Storozhnitsa fieldsite in western Ukraine

Primary Site Researcher

Martin Kanovsky

Dr Kanovsky is an Associate Professor of Social Anthropology at the Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia. He received his PhD from Comenius University in 1999, his dissertation being entitled ‘Semantical analysis of narratives’, and two MAs, one in History in 1994, and another in Philosophy in 1996.

He did research in the village Storozhnitsa, located in western Ukraine (Transcarpathia). His broad academic interests cover some areas of cognitive anthropology, including social classifications (race and ethnicity), essentialist thinking, and folk sociology in general. | Website


Storozhnitsa, western Ukraine, south-west of the administrative town of Uzhgorod (district Transcarpathia).


About 2,400 in July 2004.

Group identity, ethnicity and language

The ethnic structure of the village is 61 % Ukrainians, 22% Slovaks, 15% Hungarians and the rest are Romani (Gypsies), Russians and Rusyns (Ruthenians). Ethnically mixed marriages are not exceptional, and the vast majority of inhabitants are bi or trilingual.

Neither ethnic conflicts, nor ethnic hatred is expressed or encountered. Sometimes people express some prejudicies and stereotypes speaking about Roma and Ukrainians, but mostly in the form of jokes and mockery.

Originally, the village was composed of three ethnic groups: Slovaks, Hungarians, and Russyns. Ukrainians, from Eastern and northern Ukraine, have been settled there after the Second World War by the Soviet authorities.

People in Betania

Economic activities

Most people use agriculture making their living. Even people who are employed by the State, such as teachers and officials, are dependent on the land as an additional source of food to keep or to sell on the market, for their salaries are paid irregularly. There is electricity in the village, but its supply is far from being reliable.



In Storozhnitsa, four religious denominations are present: Catholicism, Byzantine (or Greek) Catholicism, Orthodox Church, and Protestantism (Helvetic - Calvinian - Confession). There are three churches in the village (Catholic, Byzantine Catholic, Orthodox).

Social organisation

Formally, the political head of the village is the mayor elected by the people for four years. His authority is very limited and he has very little influence in everyday life. The more important role is reserved for heads of families and leaders of local ethnic associations (Slovak, Hungarian).

Unlike ethnic identity proper, these ethnic association are organised according to ambilineal descent rules (the filiation is rather postulated than real and people can choose their membership). Since some formal documents are required by Slovak and Hungarian authorities to confirm that a child has the right to study (or a citizen of Ukraine the right to obtain the work permission), being 'Hungarian/Slovak living abroad', leaders of such association are very respected.

Usuallly they are ceremonial leaders during the cultural events as well. The other source of local authority is religion: religious leaders (priests of all four Christian denominations and local people appointed by them to fulfill particular tasks) are honoured and respected.


There is an elementary school (with nine grades) in the village. The level of literacy is close to 100% (Transcarpathia was the part of former Austran-Hungarian Empire and the Czechoslovak Republic with very good quality of elementary education). After they finish elementary school, children attend second level educational institutions in Uzhgorod. Many families try sending their children to Hungary or Slovakia to finish their education there.


There is a resident ambulance for adults in the village. Parents with their children may visit a hospital in the local centre Uzhgorod. Access to healthcare is relatively good, the equipment is not obsolete and people are treated well. The main problem is that people are obliged to pay for any additional treatment since the state insurance covers very small amount in terms of healthcare. This payment is very often unofficial (bribery) or semi-official. Some families are in debt and experience financial problems because of their lack of sources to pay for healthcare.

Village landscape

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Google Earth files for Storozhnitsa (KMZ, 450b)


Martin Kanovsky (forthcoming). Essentialism and folksociology: Ethnicity again (PDF, 609KB). Journal of Cognition and Culture.

Peter Jordan and Mladen Klemencic (eds.) (2004). Transcarpathia - Bridgehead or Periphery: Geopolitical and Economic Aspects and Perspectives of a Ukrainian Region (Wiener Osteuropastudien, Bd. 16). Peter Lang Publishing.

Vincent Shandor (1998). Carpatho-Ukraine in the Twentieth Century: A Political and Legal History (Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute Publications). Harvard University Press.

Paul Magosci (1978). Shaping of a National Identity: Subcarpathian Rus', 1848-1948. Harvard University Press.

J. Batt (2002). Transcarpathia: Peripheral Region at the 'Centre of Europe'. In J. Batt and K. Wolczuk (eds.) Region, State and Identity in Central and Eastern Europe, pp 155-177. Frank Cass.

J. A. Dickinson (2005). Gender, Work, and Economic Restructuring in a Transcarpathia (Ukraine) Village. Nationalities Papers, 33.3, 387-403.


Region Entry in Encyclopedia of Ukraine

All About Transcarpathia

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