Memorial in Svaliava, Ukraine
|Land Governor of Subcarpathian Ruthenia|
26 April 1920 – March 1921
|Preceded by||post created|
|Succeeded by||Peter Erenfeld|
December 2, 1886|
Holubyne, Bereg County, Austria-Hungary (now Ukraine)
March 26, 1967 80) (aged|
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
|Resting place||Calvary Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania|
|Education||University of Pennsylvania|
|Known for||Rusyn political activist|
He was the first governor of Carpathian Ruthenia, the Rusyn autonomous province of Czechoslovakia and the only American who was a governor of any territory that was or became part of the Soviet Union.
Early life and career
Involvement in Rusyn Affairs 1918-1921
Following his father's involvement in Rusyn affairs, Zhatkovich was drawn in 1918 into the role of a spokesman for the American National Council of Uhro-Rusyns, at the time when the dissolution of Austro-Hungary placed their future - as that of many other peoples - on the international diplomatic agenda.
In July 1918, Rusyn-Americans convened and called for complete independence of Carpathian Ruthenia. Failing that, they would try to unite with Galicia and Bukovyna; and failing that, they would demand autonomy, though they did not specify under which state.
Members of President Woodrow Wilson's administration told Zatkovich and other Rusyn-Americans that "the only viable option was unification with the new state of Czechoslovakia". Zatkovich accepted that the best he could do was work for creating a place for Rusyns in Czechoslovakia, and signed the "Philadelphia Agreement" with Czech President Tomáš Masaryk, guaranteeing Rusyn autonomy upon unification with Czechoslovakia.
A referendum was held among American Rusyn parishes, with a resulting 67% in favor. In May 1919, a Central National Council convened under Zatkovich and voted unanimously to accept the Czechoslovak solution. An assembly held in the territory itself on May 8, 1919 "Endorsed the decision of the American Uhro-Rusin Council to unite with the Czech-Slovak nation on the basis of full national autonomy."
Zatkovich was appointed governor of the province by Masaryk on April 20, 1920. He resigned, however, less than a year later, on April 17, 1921, to return to his law practice in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
The declared reason for his resignation was dissatisfaction with the borders with Slovakia.
As noted, his tenure is a historical anomaly as the only American citizen ever acting as governor of a province that later became a part of the USSR.
Zhatkovich died in Pittsburgh in 1967, aged 80, and was interred there at Calvary Cemetery.
The third part of the novel "A Carpathian Rhapsody", by the Hungarian left-wing writer Béla Illés - whose plot takes place in Carpathian Ruthenia between the end of the 19th Century and the aftermath of World War I - is called "Gregory Zhatkovich's Kingdom". The highly partisan book presents Zhatkovich in a negative way, claiming that he was the dupe of American and French business and military interests, and that he had little control of or interest in the territory placed under his charge.
The book also asserts that the imperial interests which placed Zhatkovich in charge were mainly interested in using the territory as a conduit for arms and ammunition to the anti-Soviet Polish forces fighting the Polish-Soviet War of 1920, than going on directly to the north, and that Zhatkovich had to resign after failing to stop local Communists from holding strikes as well as repeatedly saboataging the railway line from Prague, through which the munitions were passing.
- Magocsi, Paul Robert and Ivan Pop (2005). Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-3566-3.
- "To Proclaim Freedom in Independence Hall". New York Times. 23 October 1918. Retrieved 16 November 2010.
- p. 223
- "Gregory Zatkovich, Once Led Ruthenia". New York Times. 28 March 1967. Retrieved 16 November 2010.
- Illés, Béla (1987). Karpats'ka rapsodiia : roman, opovidannia [Carpathian rapsody] (in Ukrainian). Uzhgorod: Karpati. OCLC 224121020.
- Carpatho-rusyn.org — Zhatkovich biography
- "Ruthenia - Spearhead Toward the West", by Senator Charles J. Hokky, Former Member of the Czechoslovakian Parliament (Book includes numerous references to and quotations from Zatkovich, interpreted from a Hungarian nationalist point of view)