Embassy of Ukraine to Serbia

Kyiv 17:55

Ukrainians in Serbia

Ukrainian – Rusyn community in the Republic of Serbia

History of the Ukrainian community in Serbia

Ukrainians migrated from the territory of Ukraine to the territory of today’s Republic of Serbia in ancient times and in different historical and economic conditions. Migration of scientists and religious people began in XV century in the times of Turkish occupation of the Balkan Peninsula. This process gradually increased especially in the beginning of XVIII century. The most intensive and massive migration was to the territory of today’s Serbian Vojvodina which was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is worth to note that professors from Kyiv’s Academy were teachers of Latin and Slavic languages, Philosophy and Theology in Sremski Karlovci in 1735. M. Kozachynskyi was one of the most famous among them. He wrote and together with his pupils played the first Serbian spectacle.

Being of Ukrainian monks in the Fruška Gora monasteries in the beginning of VXIII century opened one more chapter of Ukrainian-Serbian ties. For example, Arsenii Yovanovych Shakabenda from the Kyiv-Pechersk Monastery brought icon painters to Karlovac’s Metropolis in 1743. Those artists painted monasteries and taught Serbian young painters. Some of those wall paintings are on the walls and arcs of the monasteries in Fruška Gora. There are such church books printed in Ukraine as Kyiv’s (psalms, liturgy, Bible, lives of saints, apostles, apostolic call, canons, religious alphabets) in Serbian monasteries Obed (not existing), Vrdnik, Jazak, Besenovo, Sisatovac, Pjatkovica, Kuvezdin, Divsa, Privina Golova, Hopovo, Krusedol, Velika Remeta, Grgeteg, Rakovica and Beocin. There were also books on natural sciences, dialogs, philosophy and others. The majority of them have been saved.

In the first half of XVII century, after Austria forced Turkey to leave the South-Eastern regions of Europe, a new wave of migration from the whole Empire to those regions started. Regions of current Vojvodina were less populated and economically developed at that time. The situation became worth after Serbians had migrated to Ukraine and created New Serbia and Slavic Serbia. The colonization of Slovaks, Czechs, Germans, Polishes and other peoples on those free lands started.

Replacement of Slavic peoples from the territory of current Ukraine to Backa, Srem and Slavonija started in 1745. The first organized settlements were in Kula, Krstur (Ruski Krstur), Kucur and other villages around Backa and later around Sid and Srem.

Zaporizhzhya Cossacks in Vojvodina. In 1775 the Russian Empress Yekaterina II Velikaya drove out Cossacks from the Empire after she had destroyed the Ukrainian Cossacks’ state on the banks of Dniper – Zaporizhzhya Sich. The Cossacks were moving several years in the Turkish Empire, along Danube, in Moldova and the Tatar region. Having been dissatisfied by the conditions of life in Turkey the Cossacks asked the Austrian Imperator Joseph II to permit them to migrate to the Empire. They reached an agreement after long talks but the conditions of replacement were not appropriate for the Cossacks. They had to find armament and horses themselves and serve under the authority of German officers. They had to wear their national Cossack uniform. They didn’t have right to marry and were limited in movement. The payment for their service was minimal. In such conditions from 7 000 to 8 000 of Ukrainians moved to Serbia in 1785. It was the second wave of Ukrainian migration to the territory of current Vojvodina. Part of Cossacks, which formed small military groups, was located in the military zone close to Turkey. Cossacks in the region of Banat had their meeting centre in Temisvar and brigades from Pancevo and Bela Crkva had their meeting centre in Senta. People from that centre were later recruited to militia in Subotica, Novi Sad and Sombor. Being old Cossacks retired from the force with a small salary and stayed in Titel, Kovil and Sajkas.

The further fate of Ukrainians is not clear. Some historians consider that the Cossacks’ (плем’я) died because of (заборона) to have a family. Other historians think that Cossacks mixed with local citizens and became Serbians. Part of Cossacks might come back to the Danube Sich or to the Dniper banks that was their motherland. There are not evidences of staying of those Ukrainians today.

Emigration in 1920s. In 1920s (at the time of the Great October Revolution in Russia) about 70 thousands of refugees from Ukraine and the Southern Russia found an asylum in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. There were about 40 thousands of militaries and 30 thousands of civilians among migrants. There is a suggestion that there were about 30 thousands of Ukrainians among them. They were firstly settled in near 300 colonies all over the Kingdom. They got right to choose the region of their settlement freely just in 1924. A part of them decided to stay in Serbia but the majority of Ukrainians from the Western Ukraine chose Croatia, Vojvodina and Slovenia.

The cultural community “Prosvita” and further “Ukrainian Society” were established. Ukrainians prepared Shevchenko evening meetings, sang Ukrainian songs, read poems, danced Ukrainian dances, opened libraries and reading halls in purchased buildings. The Shevchenko evening meetings in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes transmitted into Ukrainian Culture Days. The theatre group of the Society played Ukrainian pieces. In cooperation with the Serbian choir it organized successful concerts including Serbian and Ukrainian song. Later “Prosvita” opened its branches in Novi Sad, Veliki Beckerek (now Zrenjanin), Subotica, Sid and other towns. The community “Kobzar” was established in Smederevo. It included theatre and musical groups. There were Ukrainian amatory theatre groups in Sabac, Pozarevac, Zajecar and other towns. Students established the Community of Ukrainian students. There were a lot of educated persons among emigrants (professors, lawyers, doctors, pharmacists, artists and others) who made huge contribution to education, culture and art of Serbia between the two world wars.

Colonization of Vojvodina. The most massive replacements of Ukrainians from Bosnia to Serbia were after the WWII in 1945-1946. The new state, the Federal People Republic of Yugoslavia, started populating Vojvodina by partisan families from Bosnia, Lika, Banja, Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia. Several Ukrainian families were replace at that time. Ukrainians settled in Ruske Selo, Novi Kozarci, Krajisnik near Banat, Budisav, Kovil, Kaca, Backa Jarka, Zmajev, Ratkovo and other villages near Banat. Several Families settled near Zemun. Taking into account large territory and small number of families which settled there communities were not numerous.

Separate settlements. Ukrainians actively migrated from Bosnia to Vojvodina looking for better conditions of life in 1950s and 1960s. This led to creation of the Ukrainian community in Vojvodina. It was impossible to (визначити) the number of Ukrainians in Vojvodina after the WWII. Ukrainian minority didn’t exist as a organized community and was marked as “Rusyns, Rutens, Ukrainians, Maloruses” or was by belonging to religion orientations. Those data didn’t show the real number of Ukrainians who got its national identity in lists of nationalities after (перепис) in 1971.

Today

According to the data of 2002 about 16 thousands of citizens of Serbia say that they are Rusyns and about 5 thousands – Ukrainians.

The Ukrainian minority live mostly in Vojvodina. Novi Sad, Vrbas, Kula, Sremska Mitrovica and Indjija are administrative centres for Ukrainians and Novi Sad, Ruski Krstur, Kucura, Djurdjevo and Sid – Rusyns. A few Ukrainians and Rusyns live in Belgrade.

Rusyns elected the National Council of Rusyn National Community of Serbia on 4th November 2018. Boris Sakach was appointed as the President of the Council.

Ukrainians elected the National Council of Ukrainian National Community of Serbia on 4th November 2018. The Council included 15 members. Mikola Liahovich was appointed the President of the Council.

Besides them Ukrainian-Rusyn community established the Union of Rusyns – Ukrainians of Serbia (member of the World Federation of Lemkos) and the Society of the Ukrainian language, literature and culture “Prosvita” and other local cultural societies.

The President of the Union of Rusyns – Ukrainians of Serbia B.Vislavskyi (appointed in 2008), the Honoured President of the Union S.Sakach and members of the organization lead activities to organizing cultural and educative events aimed at preserving Ukrainian conciseness of the minority. They organize summer schools for young people, exhibitions, lectures devoted to important events of Ukraine’s history and history of Rusyns and Ukrainians in Serbia.

The Society of the Ukrainian language, literature and culture “Prosvita” (the head is S.Mykytyshin) is popular civil society organization of the Ukrainian community. Due to activities of the Society in Novi Sad, Kula, Vrbas, Indjija and Sremska Mitrovica the level cultural life of Ukrainians became higher.

The Society of Ivan Seniuk from Kula, the Society “Carpathians” from Verbac, “Kolomyika” from Sremska Mitrovica play important role in preserving Ukrainian culture.

Ensuring educational rights

According to official data Rusyn language in the Vojvodina is taught in 65 elementary and 21 high schools, the Rusyn gymnasium “Peter Kuzmyak” (Ruski Kerestur), the Cathedra of Rusyn Language and Literature on the Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad University.

Ukrainian language with elements of national culture is taught to pupils of 1-8 farms of 12 Serbian schools in Novi Sad, Kula, Vrbac, Indjija, Sremska Mitrovica, Budisava and Lavino in Vojvodina.

Representatives of the Ukrainian nationality are taught in the Section of Ukrainian language of the Philological Faculty in Belgrade University.

Mass-media of the Community

The weekly “Ruske slovo”, the newspaper for young people “MAK”, the magazine for children “Zagradka”, the literature magazine “Shvetlosts” and the magazine “Golos Soyuzu” are edited in Rusyn language. There is the Rusyn reduction on the Vojvodina Television which has 4 hours program daily. The Rusyn language is also used on local televisions in Kula, Vrbas and Sid.

Ukrainian programs on the Vojvodina Television are prepared by Ukrainian journalists just for the Rusyn reduction. Besides Novi Sad Ukrainian radio is also in Vrbas, Kula, Indjija, Sremska Mitrovica. 30-minutes TV program “Ukrainian Panorama” is transmitted on the TV-channel RTS-2 two times per month. There are also the Ukrainian newspaper “Ridne Slovo” (since 2005), the calendar “Ridne Slovo”, the magazine “Ukrajinske Slovo” and the magazine for children “Soloveiko”.