Bačka [Bachka]. A fertile lowland between the Danube River and the lower Tisa River, the greater part (8,650 sq km) of which has belonged to Yugoslavia since 1918. Along with the Yugoslavian regions Banat and Srem it has formed, since 1946, the Autonomous Region of Vojvodina within the People's Republic of Serbia.
The population of Bačka is mixed and includes about 19,000 Ukrainians who call themselves Rusini or Rusnatsi. Ukrainians settled in Bačka in the mid-18th century. Shortly after Austria defeated the Turks and annexed Bačka and Banat by the Passarowitz Treaty of 1718, the Austrian government settled the vacant area with Serbs seeking refuge from the Turks. But these Serbs were unhappy with Austrian policy and emigrated from Bačka in the 1730s–1750s. The government replaced them with Hungarian, German, Croatian, Slovak, and Ukrainian immigrants from the Prešov region (Zemplén and Borsod komitats). The resettlement movement gave rise to the first Ukrainian colonies in Bačka: Ruski Krstur (1746)—first called Báczkeresztur—which became the center of Bačka Ukrainians, Koćura (1765), and Novi Sad (1784). In the originally mixed (Orthodox and Greek Catholic) communities the Catholics gained the leading role. Their parishes came under the jurisdiction of the Croatian Greek Catholic Križevci eparchy, and this saved them from Magyarization, for the church maintained parish schools taught by teachers from Transcarpathia. The first settlers got state lands on condition that they would pay tithes to the state and work on state properties. Later settlers (19th century) were seasonal farmhands who managed to buy land. The Ukrainians quickly improved agriculture in Bačka. In the 19th-20th century they spread out from Krstur and Koćura to Vrbas (1849), Djurdjevo (1870), Gospodinci (1930), Gunaraš/Novo Orahovo (1946), and from Srem and Slavonia to Šid (1802), Petrovci (1834), Berkasovo (1850), Mikloševci (1850), Bačinci (1850), Piškorevci (1900), Andrijevci (1903), and Dalski Rit (1920). The sociocultural influence of the Bačka population was strong enough to assimilate linguistically the Lemko migrants from the Prešov region (Sáros komitat). Ukrainians were saved from Croatianization by having their own church and parish schools, but a number of small, isolated Bačka Ukrainian villages that were spread through Srem and Slavonia became Croatianized.
First the priests and then the teachers as well were the only members of the intelligentsia who were closely tied to the people. Until 1918 the teachers usually came from Transcarpathia (Hornica). It was from there that the Ukrainians of Bačka got their press and their political, Russophile orientation, which was closely related to the question of literary language (yazychiie). In 1890–1939 closer ties were established with Galicia. Theology students did their studies in Lviv; in 1897 Volodymyr Hnatiuk collected ethnographic materials in Bačka, and their publication drew the attention of scholars to the problem of the Bačka Ukrainians; the Ukrainian populists increased in strength. In 1904 Havryil Kostelnyk began to create a Bačka Ukrainian literary language based on the popular dialect (see Bačka dialect), and this language gained predominance. Bačka's annexation by Yugoslavia in 1918 put an end to Hungarian influence in education. In 1919 the Ruthenian People's Enlightenment Society was established in Novi Sad, with branches in various villages. It published the newspaper Ruski novini and annual almanacs (1921–41). The Ukrainian students in Zagreb helped in the artistic, cultural, and educational work. In 1927 the Union of Ruthenian Students was organized. With the co-operation of the Ukrainian student community in Zagreb the bimonthly Dumka (Yugoslavia) was published. In 1933 the Cultural-National Union of Ruthenians in Yugoslavia—a Russophile organization with Serbo-Orthodox tendencies—was established in Koćura. It published the weekly Russkaia zaria and yearly almanacs. With Yugoslavia's defeat in 1941, Bačka was occupied by Hungary, and all cultural and publishing activities ceased. Srem and Slavonia became part of the Croatian state. About 1,500 Bačka Ukrainians fought on Tito's side.
After 1945 Ukrainians found themselves in very difficult circumstances. The Greek Catholic church, which until then had preserved the Bačka Ukrainian culture, faced strong repression. The new government encouraged the development of a distinct Bačka ‘Ruthenian' culture within Vojvodina, but only within official guidelines.
Ruski Krstur and Novi Sad are publishing centers. Published in Ruski Krstur are the following: since 1945 the weekly Ruske slovo, since 1947 the children's monthly Pionirska zahradka, since 1952 the literary and art quarterly Shvetlosts, since 1969 Khrystyians'kyi kalendar of the Križevci eparchy, and since 1976 the annual Vysnik kul'tury. Edited in Novi Sad since 1972 is the monthly for youth Mak, and since 1975 the annual literary almanac Tvorchosts. Between 1945 and 1980, 72 ‘Ruthenian-Ukrainian' school textbooks were published. At present there are six Ruthenian-Ukrainian elementary schools in the Bačka region, and one high school, established in Ruski Krstur in 1945. Ruthenian-Ukrainian is taught at Novi Sad University. Amateur cultural circles exist in the villages. Seminars and workshops in folklore and language are held occasionally. Since 1949 a regular Ruthenian-Ukrainian radio program has been broadcast from Novi Sad. The Section for Ruthenian Cultural-Educational Work of the Union of Cultural and Educational Societies of Vojvodina co-ordinates all cultural and educational activities.
The Bačka Ukrainians have attained a high level of socioeconomic development: 20 percent of the population has a technical education; 40 percent has a secondary education. Now only 30 percent of the population is engaged in agriculture, compared with 90 percent in 1945.
Cultural activity is flourishing in the following areas: literature (Ya. Feisa, M. Vinai, D. Paparhai, M. Budynsky, M. and H. Nad, M. Skuban, A. Prokop, M. Kovach, M. and E. Kochish, M. Koloshniai, Sh. Chakan, V. Kostelnyk, D. Latiak, M. Kaniukh, and others); art (Y. Kochish, M. Mudra, H. Syva); scholarship (H. Nad, F. Labosh, M. Kochish, R. Miz, and Ya. Sabadosh); journalism (E. and D. Varga, S. Salamon, V. Nota, and others); and music (O. and I. Tymko). Since 1970 the Druzhstvo society, with 370 members, has prepared textbooks and dictionaries and has preserved the cultural monuments of the Bačka Ukrainians. Ruske Slovo publishers in Novi Sad publishes up to 10 books annually in various fields. The Bačka Ukrainians actively support the cultural life of Ukrainians in Bosnia and Croatia.
Hnatiuk, V. ‘Rus'ki oseli v Bachtsi (v Poludnevii Uhorshchyni),' ZNTSh, 22 (1898), no. 2
—’Etnohrafichni materiialy z Uhors'koï Rusy,' Etnohrafichnyi zbirnyk, 9 (1900), 25 (1909), 29 (1910), 30 (1911)
Polyvka, M. ‘Istoriia narodnei shkoly v ruskim Keresture,' Ruski kalendar za 1933 (Diakovo 1932)
Ruski kalendar za 1934 (Diakovo 1933)
Kostel'nyk, G. ‘Chom som postal ukrainets,' Ruski kalendar za 1936 (Sremski Karlovci 1935)
Varga, D. ‘Kratki istorichni prepatunok knizhovnei tvorchostsi u nashim narodze,' Shvetlosts, 1 (Ruski Krstur 1952)
Ramach, L. Ukraïntsi i rusyny v Iugoslaviï (Winnipeg 1970)
Iz istoriie voivodanskikh rusinokh do 1941 (Novi Sad 1977)
Labosh, F. Istoriia rusinokh Bachkei, Srimu i Slavonii 1745-1918 (Vukovar 1979)
Zielyk, I. ‘Ukraïntsi v Iuhoslaviï,' in Ukraïns'ki poselennia: Dovidnyk, ed A. Milianych (New York 1980)
Oleksa Horbach, Roman Miz
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]