Ruthenian lion, which was used as a representative Coat of arms of Ruthenia during the Council of Constance in the 15th century

Ruthenia (/rˈθniə/; Latin: Rut(h)enia) is an exonym, originally used in Medieval Latin as one of several designations for East Slavic and Eastern Orthodox regions, and most commonly as a designation for the lands of Rus' (Old East Slavic: Рѹ́сь / Rus' and Рѹ́сьскаѧ землѧ / Rus'kaya zemlya, Ancient Greek: Ῥωσία, Latin: Rus(s)ia, Ruscia, Ruzzia).[1][2] During the early modern period, the term also acquired several specific meanings. The ancient land of Rus' was ruled by the Rurik dynasty. The last of the Rurikids ruled as Tsars of all Rus/Russia until the 16th century.[3]


The word Ruthenia originated as a Latin designation of the region whose people originally called themselves the Rus'. During the Middle Ages, writers in English and other Western European languages applied the term to lands inhabited by Eastern Slavs.[4][5] Russia itself was called Great Ruthenia or White Ruthenia until the end of the 17th century.[6] "Rusia or Ruthenia" appears in the 1520 Latin treatise Mores, leges et ritus omnium gentium, per Ioannem Boëmum, Aubanum, Teutonicum ex multis clarissimis rerum scriptoribus collecti by Johann Boemus. In the chapter De Rusia sive Ruthenia, et recentibus Rusianorum moribus ("About Rus', or Ruthenia, and modern customs of the Rus'"), Boemus tells of a country extending from the Baltic Sea to the Caspian Sea and from the Don River to the northern ocean. It is a source of beeswax, its forests harbor many animals with valuable fur, and the capital city Moscow (Moscovia), named after the Moskva River (Moscum amnem), is 14 miles in circumference.[7][8] Danish diplomat Jacob Ulfeldt, who traveled to Russia in 1578 to meet with Tsar Ivan IV, titled his posthumously (1608) published memoir Hodoeporicon Ruthenicum[9] ("Voyage to Ruthenia").[10]

Early Middle Ages

European manuscripts dating from the 11th century used the name Ruthenia to describe Rus',[citation needed] the wider area occupied by the ancient Rus' (commonly referred to as Kievan Rus'). This term was also used to refer to the Slavs of the island of Rügen[11] or to other Baltic Slavs, whom 12th-century chroniclers portrayed as fierce pirate pagans - even though Kievan Rus' had converted to Christianity by the 10th century:[12][need quotation to verify] Eupraxia, the daughter of Rutenorum regis Vsevolod I of Kiev, had married the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV in 1089.[13] After the devastating Mongolian occupation of the main part of Ruthenia which began in the 13th century, western Ruthenian principalities became incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish Kingdom, then into the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. A small part of Rus' (Transcarpathia, now mainly a part of Zakarpattia Oblast in present-day Ukraine), became subordinated to the Kingdom of Hungary in the 11th century.[14]

Late Middle Ages

By the 15th century the Moscow principality (or Muscovy, Moscovian Rus) had established its sovereignty over a large portion of ancient Ruthenian territory, including Novgorod and Pskov, and began to fight with Lithuania over the remaining Ruthenian lands.[15][16] In 1547 the Moscow principality adopted the title of The Great Principat of Moscow and Tsardom of the Whole Rus and claimed sovereignty over "all the Rus'" — acts not recognized by its neighbour Poland.[17] The Muscovy population was Eastern Orthodox and preferred to use the Greek transliteration Rossia (Ῥωσία)[18] rather than the Latin "Ruthenia".

In the 14th century the southern territories of ancient Rus', including the principalities of Galicia–Volhynia and Kiev, became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which in 1384 united with Catholic Poland in a union which became the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569. Due to their usage of the Latin script rather than the Cyrillic script, they were usually denoted by the Latin name Ruthenia. Other spellings were also used in Latin, English, and other languages during this period.[citation needed] Contemporaneously, the Ruthenian Voivodeship was established in the territory of Galicia-Volhynia and existed until the 18th century.

These southern territories have corresponding names in Polish:

The Russian Tsardom was officially called Velikoye Knyazhestvo Moskovskoye (Великое Княжество Московское), the Grand Duchy of Moscow, until 1547, although Ivan III (1440–1505, r. 1462–1505) had earlier borne the title "Great Tsar of All Russia".[19]

Modern Age


The use of the term Rus/Russia in the lands of ancient Rus' survived longer as a name used by Ukrainians for Ukraine. When the Austrian monarchy made vassal state Galicia–Lodomeria a province in 1772, Habsburg officials realized that the local East Slavic people were distinct from both Poles and Russians and still called themselves Rus. This was true until the empire fell in 1918.[citation needed]

In the 1880s through the first decade of the 20th century, the popularity of the ethnonym Ukrainian spread, and the term Ukraine became a substitute for Malaya Rus' among the Ukrainian population of the empire. In the course of time, the term Rus became restricted to western parts of present-day Ukraine (Galicia/Halych, Carpathian Ruthenia), an area where Ukrainian nationalism competed with Galician Russophilia.[20] By the early 20th century, the term Ukraine had mostly replaced Malorussia in those lands, and by the mid-1920s in the Ukrainian diaspora in North America as well.

Rusyn (the Ruthenian) has been an official self-identification of the Rus' population in Poland (and also in Czechoslovakia). Until 1939, for many Ruthenians and Poles, the word Ukrainiec (Ukrainian) meant a person involved in or friendly to a nationalist movement.[21]


The Russians, the most numerous cultural descendants of the ancient Rus', retain the name (russkie) for their ethnicity, while the name of their state, Rus', was gradually replaced by its Greek transliteration Rossia. The Russian population dominates the former territory of Muscovy, Vladimir Rus', the Grand Principality of Smolensk, the Novgorod Republic, and the Pskov Republic; they also constitute a significant minority in Ukraine and Belarus.

Modern Ruthenia

Map of the areas claimed and controlled by the Carpathian Ruthenia, the Lemko Republic and the West Ukrainian People's Republic in 1918
Autonomous Subcarpathian Ruthenia and independent Carpatho-Ukraine 1938–1939.

After 1918, the name Ruthenia became narrowed to the area south of the Carpathian Mountains in the Kingdom of Hungary, also called as Carpathian Ruthenia (Karpatska Rus, including the cities of Mukachevo, Uzhhorod, and Prešov) and populated by Carpatho-Ruthenians, a group of East Slavic highlanders. While Galician Ruthenians considered themselves Ukrainians, the Carpatho-Ruthenians were the last East Slavic people who kept the ancient historic name (Ruthen is a Latin form of the Slavic rusyn). Today, the term Rusyn is used to describe the ethnicity and language of Ruthenians, who are not compelled to adopt the Ukrainian national identity.

Carpathian Ruthenia (Hungarian: Kárpátalja) became part of the newly founded Hungarian Kingdom in 1000. In May 1919, it was incorporated with nominal autonomy into the provisional Czechoslovak state as Subcarpathian Rus'. Since then, Ruthenian people have been divided into three orientations: Russophiles, who saw Ruthenians as part of the Russian nation; Ukrainophiles, who like their Galician counterparts across the Carpathian Mountains considered Ruthenians part of the Ukrainian nation; and Ruthenophiles, who claimed that Carpatho-Ruthenians were a separate nation and who wanted to develop a native Rusyn language and culture.[22][verification needed]

On 15 March 1939, the Ukrainophile president of Carpatho-Ruthenia, Avhustyn Voloshyn, declared its independence as Carpatho-Ukraine. On the same day, regular troops of the Royal Hungarian Army occupied and annexed the region. In 1944 the Soviet Army occupied the territory, and in 1945 it was annexed to the Ukrainian SSR. Rusyns were not an officially recognized ethnic group in the USSR, as the Soviet government considered them to be Ukrainian.

Today, the Ukrainian government and some modern Ukrainian politicians claim that Rusyns are part of the Ukrainian nation. Some of the population in the Zakarpattia Oblast of Ukraine consider themselves Rusyns (Ruthenians), yet they are still a part of the Ukrainian national identity.

A Rusyn minority remained after World War II in eastern Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia). According to critics, the Ruthenians rapidly became Slovakized.[23] In 1995 the Ruthenian written language became standardized.[24]


The Baltic German naturalist and chemist Karl Ernst Claus, member of the Russian Academy of Science, was born in 1796 in Dorpat (Tartu), then in the Governorate of Livonia of the Russian Empire, now in Estonia. In 1844, he isolated the element ruthenium from platinum ore found in the Ural Mountains and named it after Ruthenia, which was meant to be the Latin name for Russia.[25]

See also


  1. ^ Nazarenko, Aleksandr Vasilevich (2001). "1. Имя "Русь" в древнейшей западноевропейской языковой традиции (XI-XII века)" [The name Rus' in the old tradition of Western European language (XI-XII centuries)]. Древняя Русь на международных путях: междисциплинарные очерки культурных, торговых, политических связей IX-XII веков [Old Rus' on international routes: Interdisciplinary Essays on cultural, trade, and political ties in the 9th-12th centuries] (DJVU) (in Russian). Languages of the Rus' culture. pp. 40, 42–45, 49–50. ISBN 978-5-7859-0085-1. Archived from the original on 14 August 2011.
  2. ^ Magocsi, Paul R. (2010). A History of Ukraine: The Land and Its Peoples. University of Toronto Press. p. 73. ISBN 978-1-4426-1021-7. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  3. ^ "Rurik Dynasty | medieval Russian rulers". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2011. Rvcia hatte Rutenia and is a prouynce of Messia (J. Trevisa, 1398).
  5. ^ Armstrong, John Alexander (1982). Nations Before Nationalism. University of North Carolina Press (published 2017). p. 228. ISBN 9781469620725. Retrieved 7 July 2019. From the linguistic standpoint, the results of this catastrophe [the Mongol invasion] somewhat resemble the collapse of the Roman empire for the latin-speaking peoples. Like the great 'Romania' of the Western Middle Ages, there was a great 'Ruthenia' in which common linguistic origin and some measure of mutual comprehensibility was assumed.
  6. ^ Флоря, Борис (2017). "О некоторых особенностях развития этнического самосознания восточных славян в эпоху средневековья – раннего Нового времени". In Флоря, Борис; Миллер, Алексей; Репринцев, В. (eds.). Russia – Ukraine: a history of mutual relations (collection) Россия – Украина. История взаимоотношений (сборник) [Rossiya – Ukraina. Istoriya vzaimootnosheniy (sbornik)] (in Russian). Moscow: Shkola YAzyki russkoi kultury. pp. 9–28. ISBN 9785457502383. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  7. ^ Мыльников, Александр (1999). Картина славянского мира: взгляд из Восточной Европы: Представления об этнической номинации и этничности XVI-начала XVIII века. Saint Petersburg: Петербургское востоковедение. pp. 129–130. ISBN 5-85803-117-X.
  8. ^ Сынкова, Ірына (2007). "Ёган Баэмус і яго кніга "Норавы, законы і звычаі ўсіх народаў"". Беларускі Гістарычны Агляд. 14 (1–2).
  9. ^ Ulfeldt, Jacob (1608). Hodoeporicon Ruthenicum, in quo de Moscovitarum Regione, Moribus, Religione, gubernatione, & Aula Imperatoria quo potuit compendio & eleganter exequitur [...] (in Latin) (1 ed.). Frankfurt. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  10. ^ Kasinec, Edward; Davis, Robert H. (2006). "The Imagery of Early Anglo-Russian Relations". In Dmitrieva, Ol'ga; Abramova, Natalya (eds.). Britannia & Muscovy: English Silver at the Court of the Tsars. Yale University Press. p. 261. ISBN 9780300116786. Retrieved 7 July 2019. [...] [Jacob Ulfeldt's] Hodoeporicon Ruthenicum ['Ruthenian Journey'] (Frankfurt, 1608 [...]) [...].
  11. ^ Ebbo, Herbordus The Life of Otto, Apostle of Pomerania: 1060 – 1139
  12. ^ Paul, Andrew (2015). "The Roxolani from Rügen: Nikolaus Marshalk's chronicle as an example of medieval tradition to associate the Rügen's Slavs with the Slavic Rus". The Historical Format. 1: 5–30.
  13. ^ Annales Augustani. 1839. p. 133.
  14. ^ Magocsi 1996, p. 385.
  15. ^ Grand Principality of Moscow Britannica
  16. ^ Ivan III Britannica
  17. ^ Dariusz Kupisz, Psków 1581–1582, Warszawa 2006, s. 55–201.
  18. ^ T. Kamusella (16 December 2008). The Politics of Language and Nationalism in Modern Central Europe. Palgrave Macmillan UK. pp. 164–165. ISBN 978-0-230-58347-4.
  19. ^ Trepanier, Lee (2010). Political Symbols in Russian History: Church, State, and the Quest for Order and Justice. Lexington Books. pp. 38–39, 60. ISBN 9780739117897.
  20. ^ Magocsi 1996, p. 408-409,444:"Throughout 1848, the Austrian government gave its support to the Ukrainians, both to their efforts to obtain recognition as a nationality and to their attempts to achieve political and cultural rights. In return, the Ukrainian leadership turned a blind eye to the political reaction and repressive measures that at the same time were being carried out by Habsburg authorities against certain other peoples in the empire" (pp. 408–409) ... "Most important from the standpoint of the debate as to the proper national orientation was the Austrian government's decision in 1893 to recognize the vernacular Ukrainian (Rusyn) language as the standard for instructional purposes. As a result of this decision, the Old Ruthenian and Russophile orientations were effectively eliminated from the all-important educational system" (pp. 444)
  21. ^ Robert Potocki, Polityka państwa polskiego wobec zagadnienia ukraińskiego w latach 1930–1939, Lublin 2003, wyd. Instytut Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej, ISBN 83-917615-4-1, s. 45.
  22. ^ Gabor, Madame (Autumn 1938). "Ruthenia". The Ashridge Journal. 35: 27–39.
  23. ^ "The Rusyn Homeland Fund". 1998. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  24. ^ Paul Robert Magocsi: A new Slavic language is born, in: Revue des études slaves, Tome 67, fascicule 1, 1995, pp. 238–240.
  25. ^ Pitchkov, V. N. (1996). "The Discovery of Ruthenium". Platinum Metals Review. 40 (4): 181–188.


External links

  • Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Ruthenians" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  • Why is the "Russia" White? - a book review of Ales Biely's Chronicle of Ruthenia Alba
  • "Ruthenia – Spearhead Toward the West", by Senator Charles J. Hokky, Former Member of the Czechoslovakian Parliament (Book representing a Hungarian nationalist position)