in every country where they live. This includes Ukraine, where the Transcarpathian Regional Council (Oblasna rada) adopted a resolution on March 7, 2007 recognizing Rusyns as a distinct nationality in the very region where they form the majority of the indigenous population. In short, the World Congress has succeeded in achieving its basic goals set out in 1991. It is, therefore, most appropriate to congratulate all members of the World Congress and World Council for their successful work in the past and the present.

In all countries where they live, except Ukraine, Rusyns/Lemkos/Rusnaks receive governmental support in the form of individual grants or annual budgetary allotments for cultural and educational activity. Even in the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine, Rusyns receive state funds for cultural activity, although the manner in which this happens is usually indirect and “unofficial.” The World Congress has never played any role in funding cultural activity in individual countries. For example, Rusyns in Slovakia, in Poland, or in Hungary receive funds from their governments based on unilateral negotiations with the authorities. In other words, Carpatho-Rusyn communities do not need the World Congress in order to survive in their individual countries.

The unique role of the World Congress lies in its symbolic value as a body which represents Rusyns/Lemkos/Rusnaks in the international arena. Such activity was particularly emphasized between 2005 and 2009, when representatives of the World Congress met on numerous occasions with government officials in each country where Carpatho-Rusyns live, as well as with diplomatic representatives of those counties and with the European Union and the Vatican. This lobbying activity did indeed raise the image of Carpatho-Rusyns as a distinct nationality with credible international representatives in the eyes of the political and diplomatic world. The question is whether this role is being performed by the present World Council and whether it will continue to fulfill that role in the future?

Since 2009 the World Council has spent most of its energies trying to revise the World Congress statute. One might ask why the statute needs to be revised? The World Congress functioned for nearly ten years without any statute, and it continued to function relatively well after it adopted a statute sometime around the year 2000.

Fine. The present World Council has revised the statute. The proposed new text has gone through several revisions. But are we at this congress ready to adopt the revised text? Has each delegate received a copy of the text and read it? Does each delegate understand the Slovak language, the only language in which the proposed text is available? I would suggest that we, as congress delegates, are not ready to vote for or against the revised statute. Rather, the text should be translated into Rusyn, in order that each delegate may carefully read the statute and provide his or her suggestions for changes to the World Council, which would then prepare a revised text for possible adoption at the next World Congress in 2013.

What conclusions are to be drawn from the preceding remarks? The first is that the World Congress since its establishment in 1991 has succeeded in achieving its basic goal: recognition of Carpatho-Rusyns/Lemkos/Rusnaks as a distinct nationality, with its own culture and language, both within and outside the counties where the group lives. The second conclusion is that the political situation in Europe and the world has changed radically since 1991. Recognition of Carpatho-Rusyns as a distinct nationality has been achieved. Consequently, the World Congress is no longer needed.

The  World Congress has done its job. And what is the price of continued success? To have the wisdom to know when one has been successful, to realize that conditions have changed, to adapt appropriately, and to move forward. Costly and time-consuming Congress meetings every two years and World Council meetings on a more frequent basis were important for the Carpatho-Rusyn movement in the decade after 1989, but is such form of activity still an effective means of representing our people on the world’s stage? Is there not another, more efficient and effective format that our congress should adopt?

Carpatho-Rusyns certainly need to be represented in the international forum, although perhaps by a less formal body, such as one comprised of civic, cultural, and scholarly activists who could function as the authoritative voice of Carpatho-Rusyns worldwide. Hopefully the delegates at the Eleventh World Congress, and in particular the new members of the World Council—and we trust the World Council will be comprised of an entirely new membership—will have the collective wisdom to make the right decision.

Paul Robert Magocsi
Honorary Chairman
World Congress of Rusyns
June 18, 2011





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