Historical Oddities: The World’s Shortest-Lived Country

There were a lot of aborted political movements between the World Wars, and this led to a lot of short-lived governments. With attempts at socialist governments and brief independence movements for small regions in the former Austria-Hungary, Russian Empire, and Ottoman Empire, none of the smaller countries lasted for more than a few years at most. However, there is one country that holds the undoubted record for the shortest amount of time in existence. That country is the Republic of Carpatho-Ukraine.

Carpatho-Ukraine covers the area of Carpathian Ruthenia, which was a part of Austria-Hungary in the 19th century but after World War I became part of the newly independent Czechoslovakia. The region became the semi-autonomous region of Subcarpathian Rus after Czechoslovakia designated four regions. The local Rusyn culture flourished during the 1920s and the area developed with assistance from the Czech government.

However, the growth of fascism in Europe eventually whittled Czechoslovakia down. The Munich Agreement in October 1938 gave Nazi Germany the Sudetenland in the west edge of the country. The First Vienna Award a month later permitted Hungary, also under a fascist government, to invade and occupy the southern areas of Slovakia that had significant Hungarian minorities. This included part of the Subcarpathian Rus region, and its largest city, Uzhhorod.

In March 1939, the Axis powers invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia and the country was set to be divided. Germany took the rest of Bohemia while an independent fascist government rose up in Slovakia on March 14. With order in Czechoslovakia now gone, Subcarpathian Rus declared independence as the Republic of Carpatho-Ukraine on March 15, 1939.

The Carpatho-Ukrainian parliament met in the provisional capital of Khust that day. Avgustyn Voloshyn, the head of the Subcarpathian Autonomous Region, was declared president of Carpatho-Ukraine and a constitution was drafted declaring the country an independent state. Carpatho-Ukraine maintained its independence for just over 24 hours. At the same time as the region’s parliament declared itself independent, Hungary had received assurance from Germany that Germany would not object to Hungary’s annexation of the region. So Hungarian forces invaded and encountered little resistance from the new formed Carpatho-Ukrainian army and the Czech resistance still present.

Hungary annexed Carpatho-Ukraine on March 16, and Voloshyn and the Czech soldiers escaped into neighboring Romania on March 17. The region remained part of Hungary throughout World War II, and after the war was incorporated into the Soviet Union as part of the Ukrainian SSR. The region is still part of Ukraine today. There is a small movement to gain autonomy for the region to better represent the Rusyn people.

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2 Responses to Historical Oddities: The World’s Shortest-Lived Country

  1. Audrey says:

    Great series! The maps are much appreciated!

  2. Audrey Wilcox says:

    The newly formed government got a lot done in one day!!

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