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[This is a guest post by Grant Newsham]

My mother was Rusyn. (Carpatho-Rusyn, Ruthenian, Lemko [in Poland]).  Originating in a small village, Volica, up in today's northeast Slovakia — though she grew up in coal country near Pittsburgh.  Her first language was Rusyn — but I don't think she really knew exactly what language it was until much later in life.  They had no real sense of nationhood.  She said she spoke 'Russian' — but referred to it as just 'Kitchen Russian' — or some inferior form of Russian.  I think it did kind of bother her – thinking that she was a hillbilly of sorts and speaking uneducated Russian.

However, the language is basically Ukrainian (with some differences) — so close that the Ukrainians don't consider it, or the Rusyns, as distinct entities.  After the communists were overthrown, the Slovak government allowed Rusyn nationality (and have set up some Rusyn-language schools [a cousin teaches at one]) and you'll see signs in Rusyn, but the Ukrainians still do not.  My grandfather was very clear that they were not Ukrainians.

I grew up hearing Rusyn often — not least since that's what all the aunts and uncles spoke — and my grandmother didn't speak English.  But as was the case back then, we weren't encouraged or expected to learn the language — other than some words and nursery rhymes.  However, one older cousin grew up with his grandparents and mother (in Chicago) and that was the language they spoke in the house until he was about 14 and moved away.  So he spoke 'Russian' perfectly — for a 14 year old.  In the late 70's, after the Marines and starting with IBM, he set out to see where he came from.  Got a plane ticket to Krakow and then drove south — to the village.  He said that as he got farther south in Poland he could understand much of the language, and the farther he got the more he understood.  And when he finally got to the village he understood it perfectly.

(Two other cousins studied regular Russian in college — and noted that it was of next to no help in talking with Rusyn-speakers.)

Anyway, when I heard the expression 'little Russian' it brought the expression 'kitchen Russian' to mind.


Grant added later:

Funny that I never heard my mother say 'Rusyn', Ruthenian' or something that would have identified her as part of a particular group.  Surprising since the 'Rusky Club' was right across the street.  When asked, she would sometimes  mention that her father was from 'Medzilaborce' and sometimes said he'd been in Franz Joseph's Army, but really had no sense of nationality.  Seemed that the aunts and uncles et al had more of a sense of being Greek Catholics.

And I remember we thought they were all 'Russians.'   When I got older I got more interested.  Harvard Encyclopedia of Ethnic Groups in America was most informative for unraveling the mystery.

A few years ago, attended a cousin's wedding in the village (Greek Catholic) church in Volica where grandparents got married 115 years earlier.  Pretty darn interesting for the history major.

Still later:

Sent a relative in the village an email after the Russian invasion started.  His reply:

"The situation in Slovakia is OK, but war is very close because we live only 100 kilometres from Ukrainian border. We are shocked and we couldn't believe what happened last week. War in Europe in the 21st century is something terrible. Thousands of people, mainly women and children (men had to stay in Ukraine) are crossing our border. And people in Slovakia collect things needed for them. Hope it will finish soon.

A lot of people continue to other countries of European Union (for example Czechia or Germany) where they have families. Others have accommodation in dorms or school gyms in Slovakia. Some people provide their houses for Ukrainian children.

Ukraine is the only one country in the world which doesn´t consider Rusyns as a separate nation (they claim that we are a part of Ukrainian nation). But in this war all Rusyns are on Ukrainian side and regard Russians as aggressors."

Selected readings


  1. Chi said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 6:03 am

    In 1966, when I was 12, our family travelled by road across Europe during the summer school holidays. From London to Moscow to Rome and back, wreckage from World War II—barely two decades before—was everywhere. Bombed out buildings, destroyed bridges and roads. Ruined, abandoned farm buildings and factories. Everywhere. A hideous legacy across Europe, at a cost of millions of lives.

    I learnt the Cyrillic/Russian alphabet and basic vocabulary. One word I learnt, in the wake of World War II, was the word for Peace … a word I became familiar with across many years in Russian poster and graphic art. And in many other languages. Peace.


    It is the same word—and spelling—in both the Russian and the Ukraine languages.


    A word Vladimir Putin seems to have never learnt.

  2. Jarek Weckwerth said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 6:13 am

    What a lovely demonstration of how the linguistic and socio-political aspects of how "languageness" is determined do not align well with each other.

  3. Vanya said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 9:28 am

    I remember reading that "Rusyn" was an identity promoted by the Habsburgs to prevent ethnic identification with the almost identical "Little Russians" (aka Ukrainians) on the Tsarist side of the border. During WWI Rusyns in Galicia were regarded with deep suspicion by the Habsburg authorities as potential Russian sympathizers (sadly ironic today, as is the fact that the Tsarist authorities regarded Jews in Ukraine as probable Austrian/German sympathizers).

    The Rusyns I have known seem to have a fairly weak sense of nationhood, as Grant described. I had one colleague from Vermont whose family was from Eastern Slovakia but were not Slovak, and she wasn't really sure what they were – except Greek Catholic. And the fragments of language she had picked up from her grandparents certainly sounded "Ukrainian". I have another work colleague from Eastern Slovakia who grew up speaking Rusyn out near Kosice but identifies as "Slovak" or a "Rusyn speaking Slovak".

    Although I worked for years in a region of Poland that once had a significant Lemko/Rusyn minority, the ethnic cleansing of WWII seems to have erased almost any trace of them.

  4. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 10:06 am

    After the collapse of the Hapsburg regime, the Rusyn heartland was attached to Czecho-Slovakia in the post-WW1 settlement, but most of it was then appropriated by Stalin in the post-WW2 settlement, assigned by him to the Ukrainian SSR, and then inherited by independent Ukraine (as Zakarpattia Oblast) whose current government does not seem particularly ashamed at having benefited from Stalin's aggression and annexation, although at least that government doesn't appear to have irredentist claims on the few remaining Rusyn villages in Slovakia and Poland.

    The Kennywood amusement park near Pittsburgh has a lot of ethnic-heritage days for various immigrant-descendant groups found in the area (Italian Day, Slovak Day, Croatian Day etc.) and the lineup for at least one prior year included both a "Carpatho-Russian Day" AND a "Byzantine Day;" with the latter being for Rusyns who are so-called Greek Catholics (the "Byzantine Catholic Church" being the official name used in the U.S. to distinguish them from the liturgically-similar Ukrainian Catholics) and the former presumably being by contrast for Rusyns who are Eastern Orthodox.

  5. Rodger C said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 10:37 am

    I've mentioned, in some place and time, that the 1980s US government atlas of ethnicities (I disremember the name) classified Rusyns as Russians and then resorted to a rather weasely and embarrassed-sounding paragraph concerning the editors' "decision" (read: clueless guess).

  6. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 10:40 am

    My paternal grandmother’s parents were born in Úbrež, Sobrance, in what is now Slovakia, but was then Austria-Hungary. (My paternal grandfather was born in Zavadka, also in Sobrance.) After my father was born in the US in 1919, the whole family went back there to (as I am given to understand) deal with post-war family & property issues. They returned to the US in 1929.

    Anyway, we are ethnically Rusyn, but I didn’t know that until my cousin did a bunch of genealogical research in her 40s; my family always considered themselves to be Slovak. Other branches of the family, however, from my grandfather’s cousins who also emigrated to the US, considered themselves to be Ukrainian.

    According to my cousin, who wrote my father’s entry at Find a Grave, “Because of differences between Slovak and American orthography, there were disagreements among Michael's [my father] siblings about how to spell the family name.” One of my dad’s brothers spells it Sarik though the rest of us spell it Sharik. It’s Sarik in their Ellis Island records.

    My grandparents were Greek Catholic & my grandma’s funeral was held at the GC church she attended in Jersey City, NJ.

    Fun fact: my grandma was born in 1892 in the US and so was born a US citizen, but lost her citizenship in 1912 when she married my grandpa, who was not a USC. She had to be re-naturalized in the 40s.

  7. Philip Taylor said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 11:35 am

    Michèle — How would "Sarik" (or "Sharik") have been spelled in the Rusyn language ?

  8. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 12:18 pm

    Philip, my speculation would be that the Czecho-Slovak (and Hapsburg) authorities spelled it Šarik (perhaps it would have been Шарик in Cyrillic), but of course Americans (both as individuals and more importantly as government record-keepers and document-issuers) can't deal with those weird diacritical marks modifying our pure Latin letters. So the U.S. options are 1) just lose the diacritic and simplify to Sarik, probably with the pronunciation eventually following suit, or 2) change the spelling to Sharik in recognition that in English orthography the digraph "sh" is the equivalent of Czech/Slovak Š.

  9. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 12:26 pm

    Philip — my understanding is that the Slovak was Šarik, with the š approximately the same sound as English sh.

    I don’t know if Rusyn language was spelled/written differently than Slovak.

    I am more familiar with my maternal side’s family (German). My dad stopped speaking Slovak (Rusyn?) in 1929 or ‘30 because he was bullied in school for speaking no or little English. He came home one day & told his family that he would only speak English from now on. So he lost his Slovak.

    When I was young, I spoke using both German & English in a single sentence, as bilingual children do. He thought I would be bullied in school like he was, so just before I entered Kindergarten, he said no more German in the house. So I lost my German. Had to learn it again in Uni. (And that was Hochdeutsch, whereas my mom spoke Plaatdüütsch, Emsländisch.)

  10. Philip Taylor said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 1:03 pm

    Thank you both. Yes, "Šarik" was certainly what I would have expected if written using the Latin alphabet within an otherwise Slovak environment, but if Wikipedia is to be believed, Rusyn is in fact written using the Cyrillic alphabet. Having previously not known of Rusyn at all, would I be safe to assume that it is, in fact, written using either the Latin alphabet or the Cyrillic alphabet, the choice of alphabet varying with the country in which the Rusyn speaker lives ?

  11. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 1:40 pm

    Phillip T.: See this little historical squib noting toward the end a controversy in the 1880's in Hapsburg-ruled Galicia about whether the government had to let Ruthenian-speakers submit written documents to the authorities in Cyrillic or only in Latin-scripted Ruthenian. FWIW in the Galician context the "Ruthenians" as I understand it subsequently turned into "Ukrainians"; most of the Rusyns we're talking about here (especially those whose ancestral villages are now in post-Communist Slovakia) lived south of Galicia in a different region of the Hapsburg Empire that was in the Hungarian part rather than the Austro- part and thus might have had various differences in official language policy at any given moment. And I need to get back to my day job rather than ask google what the attitude of the post-1918 Czecho-Slovak government was to Cyrillic. (Obviously people were allowed both before and after 1918 to use Cyrillic privately, and the "Greek Catholic" churches at least in those days generally used Cyrillic-scripted books for their public services and private devotions, although strictly speaking those texts would mostly have been in Church Slavonic rather than Rusyn or Ukrainian.)

  12. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 1:46 pm

    J.W. Brewer: "Americans (both as individuals and more importantly as government record-keepers and document-issuers) can't deal with those weird diacritical marks modifying our pure Latin letters"

    As the kids say these days, "I feel this so hard"! My birth cert does not have my grave accent, but my mom told me it's supposed to be there, so I use it. It's interesting to me how different email/web clients will display it, with the most common alternate being Ë. I have a t-shirt which (as a joke) has my name as "Michle".

    It does seem to have gotten better in the last decade or so. Most young people, including Americans, don't seem to have any issue with using the correct accent mark.

  13. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 1:47 pm

    Oops — that didn't display properly. I was trying to write:

    Mich le (without the spaces).

    I know there's a way to input that so it displays properly, but I don't know how to do it, so there it is.

  14. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 1:47 pm


    Mich open-angle-bracket alt hyphen 0232 close-angle-bracket le

  15. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 1:57 pm

    J.W. Brewer: "most of the Rusyns we're talking about here (especially those whose ancestral villages are now in post-Communist Slovakia) lived south of Galicia in a different region of the Hapsburg Empire that was in the Hungarian part rather than the Austro- part".

    That makes sense, as my eldest cousin told me that our grandma once said that they had been forced to speak Hungarian, "so we had to do something…" then completely clammed up and refused to say anything else about it.

    Based on that, family lore now includes the apocryphal story that Baba was part of a resistance group that had something to do with the Archduke's assassination — but of course, that can't be true.

  16. Philip Taylor said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 2:00 pm

    Mich<alt-0232>le ? If so, on my keyboard that yields "MIchèle" as (presumably) intended, although it might be clearer as Mich<alt+0232>le or even as Mich<U+00E8>le.

  17. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 2:21 pm

    Philip — yes, but back in the 90s, we didn't differentiate between "alt-" and "alt+" since they both meant "hold down the alt key & then type the following numbers". Modern usage seems to favor the +.

    Interestingly, back then the numbers had to be entered via the number keypad, not the number row. I don't know if that's still true, since I now use a Mac & it's so much easier to write my name's è. I haven't regularly used a Windows machine in over a decade.

  18. Philip Taylor said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 2:34 pm

    I think that use of the numeric cluster is still required with the <alt> key. A test : (1) using numeric cluster — Michèle; (2) using top row digits — Michle. So yes, still required.

  19. Victor Mair said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 2:48 pm

    From Grant Newsham:

    A couple other tidbits:

    1) Ondrej Warhola's parents came from a village just a few miles from Volica. (That's Andy Warhol.)

    2) Have read a bit about the Ottomans — as the area where today's Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania come together was a 'border zone' between the Ottoman and the Habsburg Empires. The Turks were adept at playing the tribal angle. As a result, when the Ottomans moved on Vienna (periodically) it appears they had Rusyn (Ruthenian) units with them — fighting against the Austrians – who they apparently disliked more than the Turks. And when the Protestants would revolt against the Habsburgs and eventually get clobbered, the leaders would go into exile in Turkey.

    3) The wedding scene in the movie The Deer Hunter was filmed in a Greek Catholic church in Cleveland — using the the local priest. The reception scenes were filmed in Lemko Hall in Cleveland — using the local band and what looked to me like 'locals' as extraa. I mentioned to my mother that this all seemed kind of familiar. She eventually admitted that it did.

  20. Victor Mair said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 2:57 pm

    In my run through the Pittsburgh area, I was very much aware of the gigantic presence of Andy Warhol.

    In the county where I live (Delaware), there used to be a house painter named Andy Warhol. He did some work for me, and it was very good.

  21. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 3:10 pm

    FWIW the "Deer Hunter" wedding scene is conventionally said to have been filmed at in Cleveland. Which is not a Greek Catholic establishment but was historically founded by Rusyn Greek Catholic immigrants who in the U.S. environment (where there was no ruling imperial dynasty with a rooting interest in Vatican-v.-Patriarch-of-Moscow dynamics) returned to and/or lapsed into Orthodoxy under the influence of the priest now posthumously known (by his fans) as St. Alexis of Wilkes-Barre. A fair number of "Russian Orthodox" families in America descend from pre-WW1 immigrants from the Ruthenian/Rusyn parts of the Hapsburg lands rather than from immigrants from then-Czarist territory, although there's a smaller jurisdiction (ACROD, which stands for "American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese," headquartered in Johnstown, Pa.) which is more explicitly Rusyn and of course there were later waves of strictu-sensu Russian emigration trying to get away from the Bolsheviks. Not only is ethnoreligious identity slippery in parts of Eastern Europe, it can evolve in other directions in the diaspora.

  22. bulbul said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 3:44 pm

    so close that the Ukrainians don't consider it, or the Rusyns, as distinct entities
    Oh I know a bunch of people who would beg to differ, especially speakers of Rusyn here in Slovakia where the Lemko-Prjašiv (or Prešov) variety is a standardized language. It's fun to look at bibliographies where one description of the same variety will refer to it as Ukrainian, the other as Rusyn.

  23. bulbul said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 3:47 pm


    I had one colleague from Vermont whose family was from Eastern Slovakia but were not Slovak, and she wasn't really sure what they were – except Greek Catholic.
    They may have been Rusnak. This is a term used for Greek Catholics in the ancient provinces of Zemplín (and Uh) who speak a dialect of Eastern Slovak, like my mother.

  24. bulbul said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 3:52 pm

    Michèle Sharik Pituley,

    Úbrež, Sobrance, Závadka, that's just a stone's throw from Kusín where my mother was born! I used to spend the summers there, I still have family in Sobrance.
    I am surprised, though, that you identify as ethnically Rusyn. The Sobrance region is way too south for that, Slovakia's Rusyn live in the northern counties (2021 census data).

  25. Victor Mair said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 3:54 pm

    From Grant Newsham:

    The fellow on the far left with arms akimbo in this photograph is my grandfather — Mikal (Mike) Hlohinec. The photo positively oozes white privilege. Had it on the wall when I worked for the bank (Morgan Stanley). Nobody 'got it'.

    As usual, click to embiggen.

  26. bulbul said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 3:58 pm

    See this book for detailed data on the ethnic, linguistic and religious data on Slovak Ruthenians/Rusyns.

  27. Victor Mair said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 4:17 pm

    From Grant Newsham:

    Not too long before my grandmother passed away, she told someone that she wished she had stayed in Volica. Kind of a tough life in the coal fields and with six children and the usual travails that come of all that.

  28. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 4:21 pm

    bulbul: "I am surprised, though, that you identify as ethnically Rusyn. The Sobrance region is way too south for that, Slovakia's Rusyn live in the northern counties"

    I only know what my cousin dug up during her research. I identify mostly as 1st gen German-American. I grew up in Ohio & my dad's family was all in New Jersey; I visited once at age 6, and again at 13 when my grandma passed away.

    I have a discount coupon here for 23andMe, so maybe this will convince me to actually join & then I'll know more, LOL.

  29. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 4:27 pm

    Apparently I posted this bit of insight into the alleged taxonomy of the Slavic diaspora (as perceived by those of other ethnicities) in a 2011 comment thread on languagehat's blog in which bulbul also participated but maybe it makes sense here as well:

    It's from a letter by the late American writer (mostly in various "pulp" genres) Avram Davidson (1923-93): “Local attitudes in Yonkers [where Davidson grew up before WW2] went like this: ‘What about the Czechs?’ ‘The Czechs . . . The Czechs are all right. They have funny names but basically they are all right.’ ‘And the Slovacks [sic]?’ ‘Well . . . the Slovacks . . . they work hard . . .. but on Saturday night they get drunk and beat up their wives and kids, the Slovacks . . . they don’t wear hats . . . they wear _caps_!’ ‘And the Carpatho-Ruthenians?’ Answer: ‘Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!’ I never heard anybody mention them without laughing. To this day I don’t know what is or is supposed to be so damned funny about the Carpath-Russian-Ruthenians. NO idea.”

  30. Peter B. Golden said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 7:18 pm

    I have heard Ukrainian friends refer to the region as Закарпаття or Підкарпатська Русь. Identities are often situational. A colleague of mine, who taught Russian at my university, was from eastern Slovakia and always identified herself as Ukrainian – and boasted that she won the award for speaking and writing the best Slovak in her Slovak school. Her husband was from central Ukraine and this probably reinforced her sense of Ukrainian identity. Another colleague, in the natural sciences, identified himself as "Ruthenian," willing to nod in the direction of Ukrainian, but invariably said he was "Ruthenian."
    Hungarians consider Košice (Kassa [kashsha] in Hungarian) "Northern Hungary" as I was told numerous times. There is a Greek Catholic population in eastern Hungary as well.

  31. martin schwartz said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 9:01 pm

    I once had a "Ruthenian Church/Cathedral Choir" USA 78 rpm disc
    I think from the late 1920s, with Christmas and/or Easter Songs.
    Richard Spottswood's discography of US ethnic recordings indicates
    that the director of the group was a Jew who also recorded in Slovak and Yiddish. I can't provide the details just now, but if anyone is curious they can ask and I'll answer next week,
    if I have an email for the enquirer, The disc is now in the sound archives of UC Santa Barbara.
    Martin Schwartz

  32. Jongseong Park said,

    March 23, 2022 @ 11:27 am

    @J.W. Brewer: And I need to get back to my day job rather than ask google what the attitude of the post-1918 Czecho-Slovak government was to Cyrillic.

    Interwar Czechoslovakia probably was the best option for the Rusyns to join out of the various candidates when you look at the alternatives, not that they had much of a say in their fate. Whereas Poland, Hungary, and Romania pushed their national languages on minorities, democratic Czechoslovakia permitted Rusyns to develop their culture for the most part.

    Here is an excerpt about Czechoslovakia's language policy in Carpathian Ruthenia from "Language and Language Policy in Transcarpatia between the Two World Wars":

    As for Podkarpatská Rus, § 6 of the language law declared that the future regional assembly will have the right to pass its own laws on linguistic questions, however until the establishment of the regional assembly, the same language law was to be applied “with consideration to the specific language relations of the region”. The Enacting Act of the language law issued in 1926 repeats the text of the law – in addition it declares that petitions could be submitted in the Carpatho-Rusyn language at each court and office in the region. Besides the official Czechoslovak, the names of official buildings had to be displayed in Carpatho-Rusyn and official announcements had to be issued in both of the two languages.

    The article doesn't mention the choice of script, but quotes names and terms in Cyrillic in various places dealing with the Rusyn language. I think Cyrillic would have been the choice to write the local language whether it was the Russophiles, Ukrainophiles, or Rusynophiles.

  33. stephen said,

    March 23, 2022 @ 12:06 pm

    How is Rusyn pronounced? I would think they'd want a different pronunciation to further distinguish themselves from the Russians? What are the various possible pronunciations?

    Avram Davidson, whose writings I've liked, didn't know what was so funny about the Carpath-Russian-Ruthenians.

    Just a guess, but maybe it's the way people keep subdividing into teensy little hyphenated subdivisions with such small distinctions between each little group?

    I hope that doesn't sound like criticizing…

  34. Philip Taylor said,

    March 23, 2022 @ 12:59 pm

    Stephen — I don't know, but in my mind's ear I hear it as / ˈruː sɪn/.

  35. Jongseong Park said,

    March 23, 2022 @ 9:21 pm

    The OED goes with /ˈruːsɪn/ as well for the British pronunciation, though it gives /ˈrusən/ for the American. I'm not inclined to weaken the second vowel though—it could even be /ruˈsɪn/ for me, though I would usually stress the first syllable. I thought the original pronunciation had initial stress as well, but when I looked it up I saw that the stress was indicated as руси́н in the Ukrainian and Russian Wikipedias. However, on Forvo, the Ukrainian and Rusyn examples are clearly stressed on the first syllable and the Russian example also seems to have at least equal stress if not leaning towards the initial. Until I see an authoritative guide to the correct pronunciation in the original Rusyn, I'll keep assuming initial stress.

    The KIT vowel /ɪ/ seems natural for the second syllable of Rusyn both on the basis of what is expected from English spelling and the pronunciation in Rusyn itself, where at least according to the prevailing orthography і /i/, и /ɪ/, and ы /ɨ/ are distinguished; in русин it's the second so the KIT vowel seems closest in English.

    One thing I noticed recently especially with the news is what seems to be a widespread American pronunciation of Ukraine as /ˈjuːkreɪn/ 'YOO-krain' instead of /juˈkreɪn/ 'yoo-KRAIN', the only pronunciation I was previously familiar with. Merriam-Webster does include /ˈjuːkreɪn/ as a possibility (along with /juˈkraɪn/ 'yoo-KRINE'!) although /juˈkreɪn/ is still the primary pronunciation and the one illustrated in the audio of the pronunciation. As the first syllable isn't stressed in any Slavic version of the name, this might also be due to the English preference for stressing the initial syllable, even if it sounds really unnatural to me.

  36. Philip Taylor said,

    March 24, 2022 @ 4:55 am

    I wonder if there is any possibility that those in North America are influenced by the stress pattern of "[the] Yukon" (/ ˈjuː kɒn /).

    Incidentally, I included the parenthetic "the" because on the BBC recently I heard regular mention of Britain's Ambassador to the Ukraine, despite this usage being deprecated.

  37. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 24, 2022 @ 9:57 am

    For a good indication of how blurry these distinctions can be in the diaspora, see this recent article about (generally negative) attitudes toward the Putin regime's invasion of Ukraine among the "Russian-American" parishioners of a "Russian" parish in Schuylkill County in the old Pennsylvania anthracite country.

    Key passage: ‘Birosik, and most of the people who worship at St. Mary’s, are the descendants of Russian immigrants – sort of. The borders have changed so often that it’s hard for them to pin down what country their ancestors were from. “One time they were Polish, then the next time they were from Ukraine, then they were Russian,” Birosik said. The men who founded St. Mary’s in 1909 came from throughout Eastern Europe.’

    I suspect that many of the relevant ancestors would be retroactively taxonomized by those interested in such fine distinctions as having been "Ruthenian" or "Rusyn" rather than "[Great] Russian," but a century later "Russian" is how their descendants self-identity. They likewise refer to the language they remember learning scraps of from parents or grandparents as "Russian" although it well may have been "kitchen Russian" that a linguistics scholar would deem some separate East Slavic language.

    There may indeed be regional microvariation in the diaspora where a distinct "Rusyn" ethnic identity is more commonly still found in Western Pennsylvania but the exact same folks (in terms of ancestral origin) are more like to be merely "Russian" in Eastern Pennsylvania.

  38. Rodger C said,

    March 24, 2022 @ 3:28 pm

    Interesting. Maybe that's where the ethnic atlas's editors got their notion.

  39. Alexander Browne said,

    March 25, 2022 @ 2:16 pm

    "Ukraine" with stress on the first syllable makes me think of a southern/Texan/western American speaker, so maybe that's the origins of the American saying it that way? Like someone who pronounces "insurance" with initial stress.

    I was recently in a video call with someone from Utah who repeatedly pronounced "display" — used to mean an LCD screen part for a computer or phone — with stress on the first syllable, which was certainly unexpected for this midwest speaker.

  40. Seth Davis said,

    March 28, 2022 @ 10:25 am

    – your story really does sound like an Avram Davidson story – “The Slovo Stove” – should be mandatory reading. You can find it in “The Avram Davidson Treasury.”

  41. john burke said,

    March 28, 2022 @ 12:26 pm

    In the film “Colonel Redl“ (adapted from John Osborne’s play “A Patriot for Me”) the title character is portrayed as having been selected to become a double agent because, as a Ruthenian, he belongs to a nationality too negligible to have patriots of its own. Thus he can be enlisted as "a patriot for" his imperial employer Franz Josef rather than a patriot for either Russia or Austria-Hungary.

  42. Alexander Pruss said,

    March 28, 2022 @ 2:00 pm

    Talking of the English pronunciation, I think I prefer to pronounce "Ukraine" as three syllables (something like Yoo-kreh-yeen; I don't have a good ear for stress so I don't know where I'm stressing). Is that an incorrect Slavicism (my L1 is Polish)?

    In the Slavic languages I knew or had time to look up, the "-i-" or its analog is a separate syllable, with the whole word being four syllables (ending in "-a").

  43. Philip Taylor said,

    March 29, 2022 @ 3:44 am

    Alexander — I too aim for three syllables, but without the initial yod: /uː kraɪ ˈiːn/. I know that there should be a fourth (/ə/) but to use it when speaking English seems a little OTT to me.

  44. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 29, 2022 @ 9:42 am

    In at least some English-language texts from the 19th century and early 20th century (at least occasionally including maps/atlases) the alternative toponym "Ukrainia" was used, which naturally comes out as four syllables for most Anglophones (although I guess you could try to make it five if you really wanted) and is also naturally anarthrous. But for reasons that are unclear to me it fell into disuse. It's apparently still "Ucrainia" in Spanish and Portuguese, however.

  45. B. said,

    April 2, 2022 @ 7:34 pm

    Slight corrections: Spanish has Ucrania and Portuguese, Ucrânia.

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