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Flag of Lemkos[1]
Members of the folk group Osławianie from Mokre in original Lemko highlander folk-costumes
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Slovakia63,556 (2021)[a][2]
 Poland11,000 (2011)[3]
 Ukraine672 (2001)[4]
Rusyn, Slovak, Polish, Ukrainian
Predominantly Ukrainian Greek Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, with Roman Catholic minorities
Related ethnic groups
Ukrainians, Boykos, Hutsuls, Rusyns

Lemkos (Rusyn: Лeмкы, romanized: Lemkŷ; Polish: Łemkowie; Ukrainian: Лемки, romanizedLemky; Slovak: Lemkovia) are an ethnic group inhabiting the Lemko Region (Rusyn: Лемковина, romanized: Lemkovyna; Ukrainian: Лемківщина, romanizedLemkivshchyna) of Carpathian Rus', an ethnographic region in the Carpathian Mountains and foothills spanning Ukraine, Slovakia and Poland.

Lemkos are considered to be a sub-group of Ukrainians. Members of these groups have historically also been given other designations such as Verkhovyntsi (Highlanders).[citation needed] Among people of the Carpathian highlands, communities speaking the same dialect will identify with a different ethnic label when crossing borders due to the influence of state-sponsored education and media. As well the same community may switch its preferred identification over time.[citation needed] In Slovakia between the 1991 and 2001 censuses, the number of people identifying as "Ukrainian" declined by 2,467 people (an 18.6% decrease) while those reporting Rusyn as their national identity increased by 7,004 people (a 40.6% increase). It is not clear however, if this refers to the same individuals switching their identification, more young first-time respondents choosing Rusyn, or migration.[5]

The spoken language of the Lemkos, which has a code of rue under ISO 639-3, has been variously described as a language in its own right, a dialect of Rusyn or a dialect of Ukrainian.[citation needed] In Ukraine, almost all Lemkos speak both Lemko and standard Ukrainian (according to the 2001 Ukrainian Census).[4] Ukraine itself categorizes Lemkos as an ethnic subgroup of Ukrainians and not as a separate ethnicity.[6] In the Polish Census of 2011, 11,000 people declared Lemko nationality, of whom 6,000 declared only Lemko nationality, 4,000 declared double national identity – Lemko-Polish, and 1,000 declared Lemko identity together with a non-Polish identity.[3]


Map of the Lemko Region according to World federation of Ukrainian Lemko organizations

The ethnonym Lemko derives from the word lem (Rusyn: лем, lit.'only').[7] The term is thought to have first originated as a nickname for users of the word lem in the borderlands between the Lemko and Boyko regions: the easternmost extent of usage of the word on the north side of the Carpathians.[8] (On the south side of the Carpathians, the analogous nickname, lemak, was used in the lem-lyš isogloss area.)[9] The ethnonym eventually entered use in academia and was first recorded in print with the 1834 publication of Grammatik der ruthenischen oder klein russischen Sprache in Galizien (lit. 'Grammar of Ruthenian or Little Russian Language in Galicia') by Yosyp Levytsky.

Ukrainian stamp featuring a Lemko woman, 2009.

As an endonym, Lemko only entered wider use in the early 20th century.[10][11] Prior to adopting the name, Lemkos would refer to themselves as Rusyns (Rusyn: Русины, romanized: Rusynŷ) or Rusnaks (Rusyn: Руснaкы, Руснаци, romanized: Rusnakŷ, Rusnacy).[11][12] By the interwar period the popularity of Lemko as an endonym had grown, and appeared in periodicals such as Lemko and Naš Lemko.[13]

Polish authorities also played a hand in popular adoption of the term leading up to World War II. Concerned by the potential for Ukrainian nationalism in the region, authorities sought to encourage Rusyn identity as a counter. This led to promotion of the exaggerated historicity of Lemkos as a distinctive ethnographic group and of their corresponding ethnonym.[14]

In the aftermath of WWII, Lemko finally supplanted Rusyn and Rusnak as the term of choice for the Rusyns on the north face of the Carpathians in Poland.[13]


Monument commemorating the deportation of Lemkos. Peremozhne, Luhansk region (Ukraine)
Tablet inscription in Polish (left) and Ukrainian: "In memory of those expelled from the Lemko Region, on the 50th anniversary of Operation Vistula, 1947–1997."

Several hypotheses account for the origin of the Lemkos, however, like all Rusyns, they most probably have a diverse ethnogenetic origin. The Lemkos (and other Carpatho-Rusyns) are considered to be descendants of the medieval White Croats,[15][16][17][18][19][20][21] affected by the migration of Rusyn-influenced Slovaks,[21] and the Vlach/Romanian migrations in the 14th and 15th centuries.[15][21][22]

The Lemko Region became part of Poland in the time of the medieval Piast dynasty but was frequently disputed with the neighbouring Rus', as can be seen by taking the town of Sanok as an example: In 981CE Vladimir I of Kiev invaded the area and took it over from Poland. In 1018 it returned to Poland, in 1031 it went back to Rus', and in 1340 Casimir III of Poland recovered it for Poland. The gord of Sanok is mentioned for the first time in Hypatian Codex in 1150. Lemkos (or their progenitors) became an ethnic minority as part of the Austrian province of Galicia in 1772.[23] Mass emigration from this territory to the Western hemisphere for economic reasons began in the late 19th century. After World War I, Lemkos founded two short-lived republics, the Lemko-Rusyn Republic in the west of Galicia, which had a russophile orientation, and the Komancza Republic, with a Ukrainophilic orientation.

It is estimated that about 130,000 to 140,000 Lemkos were living in the Polish part of the Lemko Region in 1939. Depopulation of these lands occurred during the forced resettlement, initially to the Soviet Union (about 90,000 people) and later to Poland's newly acquired western lands (about 35,000) in the Operation Vistula campaign of the late 1940s. This action was a state ordered removal of the civilian population, in a counter-insurgency operation to remove potential support for guerrilla war being waged by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) in south-eastern Poland.

Some 5,000 Lemko families returned to their home regions in Poland between 1957 and 1958,[24] (they were officially granted the right to return in 1956), the Lemko population in the Polish section of Lemkivschyna only numbers around 10,000–15,000 today. Some 50,000 Lemkos live in the western and northern parts of Poland, where they were sent to populate former German villages in areas ceded to Poland. Among those, 5,863 people identified themselves as Lemko in the 2002 census. However, 60,000 ethnic Lemkos may reside in Poland today. Within the Lemko Region, Lemkos live in the villages of Łosie, Krynica-Zdrój, Nowica, Zdynia, Gładyszów, Hańczowa, Zyndranowa, Uście Gorlickie, Bartne, Binczarowa and Bielanka. Additional populations can be found in Mokre, Szczawne, Kulaszne, Rzepedź, Turzańsk, Komańcza, Sanok, Nowy Sącz, and Gorlice.

In 1968 an open-air museum dedicated to Lemko culture was opened in Zyndranowa. Additionally, a Lemko festival is held annually in Zdynia.


Ukrainians in Poland, 2002. Note strong presence in the Recovered Territories in the north and west, due to forced resettlement during Operation Vistula.

An important aspect of Lemko culture is their deep commitment to Byzantine Christianity which was introduced to the Eastern Slavs from Byzantium via Moravia through the efforts of Saints Cyril and Methodius in the 9th century. Originally the Lemkos adhered to Orthodoxy, but in order to avoid latinization, directly entered into Union of Brest with the Roman Catholic Church in the 17th century.

Most Lemkos today are Eastern rite or Byzantine-rite Catholics. In Poland they belong to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church with a Roman Catholic minority, or to the Ruthenian Catholic Church (see also Slovak Greek Catholic Church) in Slovakia. A substantial number belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Through the efforts of the martyred priest Father Maxim Sandovich (canonized by the Polish Orthodox Church in the 1990s), in the early 20th century, Eastern Orthodoxy was reintroduced to many Lemko areas which had accepted the Union of Brest centuries before.

The distinctive wooden architectural style of the Lemko churches is to place the highest cupola of the church building at the entrance to the church, with the roof sloping downward toward the sanctuary as opposed to their neighbouring sub-ethnic groups such as the Boykos who place the highest cupola in the middle. Both groups styles have three cupola with numerous eaves.


Lemko open-air museum in Zyndranowa
Lemkos is southeastern Poland

The Slavic dialects of Central Europe form (or formed, prior to standardization) a dialect continuum with few distinct boundaries between neighbouring varieties. However the question of language boundaries has become a controversial political issue since the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and later the Soviet Union into "nation states", each having only one official language. The Lemko dialects share many features with other Carpathian ones, which are often grouped together as the Rusyn language by outside linguists.[25][26]

The Lemko dialect has been influenced greatly by the languages spoken by geographically neighboring peoples and ruling elites, so much so that some consider it a separate entity.[27][better source needed]—Lemko speech includes some patterns matching those of the surrounding Polish and Slovak languages.[citation needed]

Metodyj Trochanovskij developed a Lemko Primer (Bukvar: Perša knyžečka dlja narodnŷch škol, 1935) and a First Reader (Druha knyžečka dlja narodnŷch škol, 1936) for use in schools in the Lemko-speaking area of Poland.[28] In 1934, Lemko was introduced as the language of instruction in schools in the Lemko region. The pupils were taught from textbooks prepared by Trochanovskij and published by the State Publishing House. However, shortly before the outbreak of World War II Polish authorities replaced them with Ukrainian texts.[29] Important fieldwork on the Lemko dialect was carried out by the Polish linguist Zdzisław Stieber before their dispersal.

According to the Central Statistical Office of Poland, in the school year 2010–2011, Lemko was taught as a first language in twenty primary schools and interschool groups, and ten schools and interschool groups at junior high level, with 188 students attending classes.[30]

In the late 20th century, some Lemkos/Rusyns, mainly emigres from the region of the southern slopes of the Carpathians in modern-day Slovakia, began codifying a standard grammar for the Lemko dialect, which was presented on the 27 January 1995 in Prešov, Slovakia. In 2013 the famous novel The Little Prince was translated into Lemko by Petro Krynyckij.[31]

Lemkos in fiction[edit]

Nikolai Gogol's short story The Terrible Vengeance ends at Kriváň, now in Slovakia and pictured on the Slovakian euro, in the heart of the Lemko Region in the Prešov Region. Avram Davidson makes several references to the Lemko people in his stories.[32] Anna Bibko, mother-in-law of the protagonist of All Shall Be Well; and All Shall Be Well; and All Manner of Things Shall Be Well,[33] is a Lemko[34] "guided by her senses of traditionalism and grievance, not necessarily in that order".[35]

In the critically acclaimed movie The Deer Hunter the wedding reception scene was filmed in Lemko Hall in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio, which had a significant immigrant population of Lemkos at one time.[36] The three main characters’ surnames, however, appear to be Russian, possibly Polish and Ukrainian (Michael "Mike" Vronsky, from Polish Wroński, Steven Pushkov, and Nikonar "Nick" Chevotarevich) and the wedding was filmed inside St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox Cathedral, which is also located in Tremont.


Lemko house in Nowica in present-day Poland

The Lemkos' homeland is commonly referred to as the Lemko Region (Ukrainian: Лeмкiвщина; Rusyn: Лeмкoвина; Polish: Łemkowszczyzna). Up until 1945, this included the area from the Poprad River in the west to the valley of Oslawa River in the east, areas situated primarily in present-day Poland, in the Lesser Poland and Subcarpathian Voivodeships (provinces). This part of the Carpathian mountains is mostly deforested, which allowed for an agrarian economy, alongside such traditional occupations as ox grazing and sheep herding.

The Lemko region became part of Poland in medieval Piast times. Lemkos were made part of the Austrian province of Galicia in 1772.[23] This area was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until its dissolution in 1918, at which point the Lemko-Rusyn Republic (Ruska Lemkivska) declared its independence. Independence did not last long however, and the republic was incorporated into Poland in 1920.

As a result of the forcible deportation of Ukrainians from Poland to the Soviet Union after World War II, the majority of Lemkos in Poland were either resettled from their historic homeland to the prеviously German territories in the North-Western region of Poland or to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.[37] Only those Lemkos living the Prešov Region in present-day Slovakia continue to live on their ancestral lands, with the exception of some Lemkos who resettled in their homeland in the late 1950s and afterward. Lemkos are/were neighbours with Slovaks, Carpathian Germans and Lachy sądeckie (Poles) to the west, Pogorzans (Poles) and Dolinians (a Rusyn subgroup) to the north, Ukrainians to the east, and Slovaks to the south.

Notable Lemkos[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Listed as Rusyns; includes 23,746 as primary ethnicity and 39,810 as secondary ethnicity.


  1. ^ Pilip, Milan (2014). Medviď, Peter (ed.). Русиньска народна сiмболiка [Rusyn National Symbology] (PDF) (in Rusyn, Slovak, and English). Svidník, Slovakia: Tlačiareň svidnícka. p. 92. ISBN 978-80-89755-03-5. Retrieved 23 January 2022.
  2. ^ "Number of population by ethnicity in the Slovak Republic at 1. 1. 2021". Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic. Retrieved 23 January 2022.
  3. ^ a b Przynależność narodowo-etniczna ludności – wyniki spisu ludności i mieszkań 2011. GUS. Materiał na konferencję prasową w dniu 29 January 2013. p. 3. Retrieved 2013-03-06.
  4. ^ a b 2001 Census
  5. ^ "Table 11. Resident population by nationality - 2001, 1991" (PDF). Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic. 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 15, 2007. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
  6. ^ European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
  7. ^ Jaroslav Rudnyckyj (1982). An Etymological Dictionary of the Ukrainian Language: Parts 12–22 (in English and Ukrainian). Vol. 2. Winnipeg: Ukrainian Free Academy of Sciences (UVAN). p. 770.
  8. ^ Іван Верхратский (1902). Про говор галицких Лемків (in Ukrainian). Lviv: Shevchenko Scientific Society. p. 1.
  9. ^ Георгий Геровский (1995) [1934]. Язык Подкарпатской Руси (in Russian). Moscow. p. 22.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  10. ^ Helena Duć-Fajfer (2005). "Lemkos". Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-3566-3. By the early twentieth century the Rusyns living on the northern slopes of the Carpathians had given up their traditional ethnonym, Rusnak, for the name Lemko.
  11. ^ a b Volodymyr Kubijovyč (2013) [1993]. "Lemkos". Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine. Vol. 3. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-0802039934. Scholars and the intelligentsia began to use the name Lemko for the western groups of Ukrainian highlanders in the mid-19th century, and by the end of the century some Lemkos had accepted the name.
  12. ^ Ivanovych, Makar Y. (2009). "Лемківщина" [Lemkos]. In Smolii, Valerii A. (ed.). Encyclopedia of History of Ukraine (in Ukrainian). Vol. 6. Kyiv: Naukova Dumka. pp. 106–108. ISBN 978-966-00-0632-4. Retrieved 7 September 2022. Самі ж лемки називали себе "русинами", або "руснаками". [The Lemkos called themselves "Rusyns", or "Rusnaks".]
  13. ^ a b Maksimovich, Walter. "The origins of the term "Łemko/Lemko"". lemko.org. Archived from the original on 2022-01-13. Retrieved 25 January 2022.
  14. ^ Pasieka, Agnieszka (2021). "Making an Ethnic Group: Lemko- Rusyns and the Minority Question in the Second Polish Republic". European History Quarterly. 51 (3): 386–410. doi:10.1177/02656914211027121. S2CID 237155677.
  15. ^ a b Magocsi, Paul Robert (1995). "The Carpatho-Rusyns". Carpatho-Rusyn American. XVIII (4). The purpose of this somewhat extended discussion of early history is to emphasize the complex origins of the Carpatho-Rusyns. They were not, as is often asserted, exclusively associated with Kievan Rus', from which it is said their name Rusyn derives. Rather, the ancestors of the present-day Carpatho-Rusyns are descendants of: (1) early Slavic peoples who came to the Danubian Basin with the Huns; (2) the White Croats; (3) the Rusyns of Galicia and Podolia; and (4) the Vlachs of Transylvania.
  16. ^ Magocsi, Paul R. (30 July 2005). Our people: Carpatho-Rusyns and their descendants in North America. Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers. p. 5. ISBN 9780865166110.
  17. ^ Majorov, Aleksandr Vjačeslavovič (2012), Velika Hrvatska: etnogeneza i rana povijest Slavena prikarpatskoga područja [Great Croatia: ethnogenesis and early history of Slavs in the Carpathian area] (in Croatian), Zagreb, Samobor: Brethren of the Croatian Dragon, Meridijani, ISBN 978-953-6928-26-2
  18. ^ Magocsi, Paul Robert (2015). With Their Backs to the Mountains: A History of Carpathian Rus? and Carpatho-Rusyns. Central European University Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-615-5053-46-7.
  19. ^ Ivan Katchanovski; Kohut, Zenon E.; Nebesio, Bohdan Y.; Yurkevich, Myroslav (2013). Historical Dictionary of Ukraine. Scarecrow Press. p. 321. ISBN 978-0-8108-7847-1. In the opinion of some scholars, the ancestors of the Lemkos were the White Croatians, who settled the Carpathian region between the seventh and tenth centuries.
  20. ^ И. А. Бойко (2016). "ЛЕ́МКИ". Great Russian Encyclopedia (in Russian). Bolshaya Rossiyskaya Entsiklopediya, Russian Academy of Sciences. Сформировались к 17 в. на основе потомков историч. хорватов и укр. переселенцев (в т. ч. пленных запорожских казаков) при влиянии вост.
  21. ^ a b c "Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region in Poland and Ukraine" (PDF) (Press release). Warsaw – Kiev. UNESCO. 2011. p. 9. Retrieved 2020-08-03. The Lemkos an ethnic group inhabiting the Eastern Carpathians, between the River of Poprad to the west and the rivers of Oslava and Laborec to the east. The ethnic shape of the Lemko territory was affected by the Wallachian colonization in 14th-16th centuries, the influx of a Rusyn-influenced Slovak population and the settlement of a Slavic tribe called the White Croats, who had inhabited this part of the Carpathians since the 5th century.
  22. ^ Ewa Kocój (2015). "Heritage without heirs? Tangible and religious cultural heritage of the Vlach minority in Europe in the context of an interdisciplinary research project". Balcanica Posnaniensia Acta et Studia. Baner. 22 (1). Jagiellonian University, Faculty of Management and Social Communication, Kraków, Poland: 141–142. The prevailing religion among Lemkos and Boykos, who are the representatives of the Vlach minority in Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine, includes the Orthodox faith and then the Greek Catholic Church ... Hutsuls, who inhabit the south-west of Ukraine (Chornohora) and the north of Romania, are mostly Orthodox and, to a much lesser extent, Greek Catholics
  23. ^ a b Levinson, David (1994). Levinson, David; Diamond, Norma (eds.). Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia, China. Vol. 6. Boston, Massachusetts: G.K. Hall. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-8161-1810-6.
  24. ^ Lemko Republic of Florynka / Ruska narodna respublika Lemkiv
  25. ^ "The Rusyns". Rusyn. Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  26. ^ Best, Paul Joseph; Moklak, Jarosław, eds. (2000). The Lemkos of Poland : articles and essays. Carpatho-Slavic Studies. Vol. 1–3. New Haven, Cracow: Carpatho-Slavic Studies Group, Historia Iagellonica Press. ISBN 978-83-912018-3-1. OCLC 231621583.
  27. ^ See uk:Лемківський говір
  28. ^ Horbal, Bogdan (2005). "The Rusyn Movement among the Galician Lemkos" (PDF). In Custer, Richard D. (ed.). Rusyn-American Almanac of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society 10th Anniversary 2004–2005. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. pp. 81–91.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  29. ^ Duć-Fajfer, Helena. "Szkolnictwo na Łemkowszczyźnie (Schooling in the Lemko region)". revitalization.al.uw.edu.pl (in Polish). University of Warsaw. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  30. ^ Hornsby, Michael (2015). Revitalizing Minority Languages: New Speakers of Breton, Yiddish and Lemko. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 97. ISBN 978-1-137-49880-9.
  31. ^ Little Prince nr. PP-2812 / Lemkovian (petit-prince-collection.com)
  32. ^ Davidson, Avram (2001-12-20). "The Odd Old Bird". In Davis, Grania; Wessells, Henry (eds.). The Other Nineteenth Century. Macmillan. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-312-84874-3. OCLC 48249248. Lemkovarna, the land of the Lemkos, those Slavs forgotten by everyone save themselves
  33. ^ Wodicka, Tod (2007). All Shall Be Well; and All Shall Be Well; and All Manner of Things Shall Be Well. New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN 978-0-375-42473-1. OCLC 124165798.
  34. ^ Nicholas Lezard (28 June 2008). "Sympathy for the outsider" (book review). The Guardian. Retrieved 23 December 2009. (You could be forgiven for thinking Wodicka has made the Lemkos up. He hasn't.)
  35. ^ Janet Maslin (24 January 2008). "Mead-Drinking, Gruel-Eating, Sandal-Wearing, Reality-Fleeing Family Guy". New York Times. Retrieved 12 December 2009.
  36. ^ "Lemko Hall".
  37. ^ Kordan B (1997). "Making borders stick: population transfer and resettlement in the Trans-Curzon territories, 1944–1949". The International Migration Review. 31 (3): 704–20. doi:10.2307/2547293. JSTOR 2547293. PMID 12292959.
  38. ^ Mihalasky, Susyn Y (1997). "A Select Bibliography of Polish Press Writing on the Lemko Question". Retrieved 13 December 2009.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]