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Total population
70+ million (under the broadest
definitions of Ruthenia).
Regions with significant populations
 Ukraine 37,827,556[citation needed]
 Belarus 8,318,073[citation needed]
 Russia 2,818,431[citation needed]
 Canada 1,219,590[citation needed]
 USA 948,693[citation needed]
Previously Ruthenian and Belarusian;
currently Rusyn, Ukrainian and Slovak
Eastern Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Roman Catholic, Protestant
Related ethnic groups
Ukrainians, Belarusians, Rusyns and various Slavic peoples
Medieval Kingdom of Kievan Rus'
Ruthenians in Austro-Hungary (light green)
Ruthenians of Carpathians, Galicia, and Podole
Ruthenians of Chelm, today in Poland
Ruthenen as part of Klein-Russen (Little-Russians) and Weiss-Russen (White-Russians)
Another map depicting Ruthenians as Ukrainians and Hutzuls
Another German map of 1930, now instead of Ruthenian the territory is split to Ukrainian and Belarusian

The English language exonyms Ruthenian, Ruthene or Rusyn (Russian: Русины, Rusyny; Ukrainian: Русини/Руські, Rusyny/Rus'ki; Belarusian: Русіны, Rusyn: Русины, Rusyny) have been applied to various East Slavic peoples.

The names Ruthenian and Ruthene were historically applied to peoples speaking the eastern Slavic languages in Rus' (Русь), especially the medieval kingdom of Kievan Rus', the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Poland after Union of Lublin in 1569.

In its narrower senses, Ruthenian is an exonym for ethnic Rusyns and/or inhabitants of a cross-border region around the northern Carpathian Mountains, including western Ukraine (especially Zakarpattia Oblast; part of historic Carpathian Ruthenia), eastern Slovakia and southern Poland. This area coincides, to a large degree, with a region sometimes known in English as Galicia (Ukrainian: Галичина, Halychyna; Polish: Galicja and; Slovak: Halič). The name Ruthenian is also used by the Pannonian Rusyn minority in Serbia and Croatia, as well as Rusyn émigrés outside Europe (especially members of the Ruthenian Catholic Church). In contrast, the Rusyns of Romania are more likely to identify as "Ukrainian".

During the early modern era, the term was used primarily in reference to members of East Slavic minorities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, namely Ukrainians and Rusyns, which today are in Ukraine, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary and the Czech lands.

With the emergence of Ukrainian nationalism, during the mid-19th Century, there was a decline in use of the term Ruthenian as an endonym by Ukrainians, and it fell out of use in eastern and central Ukraine. Most people in the western region of Ukraine later followed suit later in the 19th century. After the expansion of Soviet Ukraine after World War II, groups who previously had not considered themselves Ukrainians were merged in to the Ukrainian identity.

In the Interbellum period of the 20th century, the term Ruthenian was also applied to people from the Kresy Wschodnie in the Second Polish Republic, and included Belorussians, Ukrainians, Rusyns, and Lemkos, or alternatively, members of the Uniate or Greek Catholic churches. The Polish census of 1931 had counted speakers of Belarusian, Ukrainian, Russian, and Ruthenian languages as separate categories.[1] In Galicia, the Polish government actively replaced all references to Ukrainians with the old word "Ruthenians", an action that caused many Ukrainians to view their original self-designation with distaste. [2]


The ethnonyms Ruthene and Ruthenian share their etymological origins in the Rus' people, as does "Russian". However, it has never included more than a small minority of Russians.

Ruthenian and Ruthene were originally Latinised exonyms, based on the endonymic term Rusyn an ethnonym applied to peoples speaking the eastern Slavic languages in the broad cultural and ethnic region of Rus' (Русь), especially the medieval kingdom of Kievan Rus' and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.[3] With borders that varied greatly over time, they inhabited the area that is now Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of eastern Slovakia, southern Poland, and western Russia, especially the area around Bryansk, Smolensk, Velizh and Vyazma.

Later "Ruthenians" or "Ruthenes" were used as a generic term for Greek Catholic, who inhabited Galicia and adjoining territories until the early twentieth-century; this group spoke Western dialects of the Ukrainian language and called themselves Русины, Rusyns (Carpatho-Russians).

The language these "Ruthenians" or "Ruthenes" spoke was also called the "Ruthenian language"; the name Ukrajins’ka mova ("Ukrainian language") became accepted by much of the Ukrainian literary class in the early twentieth-century in Austro-Hungarian Galicia. After the dissolution of Austria-Hungary in 1918 the term "Ukrainian" was usually applied to all Ukrainian-speaking inhabitants of Galicia.


After World War II, many Belarusians from the Eastern Borderlands (Kresy) region of pre–World War II Poland found themselves in displaced persons camps in the Western occupation zones of the post-war Germany. Germany had promoted an independent Belarusian nation since World War I to undermine both Russian and Polish claims to the region.[citation needed]. Therefore, to avoid confusion with the term "Russian" and hence "repatriation" to the Soviet Union, the terms White Ruthenian, Whiteruthenian, and Krivian were used[citation needed]. The last of these terms derives from the name of an old Eastern Slavic tribe called the Krivichs, who used to inhabit the territory of Belarus.


Main article: Rusyn people

Ruthenians who still identify under the Rusyn ethnonym consider themselves to be a national and linguistic group separate from Ukrainians and Belarusians. This has resulted in political conflict and accusations of intrigue against Rusyn activists, including criminal charges.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (Polish) Główny Urząd Statystyczny (corporate author) (1932) "Ludnosc, Ludnosc wedlug wyznania i plci oraz jezyka ojczystego" (table 10, pg. 15
  2. ^ Paul R. Magocsi. (2010). A History of Ukraine: The Land and Its Peoples. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pg. 638
  3. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica

External links[edit]