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25 years of separatism in Donbas: Background Part 1

25 years of separatism in Donbas: Background Part 1

In order to reintegrate the uncontrolled areas of Ukraine of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions successfully, to begin with, it is necessary to understand the ideology of Donbas separatism which made it possible for the puppet republics to appear in the East of Ukraine. There are people who think that they are marginal phenomena which appeared from nowhere in the spring of 2014 and became successful only thanks to Russian weapons. However, the facts prove that separatism in the Donbas is as old as Ukrainian independence. And this ideological hybrid had been getting mature in the sun and in the shade until the time it exploded with a bloody war which destroyed the Donbas. We are  going to try to analyze the main stages of the process, as a result of which two eastern areas partially became anti-Ukrainian ones.

Kostyantyn Skorkin, for the RN 

The background

The aspiration to counterpose the Donbas to Ukraine coincided with the first steps of our country on the way to independence. The process started with the “Intermovement (international movement) of the Donbas”. It appeared in Donetsk in 1990. The ideologist of the organization was Dmitriy Kornilov, a historian and journalist. The appearance of such the organization matched to the processes which were taking place in the disintegrating Soviet empire. In the national republics of the USSR there had appeared mass national democratic movements which were known as “people's fronts”. These movements were very strong in the Baltic republics; in Ukraine a similar movement was called the “People's Rukh of Ukraine”. To oppose them, various “international movements' were being created which, under the mask of “people's friendship” and counteraction to the growth of nationalism, tried to preserve the empire and the Russian “great-power” chauvinism.

From the very beginning, these movements were supported by the most reactionary forces within the communist party of the USSR and by special services. Oleg Kalugin, a retired KGB general, who emigrated to the U.S.A. in 1995, openly claimed that “international movements” were inspired by special services; for example, hundreds of KGB officers were sent to Estonia to support the International Movement of Estonia.

Despite the fact that formally International Movement of the Donbas was against the withdrawal of Ukraine from the USSR, from the very beginning, the movement had the features of Donbas separatism. Vladimir Kornilov, the movement founder's brother, says that as early as 1989-90 they discussed federalization of Ukraine and the autonomy of the Donbas. The short history of Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Republic (during the time of the civil war, 1918-1919) was used as a historical precedent. At that time the red-blue-black flag of the “free Donbas”, known as a “DPR” flag today, was invented. In the autumn of 1991, after the disintegration of the USSR, International Movement activists actively agitated against the referendum on the independence of Ukraine.



Dmitriy Kornilov

From the very beginning, the movement positioned itself as a kind of “anti-Ukraine”. Adopting chauvinistic prejudice of the beginning of the XXth century about the artificial nature of the Ukrainian nation, and the Ukrainian language and culture as something inspired by an “oversees” project to tear the one Russian nation, Donbas separatists were involved in double negation – they were artificially creating an analogous “anti-Ukrainian” project. The Kornilov brothers were creating an original genesis of Donbas community in their publications – the concentration of industrial businesses gives birth to a specific mode of life. These ideas go back to a Vasilchenko from the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog republic. He thought that Soviet republics should be formed on economic principles, not on national and cultural ones.  “With the strengthening of the Soviet power in the regions, federations of Russian socialist republics will be built of economic principles, not national ones. Donetsk and Krivoy Rog areas are an all-sufficient unit. The Donetsk republic may become a pattern of socialist economy for others”, he wrote. Thus, today’s “LPR” fantasies about the formation of the “self-sufficient ethnos” in the Donbas are based on the old bolsheviks’ ideas about the formation of tribes of miners and steel workers which have been unseen before.

25 years of separatism in Donbas: Background Part 2

25 years of separatism in Donbas: Background Part 3

New service "Explain Ukraine". This is a daily mailout of three articles which were written about the situation in the Donbas by Donbas journalists and translated into English. Honest vision of people who work in the field is unbiased and fresh which is crucial in the world which is full of desinformation and propaganda. We try to share this vision in out daily mailout.  You can subscribe here.

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