Gregory Žatkovich

Gregory Zhatkovich

Memorial in Svaliava, Ukraine
Land Governor of Subcarpathian Ruthenia
In office
26 April 1920  March 1921
President Tomáš Masaryk
Preceded by post created
Succeeded by Peter Erenfeld
Personal details
Born December 2, 1886
Holubyne, Bereg County, Austria-Hungary (now Ukraine)
Died March 26, 1967(1967-03-26) (aged 80)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Resting place Calvary Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Parents Paul Zhatkovich
Education University of Pennsylvania
Occupation lawyer
Known for Rusyn political activist

Gregory Ignatius Zhatkovich (Rusyn: Ґріґорій Жатковіч) (December 2, 1886 March 26, 1967) was an American lawyer and political activist for Rusyns in the United States and Europe.

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

He was born in the village of Holubyne, Bereg County, Austria-Hungary (now Svaliava Raion, Zakarpattia Oblast, Ukraine) and emigrated to Pennsylvania with his parents at age five.

His father, Paul Zhatkovich, was the founding editor of the leading Rusyn-American newspaper, Amerikansky Russky Viestnik.

Zhatkovich graduated from high school in Pittsburgh, earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1907, and his LL.D. from the law school at Penn in 1910.

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.[1]

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.

Gregory Žatkovich signing the Declaration of Common Aims at Independence Hall, Phila. PA 10-26-1918.

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.

Gregory Žatkovich, Gov. of Ruthenia

The declared reason for his resignation was dissatisfaction with the borders with Slovakia.[2]

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,[3] and was interred there at Calvary Cemetery.


In fiction

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".[4] 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.

See also


  1. "To Proclaim Freedom in Independence Hall". New York Times. 23 October 1918. Retrieved 16 November 2010.
  2. p. 223
  3. "Gregory Zatkovich, Once Led Ruthenia". New York Times. 28 March 1967. Retrieved 16 November 2010.
  4. Illés, Béla (1987). Karpats'ka rapsodiia : roman, opovidannia [Carpathian rapsody] (in Ukrainian). Uzhgorod: Karpati. OCLC 224121020.
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