While Ukraine is undergoing the most turbulent period of its modern history and while everybody’s attention – that of the Ukrainian authorities as well as of every citizen – is drawn to the developments in the East of Ukraine, political schemes seem to be developing in another part of the country, where these schemes have been the least expected. The West of Ukraine does not appear to be the region of the state where problems similar to those Ukraine is experiencing in Donetsk and Luhansk regions were likely to emerge. However challenges Ukrainian authorities are facing in Transcarpathian region have been worth a good deal of attention for quite a while already.
The developments in the Donbas region not only gave the Ruthenian separatism that has been in recession during most of the period of Ukrainian independence, a new boost but also contributed much to its nature. Previously Petro Getsko, a citizen of Uzhgorod, who is a self-styled prime minister of amorphous political entity called TranscarpathianRus limited himself to political statements and constant debates about groundless accordance of autonomous status to Ruthenians. However now, with crisis in the East of Ukraine developing, he gave up on being too humble and began to articulate threats of military nature addressed to Kyiv.
However, too many questions arise as to the movement headed by Getsko. A good array of striking clues proves that developments in the Transcarpathian region is rather a political game in which external powers participate than a matter of inner policy. Why so? Answers are quite obvious.
First of all Getsko and his accomplices presented the historical background of the movement, which forms the basis for all their arguments, with great distortions. As a matter of fact separatists shifted this distorted background to the political dimension and made it an instrument of loosening the Ukrainian state via threats and, what is worse, via attempts to bring these threats to life. But who in fact are Ruthenians from the historical point of view? It may seem weird, but there is no single answer as to how to define those who identify themselves with this people. There are several reasons for that but none of them speak in favour of Getsko’s line. Firstly, the term “Ruthenians” emerged at the end of the 18th century in Austria-Hungary in order to designate Ukrainians that inhabited Transcarpathian territories that belonged to Austria-Hungary back then. This means that from the very beginning the term did not create any new approach to regarding ethnic and national structure of Transcarpathian population, but was just a foreign language term (a translation of the name of a nationality, in essence) to designate Ukrainians. Secondly, separatists pass over in silence the fact that a very little fraction of the Transcarpathian population identifies themselves with Ruthenian movement. According to the results of the general census of population which took place in Ukraine in 2001 only 0,8% of Transcarpathian population identified themselves as Ruthenians. This is the smallest national minority in the region, which, however, did not deprive this minority of any of the rights enjoyed by any other minority in Transcarpathian region or elsewhere in Ukraine. Of course, this cannot be even compared with estimates presented (and, quite certainly, made up by himself) by Getsko, according to which “at least 70 % of Transcaipathian population” support self-determination of the region. This means that history fails in Getsko’s and his accomplices’ story about Transcarpathian historical background as a basis for every political statement and demand they make.
However the main thing is even not the fact that the essence of Getsko’s actions is more intricate and groundless, than it seems at the first glance, but the fact who really pulls the strings in this puppet theatre, the key puppet of which is Getsko himself. Debates about identity, autonomy and suchlike things are just one side of the coin, but the nature of the rhetoric together with the nature of demands suggest a clear conclusion that«major puppeteers are from… Moscow. Why so? Again, there are several reasons for that. First of all Russia traditionally supports separatist movements in the post-soviet space, such support often having not just political but also military character. Apart from painful examples of Crimea and Donbas as well as puppet states of Abkhazia and South Osetia there is also a striking example of Transnistria, where Russian troops were unceremoniously accommodated yet back in 1991. In all five hot spots authorities are “puppet” as they depend entirely upon Moscow. Obviously it is what is about to take place in the Transcarpathian region as the ideologists of Ruthenians movement turn their eyes namely on Moscow in search of support. What is the Moscow’s interest? It is multidimensional in fact. The first dimension is ideologically broader and touches upon geopolitics. It is obvious that Russia not just tries to create the most frozen conflicts in the territory of Ukraine possible but also to encircle Ukraine with them in order to isolate and weaken it. After all, it is the permanent interest of Russian Federation, the topicality of which can be proved by any action taken by Russian authorities. Having created hot spots in the South, in the East and in the West of Ukraine the Russian Federation creates preconditions for weakening Ukraine and its reintegration to the sphere of Russian influence. The second dimension is the economic one and its essence consists in the gas-transport infrastructure that is located in the Transarpathian region. For Russia to control the infrastructure means to protect its own rear, means to be able to pressure Ukraine from the both sides at a time. Given the density of pipelines traversing the region they constitute a strategially important object that is why it is vital for Russia to organize a “separatist subversive act”.
Yet another clue is the aggressive rhetoric of Getsko towards Kyiv, which is absurd in its essence. However this absurdity only underlines the artificial nature and hypocrisy of ballooning tensions and proves the existence of a more complicated and more delicate political game. In numerous interviews of Getsko he accused Kyivmultiple times of genocide of Ruthenians, Hungerians and Romanians, the absurdity of which literally exceeds any limits. However, it is not absurdity that Getsko lacks. According to state provided data as for the 2013 the Transcarpathian region is highly subsidized, with the biggest deficit of budget among the regions (4,5 billions of hryvnias), and Getsko still has enough impudence to say that he will demand from Ukraine more that 20 billion euros for the “illegal governance of Ukraine over Transcarpathia” for the last twenty something years as some kind of a compensation. He even goes further and claims that Transcarpathia will be able to survive economically by its own due to the income produced by the usage of the pipeline infrastructure. And all this he claims given the aforementioned deficit of budget and other financial turbulences.
Yet another display of Getsko’s statements’ absurdity is his allegations, in the light of the developments in the East of Ukraine that mobilization for participation in the anti-terroristic operation of the Transcarpathian population is pure genocide, and not only of Ruthenians but also of Romanians and Hungarians! Again, it is obvious that all Getsko is doing is that he plays a political game the only purpose of which is intimidate the population of Transcarpathia and to put it against Kyiv in such a way. Of course, Getsko forgot to say that mobilizing Hungarians and Romanians is the biggest absurd that could ever be articulated as these people aje not citizens of Ukraine. What touches upon “genocide” towards Ruthenians – how can one call a genocide an obligation embodied in the Constitution of Ukraine? Or don’t Ruthenians possess Ukrainian passports?
Probably, the last thing worth mentioning is the absurdity of addressing other countries – Hungary and Romania – to recognize the autonomy of Transcarpathian region within Ukraine. I am sure that Getsko is fully aware of the Helsinki principles adopted in 1975, one of key points of which were the inviolability of borders and territorial integrity of states as well as non-interference in their domestic affairs (and the matter of autonomy is nothing else, but the matter of homeland policy). Therefore it is obvious that Getsko fully realizes not just the unconstitutionality but also the criminal nature of his actions as well as the fact that no state will adopt any decision as per Transcarpathian region without close cooperation and coordination with Kyiv. So the logical conclusion is that all Getsko is interested in is just the level of hatred he will be able to fuel on the groundless basis among the population of Trascarpathian region to the services of his Kremlin masters.
All in all, even if there were some matter of concern in Transcarpathian region regarding political or social life, separatists could always find a more civilized way to solve the matters in question. However, in the absence both in retrospective and in the up-to-date realities of any attempts to build a political dialogue, in the atmosphere of ballooning tensions and given statements about the direct threat of force (no further than in summer 2014 Getsko stated that there are round three thousand armed people in Transcarpathia whom he called people’s volunteer corps) it becomes obvious that confrontation is in itself the very purpose the people behind Getsko pursue. Therefore, developments taking place in Transcarpathia is rather an act of political subversion, than a matter of purely homeland concern.