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Lemko - one of four major groups of Ruthenian montagnards of the northwest Carpathian mountain chain, having a unique dialect and culture. Until 1945 their settlements were scattered from the Poprad River on the west to the valley of Oslawa River on the east.
Name and self-description
Their name derives from their common use of an expression of speech,Lem, which means but or only or like. In the past, Lemko was the description given to them by their eastern neighbors - the Boykos, who though speaking a dialect similar to the Lemko dialect, do not use the expression, lem. Formerly, the Lemkos described themselves as Rusiny or Rusnaky. In the early 20th century, many, but not all of the Lemkos in Poland accepted the name change of their national identity from Rus'/Rusyn (Rus'ian, Rusnyak) or Ruthenian to the more modern term, Ukrainian. This phenomenon was less widespread in Slovakia.
The land of the Lemkos (Lemki), sometimes called "Lemkovyna," or "Lemkivshchyna," includes the higher elevations of the Carpathians of present-day Poland, extending to around the Poprad River to the west, and extending to the east as far as the region around Sanok, where it meets the Boyko region. The corresponding latitudes of the adjacent highlands of modern-day Slovakia are also included by some in the description of Lemko-land.
The Lemko dialect is considered by many linguists to be the western-most dialect of the Ukrainian language. Lemko speech, however, includes patterns matching those of the surrounding Polish and Slovak languages, and might be seen as a transitional dialect to Polish and Slovak (some even consider the dialect in Eastern Slovakia to be a dialect of the Slovak language). Besides, vocabulary of Lemko dialect is influenced by Romanian language, like other Slavic dialects of carpathian mountagnards.
In the late 20th century, some Lemki, mainly emigres from the region, mainly from the southern slopes of the Carpathians in modern-day Slovakia, began an effort to codify and standardize a grammar for the local speech, under the designation "Lemko" or Ruthenian–Rusyn.
Lemkos are remainder of Valachian and Ruthenian settlers who arrived to the area later inhabited by the Lemkos in 14th century. Following linguistic assimilation of Valachians their Romanian dialect was replaced by Ruthenian. However, Romanian dialect strongly influenced Slavic dialect of Lemkos. Also the material culture of Lemkos bears clear resemblance to the culture of Romanian countryside .
In 1939, about 130,000-140,000 Lemkos used to live in the Polish part of Lemkivshchyna. Mass emigration from Lemko-land to the Western hemisphere began in the late 1800s, diminishing the cultural uniqueness of the homeland areas. Cultural assimilation, most especially among the Slovaks to the south, has also diminished the numbers of Lemkos in their ancient mountainous homeland.
In Poland, perhaps most of the Lemkos were removed by forced resettlement, first to the Soviet Union (about 90,000 persons) and later to Poland's newly-acquired western lands in the Wisla Action campaign of the late 1940s (about 35,000). A minority have since returned. Today in the Polish part of the traditional Lemko region, the Lemki number some 10,000-15,000. About 50,000 live in the western and northern parts of Poland. Amongst them, 5,863 people declared Lemko nationality during the census in 2002.
Christianity in the region is thought to date to the efforts of Sts. Cyril and Methodius in the 800s. The religion of most Lemkos is Greek Catholic: they belong to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Poland; and, to the Ruthenian Catholic Church (see also Slovak Catholic Church ) in Slovakia. A substantial minority belong to the Orthodox Church. The distinctive wooden architectural style of the Lemko churches is to place the highest cupola of the church building at the entrance to the church, with the roof sloping downward toward the sanctuary.
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