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THE RUTHENIANS OF BAČKA AND SREM IN THEIR HOMELAND AND IN THE WORLD (1745-1991)

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The book about the Ruthenians of the counties of Bačka and Srem in their homeland and in the world is a unique demographic monograph. It is different from other monographs because it has not been written according to the strict scientific rules. It was written so that every Ruthenian could understand it, that every Ruthenian in Bačka and Srem and in the world would like to have it at his home, because while reading it he would find a part of himself, his ancestors and origins. The author pays great attention to the persons, people, their lives and all the events that distinguished their lives. Although the book is full of figures and facts, the author doesn't find them satisfactory, but he always tries to find out who has been hiding behind those figures, who these people were, where they came from at a certain time, how long they stayed in a certain region, how they lived and whether they made progress in their economical, national and cultural life, whether they contributed to the development of their ethnic group or parted from it and went "their own way"...

Because of these features, the book is above all a personal national monograph. It follows the Ruthenians through figures, but also by personal and family names, from their first days in the Pannonian Plain, when they inhabited the territory of the aristocracy of Kula at the most often flooded lands in 1751, i.e. according to the contract from January,1st 1751. The second group of the Ruthenians came after 12 years - in 1763 and 1764 to the barren land of Stupa and founded the village of Kucura there, which was united with the Kucura inhabited by Serbs in 1765, and from that point on, they have lived together, having the same rights and obligations.

The book has been written using the scientific sources, the already available facts as well as some recently found ones. The birth registry books of the first two Ruthenian villages - Ruski Krstur and Kucura, have also been used from the time they were first introduced, i.e. from 1781, to the end of 1990. The population growth has been analysed, its rise and decline, the increase in the number of people in the ancestral villages and their emigration to Novi Sad and Šajkaš, Šid and Srem and later to Slavonia and the region around the river Sava and its tributaries.

The figures concerning the earliest establishment of the Ruthenians in South Hungary are very poor - the total number of the Ruthenians who came to the Bač-Bodrož district during the first migration in 1765 was 2.000, amounting to 25.000 according to the population census in 1991. Apart from these purely demographic data - the book also includes the cultural and sociological background of those migrations. It points to the development of Ruski Krstur and Kucura as communities, the way of living, the building of houses, economic establishments, public institutions - churches, schools, taverns, community houses, the expansion of villages and the building of new houses, roads, canals... It discusses the number of cattle the people kept at certain times, their mechanical equipment, the production of cereals, milk and meat is analysed, indicating the simultaneous development of craft and industry.

What is most important, it analyses and suggests the factors which, along with the natural development and constant small-scale immigration to the original villages, made it possible for this small population, at first numbering only 2.000 people, to develop nationally and keep its identity. It describes a small population, which has formed its language, raised it to the level so that it can use it to print books, establish schools, publish newspapers and journals, broadcast radio and television programmes, organise cultural events - The Cultural Festival of the Ruthenians and the Ukrainians of Yugoslavia, Drama gathering - a cultural review of theatre works. In the settlements where there are no Ruthenian schools native language classes are organised. The author indicates 14 factors, 14 assumptions that contributed to preserving the Ruthenian minority group, its language, its culture, its religion and finally towards preserving its national integrity for 250 years.

The first part of the first volume "Migration and Wandering" covers the time from the first migrants to the end of immigration into Bačka, in 1786. In this part, immigration into Ruski Krstur and Kucura is observed through the records of the population censuses. The records those from 1752, 1756, 1762, 1764, 1765, 1770, and 1783 have been used for Ruski Krstur, and from 1764, 1765, 1766, 1767, 1768, and 1789 for Kucura. These records partially say from which regions the people came to Krstur and Kucura. The records particularly depict the great migrations and wandering of the Ruthenian people, who experience high levels of underground water, humidity of their houses, dying cattle and many other hazards. Using the new records we correct our standpoint, for example about the immigration of the Ruthenians into Kucura. The latest records show that Kucura was already founded in 1764, had its arable land, that the Ruthenian people lived separated from the Serbs and had their alderman and clerks.

In this part of the book urban records and tables are used, from which it is possible to see how the aristocracy, the district office, and the State charged the people for the land they cultivated - the charges included work (manual and harnessed), agricultural products, poultry, and taking grains to the district storages which were far away, catering for the army...

The first volume - second part "Population Increase and Emigration of People", includes around 300 pages. The facts about the number of inhabitants born in Krstur and Kucura, and the expansion of these settlements with population have been given here for each year from 1781 to 1990, respectively, and from the year 1800 it is shown where the Ruthenian people emigrate. When Novi Sad and Šajkaš are considered, the period of the first emigration to Novi Sad from the villages of Bačka is covered. The records of the first census from 1802 concerning those who repented on Good Friday show that there are cases of direct immigration into Novi Sad as we cannot find those names among the inhabitants of Krstur or Kucura. The third Ruthenian parish in Bačka was founded already in 1780, which was followed by the immigration to Srem, at first to the property of the Bishop of Križevci in Šid, where the Ruthenians tried, as long as they could, to live separated from the other people and retain their national and religious independence.

From 1810, the "complete" census records of the Ruthenians in Bačka and Srem are at our disposal. 6.027 people were listed in that year, but the figures and data show that some of them were already lost, alienated or not included in the registration. The records of taxpayers from the year 1828 and the material status of the Ruthenian people have been reviewed in detail.

The Ruthenian people in Bačka were struck by three cholera epidemics - 1831-1836, 1849 and in 1873. These had an immensely negative effect on the demographic figures of the Ruthenian population. The percentage of the diseased and dead Ruthenians was one of the highest in Vojvodina (Bačka), and the consequences, from the demographic point of view, are highly unfavourable. From the total Ruthenian population in Bačka, more than 2.000 people died, during the three cholera epidemics and the accompanying diseases, and in the floods that occurred in 1870, 71 and 72. Cholera with its consequences was a great detriment to the Ruthenian population and it greatly reduced the number of Ruthenians in South Hungary.

After 1848, up to 1880, the second migration of the Ruthenians took place. This time it happened from Ruska Makovica, from the Bardevski region to Srem. These Ruthenian people didn't live long together with the Hungarians, but with the Slovaks. They immigrated to Srem, spread around the flat Srem, representing the cheapest manual working source, and were allowed to establish a few Ruthenian colonies: Bikič Dol, Privina Glava, Pištinci, Kunjat gora and Sremska Mitrovica. They founded their parish only in Sremska Mitrovica. A great number of these people left their Carpatho-Rusyn mother tongue for Serbian. A part of them united with the immigrants of the first migration who had already had their parishes in Srem: Šid, Bačinci, Petrovci and formed a community - they took over the language of the Ruthenians of the first migration. The population census from 1910 shows that the Ruthenians were spread very much, very disunited. They lived in 5 villages in Bačka and 200 in Srem and Slavonia. That was also the time of great alienation of the Ruthenians.

World War I and its consequences to the Ruthenian population are also discussed. During World War I 400 young men and boys from Krstur and Kucura were lost.

It is estimated that around 1.000 Ruthenians temporarily went to the USA before World War I. They stayed there for a few years, progressed materially, and then bought farms in Bačka and Šajkaš or went to Slavonia and the region around the Sava and its tributaries, where they purchased estates for further life. A significant part of them, around 200 people became emigrants and was americanised and lost to their nation in a short period of time. The Ruthenians in the USA have also flocked together and formed groups together with the Carpatho-Rusyns from the Austro-Hungarian monarchy (today's north Hungary, Transcarpathian region, the Slovak Republic and Galicia), and, as they were of the same religion (Greek Catholic), formed a unity. They took part in festivals together, built and went to churches together, had the same customs...

Farm management and class distinction among the people of Krstur and Kucura, the demographic consequences of World Wars I and II, as well as the impact of the agrarian reform and colonisation on the Ruthenian population in Bačka are thoroughly examined. After World War II every landless Ruthenian family obtained land, and those who were not able to get it within their district, emigrated to Bačka Topola and Senta and founded Novo Orahovo.

With the year 1965 the Ruthenians entered a new emigration era. People seek temporary work in the countries of western Europe, and later in Australia and Canada. Today, more than 200 Ruthenian families live in Australia alone. Nowadays it is not the question of emigration of the natural increase but the moving and immigration to other countries.

For the last 50 years, since 1945, the Ukrainians from Bosnia have immigrated into Vojvodina. They are the immigrants of the third migration, which lasted from 1890 to World War I and included direct migration from Galicia and often from the Transcarpathian region to Slavonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Ruthenians (the Ukrainians) founded 4 parishes in Vojvodina, and the greatest number of them lived in Kula, Vrbas, Sremska Mitrovica and Inđija.

The final results of the population rise and emigration of the Ruthenians from Ruski Krstur and Kucura are the following:

In a period of 210 years the population increase in Ruski Krstur is 12.640 people.

During the same period of time the population increase in Kucura is 6.790 people.

The total for both villages is around 19.500 Ruthenians.

During the same period of time 9.500 people emigrated from Krstur and 5.500 people from Kucura. That means that 4.500 people remained to live in their villages and increased the number of inhabitants in the ancestral villages.

In order to obtain a better picture of the development of those who lived in Novi Sad, Vrbas and Đurđevo the population figures concerning the Ruthenian people in those settlements have been studied, too, using the birth registry books.

In the third part of the second volume "The Cultural and Sociological Background of the Demographic Changes", which consists of 150 pages, through a simple chronological overview of the industrial, agricultural, religious, cultural and sports life of the people in the ancestral villages, in the past 250 years is presented. The important dates and events from the "lives" of both villages, their expansion and progress are given, which are the result of greater economic power of their inhabitants, better education and enhanced cultural development.

In contrast to Ruski Krstur, which is a purely Ruthenian village, Kucura is a village with mixed inhabitants. At first the Ruthenians and Serbs lived together, then the Ruthenians, Hungarians and Germans, and finally in the second Yugoslavia, the Ruthenians lived together again with the Hungarians and the Serb colonists from Bosnia and a few families of Montenegrins from Sandžak. The life of the Ruthenians with other people, either from the village or from the district, was always harmonious, tolerant and full of understanding. They taught each other farming, helped each other in hardship, and enjoyed themselves at feasts. They were of different religions - Greek Catholic, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical, but together they were harmonious everywhere: in libraries, at weddings and festivities, in cultural societies, at public festivals where they expressed their wishes to put their village in order, built sewage and asphalt roads, ditches.

Their first schools were different and separate and they used their own language. But at work and economy they helped and influenced each other. A chronological overview of a 250-year life of the Ruthenians in Ruski Krstur and Kucura discusses the changes which represent all important events in the lives of people. That was the time when churches, schools, monasteries, houses for the clergy and shopping centres were built, when the community houses were put up and torn down. The book discusses the consequences of the infectuous diseases that harassed these regions, further participation of young men in World Wars I and II, the consequences of the agrarian reform and the land fund law, the establishment of workers' cooperatives, mechanisation of the public and private sector, and the building of homes for the increasing number of authorities who work in the villages: doctors, pharmacists, veterinarians, farming specialists, teachers. The advancement of agriculture, crop yields and the amount of agricultural produce sold by the farmers, the economic power of villages and the public as well the private living standards of inhabitants are observed.

The two poorly developed villages have become progressive urban settlements with all the standards of a city and a rich cultural life. Two festivals, of folklore and drama, are held in Krstur every year, and the cultural folklore festival "Žatva" in Kucura. A secondary school is established in Krstur, and only a primary one in Kucura.

The fourth part of the second volume is entitled "How we preserved ourselves". While facts are given throughout the first three parts of the book, the first and in the second part discuss the demographic data concerning the immigration and wandering of people, the population rise and emigration, and the third part reviews the sociological and cultural events in the central villages, the fourth part explains how such a small population managed to preserve its language, religion, schools, customs - in short, its national being for 250 years.

The author gives 14 assumptions (factors) which contributed towards the final outcome - the existence of a small population of conscious Ruthenians, the establishment of their national language and its upgrade to the 13th Slavic language, the maturity of the Ruthenian literature, journalism, folklore, and drama. According to the author these assumptions are:

1. The existence of the two Ruthenian centers, the original villages in South Hungary;

2. The long awareness of belonging to the Rusyns of the Transcarpathian region;

3. The strong inclination to "stick together" among foreigners;

4. The Greek Catholic Church and the preservation of the national identity;

5. The Ruthenian school and the maintenance of the national identity;

6. The constant contacts with the Hornjica (the region in the northern part of the Pannonian plain where another group of the Ruthenians lived);

7. The book obtaining and the printing press from Hornjica;

8. The education of the Ruthenian intelligentsia;

9. The preservation of traditions and national customs, (Church holidays: Christmas, Easter, the Kirbai), the Ruthenian wedding and the public life;

10. The National Ruthenian educational society;

11. The new restoration, post-war development in 1945 to 1990;

12. The native language and the role of the Society for the Ruthenian Language and Literature;

13. The Cultural festival of the Ruthenians and the Ukrainians, and

14. The Stage memorial of Petro Riznič Đađa and the Ruthenian Amateur theatre "Đađa"

Each assumption and its implication has been reviewed respectively, and compared with the similar occurrrences at Hornjica, showing their share in the preservation of the Ruthenian population in Bačka, Srem, i.e. at home in their homeland and across the borders in other countries in the world.

Everything that has been produced in the national, educational and cultural field by the Ruthenians in Yugoslavia so far is a product of the suppositions given in the fourth part of this book. A unique goal was reached thanks to all the factors mentioned. They, i.e. their roles interweave, complete one another, enable, help, enrich, complement, promote, affirm, enhance... Their ultimate aim - the conscious Ruthenian, patriot to his homeland in which he lives, the one who cherishes his traditions and the culture of the people he descends from.

The process of alienation of the Ruthenians has been going on in the homeland of the local population as well, no matter whether we call it assimilation of acculturation. The author tries to point also to those suppositions, which had a negative effect on the Ruthenian population and its life in the Ruthenian centres in Bačka, Srem, Slavonia and the region around the river Sava and its tributaries and in the periphery - the wandering Ruthenians and their fate at the so called "periphery". The factors that had a negative effect on the Ruthenian population are given in the second chapter of the fourth part "Wandering and Alienation" , and these are:

1. The scattered and wandering inhabitants;

2. Mixed marriages;

3. The change of religion or joining a sect, and

4. Division and alienation of Ruthenian intelligentsia.

At the beginning of the 20th century the Ruthenians lived in 250 urban settlements, and the total number of them in Bačka, Srem and Slavonia was 19.077. Those who didn't return to their central village - they soon got lost. This process was accelerated by the mixed marriages, where the Ruthenian part most often in the "peripheries" lost their national characteristics, abandoned their tongue and took over the language of their surroundings. In the Serbian surroundings - the Ruthenians became Serbs, in Croatian surroundings and in cities they became Croats, Hungarians, Slovenians etc.

The author illustrates the decrease in the number of Ruthenians through mixed marriages by means of specific genealogical tables-charts, where he follows the migration, emigration from the central villages - Krstur and Kucura. He discusses certain families in detail and points out to their branching to the men's and women's line in a period of 100 or 150 years. In such a manner the family of Janko Žiroš is analysed from the time when it emigrated from Krstur to Mikloševci, them to Verbanja... Also the family of Mihal Kovač, that emigrated from Krstur to Šid, the Sakač family that moved from Kucura to Novi Sad and the family of Hric Miklovški-Magočovski, who had seven daughters. Mixed marriages, as we can see from the genealogical tables given and described, in most cases represented a loss for the Ruthenian population. In the central villages, what can easily be concluded from the tables, the process was also going on in the opposite direction - the immigrants were ruthenianised and took over the language and the customs of their surroundings. Only from the censuses do we know that, for example, 50 Hungarians, 30 Croats, 50 Ukrainians etc. lived in Krstur.

The division and alienation of the Ruthenian intelligentsia is also traced from three genealogical tables: the family Petrigal from Varadka, present day's Slovak Republic, the family Bindas from Krstur and the family Kolesar from Kucura, who moved to Novi Sad. The family Petrigal from Varadka divided itself most and scattered in several countries of Europe and the USA, so that the third, fourth, and the fifth generation of their descendants already became French, Hungarian, American, German, Czech. Starting from the founder of the family Bindas from Krstur, one sister stayed to live in Krstur and most of her offspring lived there as far as the fifth and sixth generation. The educated generations in the past 20-30 years have gone to cities and Novi Sad where they work in various organisations and institutions beneficial to the Ruthenian people. The family of Đura Bindas is large and separation and alienation among his offspring appeared in the fifth, sixth and seventh generation. The family of Erdelj emigrated from Đurđevo already in the third generation, some of its members went to live in N. Sad, others went to Zagreb, some went abroad, so that we lack complete data about them.

The Kolesar family is interesting because of constant assimilation, but also the coming back of their descendants to their nation. In Novi Sad it is typical that the first immigrants, especially girls, married the representatives of other nations and were thus lost. Some of the first immigrants died, and many family names prove assimilation. Kolesar's family is a case where some of the descendants, despite the fact that they are not familiar with the Ruthenian language, consider themselves to be the Ruthenians.

The third chapter of the fourth part "What next?" looks into the future prospects of the small Ruthenian population. It analyses the demographic circumstances, immigration to the ancestral villages, considers the status of the Ruthenians according to the language they use at home, considers the primary and secondary education of the Ruthenians in the past 20-25 years. In fact it discusses the 21st century and further development prospects, considering the population changes, which have a negative trend - the Ruthenian population is declining due to the unfavourable age structure. Finally it deals with the further maintenance of the Ruthenian identity, keeping in view the fact that there are two central organisations since 1990 which have different inclinations concerning future cultural and national development.

The fourth part of the book ends with the synthesis "A small, but great nation" where, apart from the suppositions which exerted a negative effect on the demographic and national development, it points out the great accomplishments in work and business, especially in education and all fields of art. According to the latest statistics and analysis of the primary and secondary education it is obvious that the number of Ruthenian schoolchildrec is decreasing, while at the same time the analyses of the University of Novi Sad show that the number of students - Ruthenians, compared to the number of inhabitants, is quite large and that many Ruthenians have the highest scientific attainments.

The "Appendix" shows the used literature, includes records of illustrations, thanks to the many collaborators, summaries in Serbian, Ukrainian and English and notes about the author with complete bibliography that includes published books and scientific papers, TV reports and films and a list of radio shows "It was a long, long time ago", which are kept at the audio and the film records of the Radio and Television of N.Sad.

The book is published in two volumes - four parts and an appendix. Each volume has two parts, two units, with more than 500 pages. Altogether there are more than 1.000 pages of text with illustrations. The illustrations include: geographic maps, charts, tables, photographs, genealogical tables, photographs of people important to our nation, and they also show their everyday life, national customs, and their preservation of traditions.

translated by Natalija Novta