AN INTRODUCTION TO THE STAMPS OF CARPATHO-UKRAINE, 1939 and 1945

by Jay Carrigan and Ingert Kuzych

[This article is scheduled to be published by the Ukrainian Philatelic and Numismatic Society sometime in 2003, in a revised edition of its Handbook of Classic Ukrainian Philately, Chapter 7All rights reserved.]

Background The Uzhhorhod Provisional Overprints
The National Assembly Issue         Watermarks
The Yasinia Local Trident Overprints         First Edition
Carpatho-Ukraine Postal Rates         Second Edition
A Change in Regimes         Forgeries
 
The National Council Definitive Issues Cancellations
        First Definitive Issue Censorship
        Second Definitive Issue Epilog
        Third Definitive Issue Conclusion

Background

For centuries, the area of southwestern Ukraine known as Transcarpathia, Ruthenia, or Carpathian Ukraine was part of the Habsburg Empire rather than czarist Russia. Thus, prior to 1939, the stamps of Austria, Hungary, and then Czechoslovakia had been used in Transcarpathia. Russian or Ukrainian stamps were never employed.

While this article will focus on the issues from 1939 and 1945, when the area was referred to as Carpatho-Ukraine, a brief outline of the area’s entire postal history is in order. The following is a simplified division into 10 periods:

1.

    Pre-stamp period (to 1850)

2.

    Austrian Issues (1850-1871)

3.

    Hungarian Issues (1871-1918)

4.

    Czechoslovak Issues (1919-1939)

5.

    National Assembly (Independence) Issue (15 March 1939)

6.

    Hungarian Issues (1939-1944)

7.

    Czechoslovak Local Issues (1944) – Khust, Berehove, Mukachiv

8.

    NRZU Issues (1945) – Uzhhorod, Berehove*, Mukachiv*

9.

    Soviet Issues (1945-1991)

10.

    Ukrainian Issues (1992-present)

    * - Postal stationery only; see Chapter 14.

From 1919 to 1939, Transcarpathia was the easternmost province of Czechoslovakia (Figure 1). It was also the smallest province (4,886 square miles) and had a population of 725,357 according to the 1930 census, 71 percent of which was Ukrainian. It was during this period that Ukrainian public schools were permitted for the first time. This and other factors contributed to the rise in Ukrainian nationalism, which culminated in the 15 March 1939 declaration of independence.

The convoluted pathway by which this slice of Ukrainian ethnic territory ended up part of Czechoslovakia will not be covered here in detail. Suffice it to say that in late 1918, with the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Transcarpathian Ukrainians did make overtures to unite with the independent Ukrainian state. However, the ongoing fighting and chaotic conditions on much of Ukrainian lands in 1919 made it obvious that such a union could not occur. Not willing to join either Hungary (from whose oppression they had just emerged) or Poland (then fighting the forces of Western Ukraine), the only realistic remaining option was incorporation into the newly formed Czechoslovakia.

After much discussion and bargaining, the local Ukrainian political leaders accepted the Czechoslovak option with the stipulation that Transcarpathia would be allowed the fullest degree of autonomy within the Czechoslovak State. It is with these assurances that the Czechoslovak Republic signed the Treaty of Saint-Germain on 10 September 1919, under which Transcarpathia (now officially called Subcarpathian Ruthenia or just Ruthenia) became the easternmost province of Czechoslovakia.


Figure 1. Carpatho-Ukraine and its neighbors

Unfortunately, for the next 19 years, the Czechoslovak administration failed to implement the provisions of this treaty, seeking instead to inculcate the Czech language into all facets of daily life. While "local language" Ruthenian schools were allowed, a disproportionate number of Czech language schools were opened, causing the Ruthenians to feel threatened by the Czech penetration. Despite the improvements in everyday life that were introduced during this time period, the prolonged delay in promised autonomy and the unresolved language question fostered ever-deepening resentment among the Ruthenians toward their Czech-led government.

In September of 1938, at the Four Powers Conference in Munich, Czechoslovakia was forced to cede its German-populated Sudetenland to Germany. At this point the Czech government finally acquiesced and declared itself willing to meet the demands of both Slovakia and Ruthenia for more autonomy. The following month, Ruthenians were granted their own government under the Rev. Avhustyn Voloshyn. It is at this time also that the name of Carpatho-Ukraine was officially adopted. In November, parts of southern and western Carpatho-Ukraine were transferred to Hungary in the Vienna Award. The capital of Uzhhorod and the towns of Mukachiv (Mukachevo) and Berehove (Berehovo) were lost, forcing the Voloshyn government to transfer the seat of government to Khust.

Figure 2 shows the boundaries of Carpatho-Ukraine during World War II. The southwestern area in white was annexed by Hungary on 2 November 1938, while the shaded area was annexed on 16 March 1939. Furthermore, on 4 April 1939, Hungary also annexed a portion of eastern Slovakia (the area in white north of Uzhhorod). During World War II, this latter area was administered as part of Carpatho-Ukraine (Kárpátalja).


Figure 2. Carpathian-area border changes, 1938-1945.

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