860F.014/7–345: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman) to the Secretary of State

2395. ReEmb’s 2331, June 29. As Dept is aware incorporation of Ruthenia into Soviet Ukraine had been presaged by several recent manifestations of Soviet policy and did not come as a surprise. (My 866 March 22,38 1105 April 939 and 1634 May 1740 may be recalled in this connection).

Following points may usefully be noted in this connection:

Citation of ethnological affinity and of Ruthenian people for reunion with Ukrainian Motherland can only bring a smile from any one familiar with province of Ruthenia. Ruthenia was last associated with Ukraine, as far as we are aware, in your [year?] 1220: a period not likely to evoke any lively associations in minds of present population. Bulk of people are illiterate and politically apathetic. Most of them are probably inclined for economic reasons to look back on their inclusion in Hapsburg Hungary as most prosperous and happy time in recollection of living people. Outward manifestations of Ruthenia political sentiment have usually been chiefly a matter of a few intellectuals, usually not natives of the province. Claim of cultural affinity with Ukraine is tenuous and debatable. It is of fairly recent origin and its protagonists among whom the Nazis in 1939 were some of the most prominent have generally had ulterior motives.
Province contains no economic resources of any importance; its population is in a pitiable state of squalor and backwardness; and it has always been a financial burden on any larger state it was associated with. It could therefore hardly have been desired by Russia for economic reasons.
In view of the above it seems clear that main reason for cession of province was its strategic position and desire of Moscow leaders to have common frontier with Hungary. Extensive connection of Ruthenian economy with Hungary, favored by geographical factors will give Soviet authorities another channel of entry into Hungarian economic affairs.
It will be recalled that the border between Ruthenia and Slovakia (which will now be the border of the Soviet Union) was somewhat changed in favor of Ruthenia in 1939 in response to Hungarian military intimidation and German diplomatic pressure. Map published in Soviet press indicates that this line which leaves entirely in Ruthenia the railroad from Galicia to Hungary through Uzhorod has been selected as final border. We would appreciate confirmation from Prague that this is the case and if possible a description of the exact line.
Soviet press statement to effect that this completes gathering all Ukrainians into one national state deserves special attention. Some quarters will attribute this to desire on part of Soviet leaders to call a halt to aspirations of Ukrainian Communist circles which have been so liberally catered to of late. (Claims to areas west of Curzon Line41 had been voiced in Kiev on several occasions.) A more likely motive for this statement would be a desire to reassure the Poles and Slovaks—who are more aware than people in the West of flimsiness of ethnological arguments by which Galicia and Ruthenia have been declared Ukrainian and of the fact that these arguments could be evoked with little, if any, less persuasiveness in the case of peoples even farther west—that they need have no fears of further expansion of the Soviet Ukrainian administrative apparatus.

  1. Ante, p. 427.
  2. See footnote 48, p. 436.
  3. Not printed; it reported Chargé Kennan’s view that considerable significance should be attached to the publication in Moscow on May 17 of a statement by Czechoslovak Premier Zdenek Fierlinger regarding the desire of the Czechoslovak Government to settle the question of Ruthenia in a way friendly to the Soviet Union (860F.014/5–1745).
  4. For the origin and a description of the Curzon line, see Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vol. xiii, pp. 793794.