1.3.2022 – Oh Ruthenia!

Oh Ruthenia!
exonym or autonym

If there is a period in history that attracts my attention it is 1939, that time when the British Government under Neville Chamberlain tried to keep Adolf Hitler under control through a policy that came to be known as appeasement.

You know, the plan that you keep giving in to Hitler’s demands in hopes that he will get tired and go away.

Mr. Chamberlain has come out on the short end of the history stick on this topic and in Britain few charges can damage a political career more than a charge of ‘Appeasement”.

But at the time it was popular and widely supported.

Down through history, the story of one man, Winston Churchill, holding the line against appeasement and preaching Nazi wickedness is one of the great stories.

It should be remembered though, that on one of the votes on the Government policy that Churchill called for [and in the House of Commons, Members of Parliament vote by leaving the House through the Yes or No door and then gather in the lobby outside ] Churchill found himself going through the YES door with but two other members.

I love this time and I love reading the accounts of how this all came down.

I have been reading the recently re-released diaries of Sir Henry ‘Chips’ Channon.

I have more to say about these diaries another time, but Sir Henry was “an upstart Chicagoan who’d unaccountably managed to marry the daughter of an exceedingly rich Anglo-Irish Earl, moved in vertiginously high circles.”

Sir Henry got into British politics and supported Prime Minister Chamberlain and the policy of appeasement.

And he kept a diary.

As the Munich Agreement came apart and Germany and Mr. Hitler moved to take over Czechoslovakia, Sir Henry recorded that on March, 14th, 1939, that Ruthenia was proclaimed independent.

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


Never heard of it.

Thank goodness for The Google.

I had to learn the who, where and what was Ruthenia.

I had a feeling it was made up but it wasn’t.

According to Wikipedia, Carpathian Ruthenia 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.

Pump the breaks for a minute.

I mean, lean on those breaks and stop right here.

Look at those two sentences.

Hungarian Kingdom in 1000. In May 1919

Was a millennium of world history ever so easily dismissed?

If I write: Columbus came to the New World in 1492. Joseph R. Biden was elected President of the USA in 2020, the sentences would encompass some 500 years.

Hungarian Kingdom in 1000. In May 1919, covers 919 years.

And for the first time in my life I hear about Ruthenia?


The wikipedia article on Ruthenia starts with the line:

Ruthenia 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’.

That didn’t help me much.

Luckily the term exonym was linked for further examination.

According to wikipedia:

Exonyms are a type of Ethnonyms.

An exonym (from Greek: éxō, ‘outer’; also known as xenonym) is a common, external name for a geographical place, group of people, individual person, or a language/dialect, that is used only outside that particular place, group, or linguistic community. Exonyms exist not only for historico-geographical reasons, but also in consideration of difficulties when pronouncing foreign words.

Ethnonyms can be divided into two categories: exonyms (whose name of the ethnic group has been created by another group of people) and autonyms, or endonyms.

An ethnonym (from the Greek: ἔθνος éthnos ‘nation’ and ὄνομα ónoma ‘name’) is a name applied to a given ethnic group. Ethnonyms can be divided into two categories: exonyms (whose name of the ethnic group has been created by another group of people) and autonyms, or endonyms (whose name is created and used by the ethnic group itself).

As an example, the ethnically dominant group in Germany is the Germans. The ethnonym Germans is a Latin-derived exonym used in the English language. Conversely, the Germans call themselves the Deutsche, an endonym. The German people are identified by a variety of exonyms across Europe, such as Allemands (French), tedeschi (Italian), tyskar (Swedish) and Niemcy (Polish).

As a sub-field of anthroponymy, the study of ethnonyms is called ethnonymy or ethnonymics.

Ethnonyms should not be confused with demonyms, distinctive terms that designate all people related to a specific territory, regardless of any ethnic, religious, linguistic or some other distinctions that may exist within the population of that territory.

My head is spinning and I think I have to get back to bed.

The line, “Exonyms exist not only for historico-geographical reasons, but also in consideration of difficulties when pronouncing foreign words.” did catch my eye though.

I am reminded of the story of D Day and the paratroopers that were dropped over Normandy in the dark.

Those paratroopers had a special password and countersign to identify friend of foe in the dark.

The paratroopers were to call out, “Lightning?”

The proper response was “Thunder!”


Those continental Germanic peoples on the other side had problems pronouncing difficult foreign words, especially words with TH.

Them Germanic folks would have responded, TUNDER.

As for Ruthenia?

According to Wikipedia, “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.”

As Frank Lloyd Wright might have said, “There you are.”

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