Is there a difference between Ruthenian and Ukrainian?

Harvey   Thursday, December 16, 2004, 21:44 GMT
Is the difference only religious? Or are there also linguistic differences between the two groups as well?
Easterner   Friday, December 17, 2004, 01:04 GMT
Ruthenian is the generic name for East Slavic dialects spoken on the territory of the former Austrian province of Galicia (today's West Ukraine) and in Subcarpathian Ukraine, which formed a part of Hungary in the past. It has some characteristics which make it distinct from Standard Ukrainian, and Ruthenians claim they are a separate ethnicity, though this is not officially recognised in the Ukraine, where they are considered as Ukrainians (the position of Ruthenian is somewhat similar to that of Occitan languages in South France). Interestingly, Ruthenian is recognised as a separate language in the multi-ethnic Serbian province of Vojvodina only, where it is one of the officially used languages alongside Serbian, Croatian, Hungarian, Slovak and Romanian. I am from Vojvodina myself, and I have heard Ruthenian used on a local TV station. The dialect spoken by Ruthenians there is very similar to Slovak, which is not surprising, as the two ethnicities have always lived side by side in present-day Slovakia and Carpathian Ukraine, and in the past they were not separated by political boundaries. Overall, Ruthenian can be considered as a link between the West and East Slavic group of languages.
Brennus   Friday, December 17, 2004, 06:51 GMT

I have heard that the Ruthenians are very independent minded and that neither the Russians or the Ukrainians have been able to absorb them. They were not all that happy being part of Czechoslovakia either (between 1918 and 1938) even though Czechoslovakia was a democracy.

If you type in "the Lord's prayer in slavic languages" in google, it will take you to a page that has translations of the Pater Noster in all of the Slavic languages, living and dead , and you can compare Ukrainian and Ruthenian.
Easterner   Friday, December 17, 2004, 13:06 GMT

There must be something wrong with that site of Slavic prayers, or it is just too slow to download...

By the way, it is also true that the Ruthenian areas have changed "ownership" more than once during the 20th century. Galicia was first part of Austria-Hungary, then of Poland, then the eastern part populated with Ruthenians went to the Soviet Union, where it became part of Ukraine. It had never before been part of the Russian Empire, and was always different both culturally and linguistically as well.

As for Subcarpathian Ukraine, once part of Hungary, there is a telling popular joke (to understand it, you should know that Uzhgorod is the central city of that region). The joke is about an old man who is asked about his past life, and says: "I have lived in four countries: Austria-Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and the Soviet Union". When remarked on having travelled a lot, he says: "Me? Believe me, I never ever left the city of Uzhgorod!"

Very typical for this part of Europe...
Easterner   Friday, December 17, 2004, 14:22 GMT
I have finally seen that site with the Lord's Prayer in Slavic languages. Interesting... I have not known about those northern Slavic languages, they must have been spoken a long time ago.

By the way I have a remark to make about the Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian versions. It is true that Serbian and Croatian (and "Bosnian") sound much the same, they are essentially one language with some dialectal differences. However, Slovenian is different, what is found on the site is not the right Slovenian version, because it is identical to the Serbian and Croatian one. Here it is as it should be:

Oce nas, ki si v nebesih,
posveceno bodi tvoje ime.
Pridi tvoje kraljestvo.
Zgodi se tvoja volja
kakor v nebesih tako na zemlji.
Daj nam danes nas vsakdanji kruh;
in odpusti nam nase dolge,
kakor smo tudi mi odpustili svojim dolznikom;
in ne vpelji nas v skusnjavo,
temvec resi nas hudega.
Harvey   Friday, December 17, 2004, 15:18 GMT
I had read that Ukrainian was written with the cyrillic alphabet but Ruthenian was written with a western alphabet. I assume the two languages are mutually intelligible. Any idea when they might have separated?
Harvey   Friday, December 17, 2004, 15:25 GMT
Apparently all these "North Slavonic" languages are made up (one of them, Vosgian, as recently as 1996) as a kind of intellectual exercise to see what a Northern influenced language would look like.

I found an article about it here -

Interesting, but I don't know why so many people would do that?
Denis   Friday, December 17, 2004, 15:53 GMT
Despite the fact that some words in the Ruthenian version of the Lord's Prayer look a bit peculiar (e.g. kotyri for kotryj, kozhdyj for kozhnyj etc) to me it feels more Ukrainian than the Ukrainian one on the site. LOL

The latter is a bit archaic and even has a little Russian flavour (in the words and the way the sentences are built).
The former feels more conversational, more alive so to say (with a few dialectical words) and the sentences are built in a more Ukrainian way, I'd say.

It's all subjective though.

By the way, are Ruthenians what we know as Rusyny?
Historically Ukrainians where called that way.

I'm sorry to admit it (being a Ukrainian speaker) but I know very little about the subject.
I just can compare the languages.
ved   Saturday, December 18, 2004, 14:59 GMT
Ruthenian is written in the Cyrillic alphabet, but I am not sure if it is identical to the Ukrainian one. Probably not.
Easterner   Saturday, December 18, 2004, 18:07 GMT
>>By the way, are Ruthenians what we know as Rusyny?
Historically Ukrainians where called that way. <<

That's right, this is how they call themselves. Another name they used to be called, at least in Hungarian historiography, is White Croatians, but I don't know the justification for this. The main dialectal groups are Subcarpathian (in the multi-ethnic Zakarpatye region of the Ukraine, where they constitute a majority), Hutsul, Boyko, and Lemko (this last one in Poland). As I know, the name Rusyny only referred to Ukrainians living outside Russia, but I may be wrong. The meaning of the word "Ukraina" is "border area", because it was precisely that during most of its history, and the famous Ukrainian Cossacks were border guards. The Rusyny, on the other hand, formed the non-Polish Slavic population of the Kingdom of Poland, and later the Austrian province of Galicia, where they lived together with Poles.
Easterner   Saturday, December 18, 2004, 18:17 GMT
>>Despite the fact that some words in the Ruthenian version of the Lord's Prayer look a bit peculiar (e.g. kotyri for kotryj, kozhdyj for kozhnyj etc) to me it feels more Ukrainian than the Ukrainian one on the site.<<

I guess the "Ukrainian" is the liturgic language used by the Ukrainian Orthodox church, while the Ruthenian might be used by the Greek Catholic Ruthenian church, though I am not sure.
Ved   Sunday, December 19, 2004, 06:47 GMT
Ruthenians call themselves "Rusnatsi", while Serbs refer to them as "Rusini", as far as I know.