Many years ago I visited a friend in the Hutsul part of Zakarpattia.  We went out to tea, and she shared a favorite anecdote.

Q:  What are Ukrainians?

A:  People who speak Ukrainian and follow Ukrainian traditions.

Q:  What are Hutsuls?
A:  Wild (untamed) Ukrainians!

Hutsuls are one of Ukraine’s three mountain peoples (the Boikos and Lemkos are the other two.) They inhabit the area of the Ukrainian Carpathians between the Boikos to the north and the Rumanians to the south. The Hutsuls are the purple area in the map below.

The origin of the name “Hutsul” is uncertain, but it is thought that it was originally kochul (”nomad,” in literary Ukrainian kochovyk), which became kotsul and then hotsul. “Hutsul” is an exonym, although many Hutsuls have begun to embrace it in recent years.

The Hutsul area has been inhabited since early times; archeological evidence of human existence in the region dates back 100,000 years. Certain localities (e.g. Kosiv) were settled as early as the Neolithic Period (6,000–4,000 BC), and the river valleys around Kolomyia and Kosiv reveal distinct evidence of the Dacian and Cherniakhiv cultures. The Slavic White Croatians inhabited the region in the first millennium AD and are thought by many to be the ancestors of today’s Hutsuls; others posit the Slavic Ulychians.

Herding and animal husbandry, traditionally the chief occupations in the Hutsul region, have determined the forms of Hutsul settlements. These were once characterized by their dispersal, high altitude, remoteness and seasonal nature; in modern times, there has been an ongoing transformation from temporary pastoral colonies (as in the photo above) into permanent settlements. Villages even today are often long and narrow, built along rivers and squeezed into valleys.


Ukraine’s Highlanders

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