Professor Paul Robert Magocsi, Chair of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Toronto, is the person most responsible for the active promotion of the study of the Carpatho-Rusyn ethnic group in the world today. His scholarship, in its depth and breadth, towers over the scan attention paid to the Rusyns by other scholars, especially those in the West. Indeed, Professor Magocsi is referred to in East Central Europe both pejoratively and admiringly as “mohuchyj Magocsi” — “Mighty Magocsi.” Yet this appellation is not simply due to his thorough and prodigious record of publication. Since 1989, various organizations in East Central Europe have asserted the cultural and linguistic rights of Carpatho-Rusyns as a distinct people in several countries. Most of them credit Professor Magocsi with giving them the self-confidence to act by providing the necessary historical framework of their people.
The controversy over Magocsi’s work includes a number of related but distinct areas. The Carpatho-Rusyn question has long been considered resolved by modern scholarship and administrative decree, especially in the European homeland, in favor of a Ukrainian ethnic identity. Professor Magocsi’s scholarship has analyzed the ethnic alternatives traditionally available to the Rusyns, including that of a distinct East Slavic identity. He has also considered the present-day reality of Rusyn identity, especially in response to the fact that the Ukrainian orientation has been explicitly rejected by many people of Rusyn origin in such places as the former Yugoslavia and the United States. He credits the clumsy official implementation of Ukrainianization in Communist Czechoslovakia with causing substantial Rusyn assimilation into the Slovak ethnos. Magocsi has repeatedly shown that the conclusions of ethnographers and linguists about Rusyns were ineptly and insensitively imposed on the Rusyn masses, who largely did not feel the same way.