So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The People From Nowhere: An Illustrated History of Carpatho-Rusyn


The People From Nowhere: An Illustrated History of Carpatho-Rusyns by Paul Robert Magocsi

Both my parents are from a small town near the Carpathian Mountains in what is now Western Ukraine. In the last 100 years this small town has been in the following countries: Austria-Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Carpatho-Ukraine (for one day on March 15, 1939), Hungary, USSR, and Ukraine. They speak a language (or dialect) they call Ponashemu (which I am told means "what we speak") but is officially called Rusyn, and they call themselves names like Rusyns, or Ruthenians, or Carpatho-Rusyns, or Slavish, or Byzantines, or the "ponashemu" people. They are what Paul Robert Magocsi calls in this book "The People From Nowhere."

The title comes from Andy Warhol (originally Warhola), a famous Rusyn-American, who often said he was from Nowhere. The place he was from is the Carpathian Mountains and his people are the Rusyns who are the subject of this book. Their homeland stretches through south east Poland, north east Slovakia, western Ukraine, eastern Hungary and northern Romania. Various voluntary and forced movements have created large communities in Serbia, Czech Republic, USA, Canada and Australia. I have found people with my mother's unusual maiden name in Brazil.

Dr. Magocsi is Chair of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Toronto and the leading expert on the Rusyn people. He has written many books both scholarly and popular about them. I have found this to be the most scholarly of his popular books with pictures on every page and a good survey of the history of this people and their land. It was published in Uzhhorod (or Uzhgorod), the major city of the region, simultaneously in three different language editions: English, Rusyn and Ukrainian. The book is chronological and focuses on major male figures and historic events. His mastery of the subject is evident and the pictures are well selected. While this will mostly be of interest to Rusyns, it is a good book for getting a brief overview of their history for anyone who wants to learn about them or this region.

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