The Zakarpattia Oblast (translit. ; see other languages) is an administrative oblast (province) located in southwestern Ukraine, coterminous with the historical region of Carpathian Ruthenia. Its administrative center is the city of Uzhhorod. Other major cities within the oblast include Mukachevo, Khust, Berehove and Chop which is home to railroad transport infrastructure.
Zakarpattia Oblast was formally established on 22 January 1946, after Czechoslovakia ceded the territory of Subcarpathian Rus to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, under a treaty between Czechoslovakia and USSR. Some scholars say that during the Ukrainian independence referendum held in 1991, Zakarpattia Oblast voters were given a separate option on whether or not they favored autonomy for the region. Although a large majority favored autonomy, it was not granted. However, this referendum was about self-government status, not about autonomy (like in Crimea).
Situated in the Carpathian Mountains of western Ukraine, Zakarpattia Oblast is the only Ukrainian administrative division which borders upon four countries: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania. The Carpathian Mountains play a major part in the oblast's economy, making the region an important tourist and travel destination housing many ski and spa resorts.
The oblast is ranked 23rd by area and 17th by population. According to the 2001 Ukrainian Census, the population of Zakarpattia Oblast is 1,254,614. This total includes people of many different nationalities of which Hungarians, Romanians and Rusyns constitute significant minorities in some of the province's cities, while in others, they form the majority of the population (as in the case of Berehove).
The lands of Transcarpatia for a long time were part of the Kingdom of Hungary which eventually transformed into the Hungarian part of Austria-Hungary until the latter's demise at the end of World War I. It approximately consists of four Hungarian counties (comitatus): Bereg, Ung, Ugocsa, and Maramaros. This region was briefly part of the short-lived West Ukrainian National Republic in 1918. The region was soon annexed by Romania by the end of that year, mostly the eastern portion such as Rakhiv and Khust. It was later recaptured by Hungarian Soviet Republic in the summer of 1919. Finally, under the name Subcarpathian Rus, after the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 it was annexed to Czechoslovakia with a supposedly equal level of autonomy as Slovakia and Bohemia-Moravia-Czech Silesia (Czech lands). Nevertheless, such autonomy was granted as late as in 1938, after detrimental events of the Munich Conference; until then this land was administered directly from Prague by the government-appointed provincial presidents (zemští prezidenti) and/or elected governors (guvernéři).
The province has a unique footnote in history as the only region in the former Czechoslovakia to have had an American governor: its first governor was Gregory Zatkovich, an American citizen who had earlier emigrated from the region and represented the Rusyn community in the U.S. Zatkovich was appointed governor by Czechoslovakia's first president, T. G. Masaryk in 1920, and served for about one year until he resigned over differences regarding the region's autonomy.
During the World War II German occupation of Czechoslovakia, the southern part of the region was awarded to Hungary under the First Vienna Award in 1938. The remaining portion was constituted as an autonomous region of the short-lived Second Czechoslovak Republic. After the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia on March 15, 1939 and the Slovak declaration of an independent state, Carpathian Ruthenia declared its independence as the Republic of Carpatho-Ukraine, but was immediately occupied and later annexed by Hungary.
During the German occupation of Hungary in 1944, almost the entire Jewish population was deported; few survived the Holocaust. In October 1944 the Sub-Carpathian Ukraine was occupied by the Red Army. In June 29, 1945, Czechoslovak President Edvard Beneš formally signed a treaty ceding the area and the next month it was united with the Ukrainian SSR through the "Manifest for unification with the Soviet Ukraine" that was accepted by the 1st Congress of People's Committees of Sub-Carpathian Ukraine without any knowledge of common people. It was then incorporated or better said annexed into the Ukrainian SSR as Zakarpattia Oblast. After the break-up of the Soviet Union, it became part of independent Ukraine.
After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine held an independence referendum in which the residents of Zakarpattia were asked about the Zakarpattia Oblast Council's proposal for self-rule. About 78% of the oblast's population voted in favor of autonomy; however, it was not granted. There were also propositions of separating from Ukraine to rejoin Czechoslovakia, but after Czechoslovakia's dissolution into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic (1993), these ideas have been rendered largely moot.
On October 25, 2008, delegates to the Congress Of Carpathian Ruthenians declared the formation of the Republic of Carpathian Ruthenia. The prosecutor’s office of Zakarpattia region has filed a case against Russian Orthodox Church priest Dmytro Sidor and Yevhen Zhupan, an Our Ukraine party deputy of the Zakarpattia regional council and chairman of the People’s Council of Ruthenians, on charges of encroaching on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine.