The term Ruthenians (Русини, Rusyny) is a culturally loaded term and has different meanings according to the context in which it is used. Initially it was the ethnonym used for the Ukrainian people. With the emergence of Ukrainian self-awareness in the mid 19th century, the term initially went out of use first in eastern Ukraine, then central Ukraine and later in western Ukraine. In western Ukraine and in Ukrainian ethnic territories outside of Ukraine it is often still used.
Originally the term Rusyn was a ethnonym applied to eastern Slavic-speaking ethnic groups, who inhabit or inhabited the cultural and ethnic region of Rus' (Русь) often written through its Latin variant Ruthenia.
Then, the terms "Ruthenians" or "Ruthenes" were the Latin terms referring to Slavic Orthodox people who lived in Grand Duchy of Lithuania (inhabiting the area that is now Belarus and Ukraine.. They spoke the Ruthenian language). It was also the ethnonym used by the Ukrainian kozaks to describe themselves.
After the area of White Russia (Belarus) became part of the Russian Empire, the people of the area were seen as a sub-group of Russians, and they were named White Russians as the name of the region of White Russia (Belorusians in Ruthenian and Russian means White Russians). The Belorusian language in the area evolved from the Ruthenian language.
Later "Ruthenians" or "Ruthenes" were used as a generic term for Greek Catholic inhabitants of Galicia and adjoining territories up until the early 20th century who spoke Western dialects of the Ukrainian language and called themselves "Русины" (Rusyny). The other English name for the same ethnic group was "Little Russians" (see Little Russia).
The language these "Ruthenians" or "Ruthenes" spoke was also called the "Ruthenian language"; the name "Ukrajins’ka mova" (Ukrainian language) became accepted by much of the Ukrainian literary class only in the early twentieth century in Austro-Hungarian Galicia. After the dissolution of Austria-Hungary in 1918 the term "Ukrainian" was usually applied to all Ukrainian-speaking inhabitants of Galicia.
However, descendants of emigrants from Galicia residing in the United States, and minorities in western Ukraine, Poland, and Slovakia, still call themselves "Русины". These are treated under the Wikipedia article on Rusyns.
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