Ruthenia (; la|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' ( orv|Рѹ́сь / ''Rus'' and / ''Rus'kaya zemlya'', grc|Ῥωσία, la|Rus(s)ia, Ruscia, Ruzzia). 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.


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. Russia itself was called ''Great Ruthenia'' or ''White Ruthenia'' until the end of the 17th century. "''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. Danish diplomat Jacob Ulfeldt, who traveled to Russia in 1578 to meet with Tsar Ivan IV, titled his posthumously (1608) published memoir ''Hodoeporicon Ruthenicum'' ("Voyage to Ruthenia").

Early Middle Ages

In European manuscripts dating from the 11th century, ''Ruthenia'' was used to describe Rus', 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 or other Baltic Slavs, whom even in the 12th century were portrayed by chroniclers as fierce pirate pagans even though Kievan Rus' had long since converted to Christianity: Eupraxia, the daughter of ''Rutenorum regis'' Vsevolod I, had married Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV in 1089. After the devastating Mongolian occupation of the main part of Ruthenia, western Ruthenian principalities were incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Polish Kingdom, then into the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. A small part of Rus' (Transcarpathia, now mainly a part of Zakarpattia Oblast), was subordinated to the Kingdom of Hungary in the 11th century.

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. 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. The Muscovy population was Eastern Orthodox and preferred to use the Greek transliteration ''Rossia'' (Ῥωσία) 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. 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: * ''Ruś Halicko-Wołyńska'' or ''Księstwo halicko-wołyńskie'' — Galicia–Volhynia or the Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia * ''Ruś Halicka'' — Galicia * ''Ruś Biała'' — White Ruthenia, (eastern part of modern Belarus) * ''Ruś Czarna'' — Black Ruthenia (a western part of modern Belarus) * ''Ruś Czerwona'' — Red Ruthenia (Galicia), western Ukraine and southeast Poland * ''Ruś Podkarpacka'' — Carpathian Ruthenia The Russian Tsardom was officially called ''Velikoye Knyazhestvo Moskovskoye (Великое Княжество Московское),'' the Grand Duchy of Moscow, until 1547, although Ivan III (1440–1505, ) had earlier borne the title "Great Tsar of All Russia".

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. 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. 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.


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

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 (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 ( hu|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. 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 Zakarpattya 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. In 1995 the Ruthenian written language became standardized.


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 after ''Ruthenia'', which was meant to be the Latin name for Russia.

See also

* Lemkos * Ruthenian (disambiguation) * Ruthenian nobility


General sources

* Norman Davies, ''Europe: A History''. New York, Oxford University Press, 1996. * *

External links

Why is the "Russia" White?
- a book review of Ales Biely's ''Chronicle of Ruthenia Alba''

{{Ruthenian lands