Wednesday, September 17, 2014

That Time When a Pittsburgh Lawyer Governed Part of Ukraine

Gregory Zatkovich was born in Austria-Hungary and "immigrated to Pennsylvania with his parents at age 2.  His father was the editor of an activist journal supporting Rusyn-Americans, an ethnic group from Carpathian Ruthenia, an area now within Slovakia and western Ukraine.  Zatkovich grew up in Pittsburgh, received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1907, and earned his law degree there three years later.  He entered the Pittsburgh bar in October 1910.  In July 1918, as the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was on the verge of collapse, Rusyn-Americans began to agitate for the independence of Carpathian Ruthenia.  As a leader of the Rusyn movement, however, Zatkovich was convinced by members of the Wilson administration that merging Carpathian Ruthenia into a new Czech state was the only viable option, and he was convinced to sign the “Philadelphia Agreement” with Czech president Tomas Masaryk, upon the promise that Carpathian Ruthenia would be granted autonomy within the new Czech state.  Masaryk appointed Zatkovich governor of the province on April 20, 1920.  He served for a little less than a year, resigning on April 17, 1921 over disagreements on the border with Slovakia, and returned to his practice in Pittsburgh."  

"He has the distinction of being the only American citizen to have presided as governor over a province that would later become a part of the U.S.S.R."  

Zatkovich later served as Pittsburgh city solicitor during the administration of Mayor William McNair in the 1930s.

From THE STEEL BAR: PITTSBURGH LAWYERS AND THE MAKING OF MODERN AMERICA

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