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On this Day, in 1945: Carpathian Ruthenia was annexed by the Soviet Union

On June 29, 1945, Czechoslovak President Edvard Beneš, pressured by Czech and Slovak communists, signed a treaty with the Soviet Union ceding Carpathian Ruthenia to the Soviet Union.

Following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, the historic region of Transcarpathia, situated at the border between Central and Eastern Europe, became part of the newly-formed Kingdom of Hungary.

But after the Paris Peace Conference, the area was annexed by Czechoslovakia and officially renamed to Subcarpathian Ruthenia, the country’s fourth province after Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia.

However, as a result of the 1938 Munich Agreement, Czechoslovakia was forced to cede southern Carpathian Ruthenia to Hungary while the remainder of the region received autonomy and was renamed to Carpathian Ukraine.

Following the Slovak proclamation of independence and the Nazis’ seizure of the Czech lands in March 1939, Carpathian Ukraine declared its independence from Czechoslovakia as the Republic of Carpatho-Ukraine, before being immediately occupied and annexed by Hungary.

The Hungarian invasion, which provisionally restored the former counties of Ung, Bereg and Máramaros, was followed by weeks of terror in which more than 27,000 people were shot dead without trial and investigation.

After the German occupation of Hungary, the pro-Nazi policies of the Hungarian government resulted in the setting up of 17 ghettos in Carpathian Ruthenia; of more than 100,000 Carpathian Ruthenian Jews, around 90,000 were murdered, many of them at Auschwitz.

But in October 1944, Carpathian Ruthenia was taken by the Red Army, leading many ethnic Hungarians to flee the area as those who remained were deported to labour camps in the Soviet Union.

A Czechoslovak delegation was quickly dispatched to the area to mobilise the liberated local population to form a Czechoslovak army and to prepare for elections. But the Soviet military prevented them from establishing a cooperative relationship with the local national committees promoted by the Soviets, despite protests from the Czechoslovak government-in-exile.

In June 1945, Czechoslovak President Edvard Beneš, pressured by Czech and Slovak communists, signed a treaty with the Soviet Union ceding Carpathian Ruthenia to the Soviets. A year later, Transcarpathia became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, as the Zakarpattia Oblast.

Today part of Ukraine, with smaller parts in Slovakia and Poland, Carpathian Ruthenia is an ethnically diverse region, inhabited by Hungarian, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Polish, Jewish and Romani minorities.

Find out more about Central European history in our new On this Day series.

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