25 years of separatism in Donbas: Background Part 2
It is difficult to say that the movement which appeared in the Donbas is a classical movement of the national minority for the reunification with the metropolis. Contrary to the opinion popular in Ukraine, Donbas separatism was met with rejection or indifference to the project in Moscow where the power was taken by democratic forces. Vladimir Kornilov does not hide his resentment in his interview to Ukraine.ru, “Moscow of Gorbachov and Yelstyn were making advances to nationalists in other republics and actively supported the disintegration of the USSR. It was Russia that was the first to adopt the declaration of independence. Ukraine did it after Russia”. More recent reminiscences of Pavel Gubarev about the club of “mladonovorossov” at Donetsk University, are like this: “In 2000-2005, we created a club of those who loved the history of Novorossia at Donetsk University. It was a small group in the ocean of darkness. Russian officials did not give us any grants. Nobody promoted us… Our views were considered to be wrong. Our team was thought to be a marginal one in the university hall of residence”.
That is why, from the very beginning, Donbas separatism was reactionary; it was against independent Ukraine and against things which contributed to it, which, from their point of view, were democracy and market liberalism.
As it was believed that, according to the conspiracy world picture, the disintegration of the USSR was caused by the hostile West, the movement was anti-American and anti-European. Various revanchists and “red and brown forces” within Russia became natural allies of Donbas separatists, for example, the “union “of colonel Alksnis which the Kornilov brothers were connected with. Because of this weak support from Russia, the movement started to “pupate” inside the Donbas and became the outpost of the phenomenon which later was named “Russian world”.
However, later, in the 80-90s, it became clear that, if the foreign policy of the imperial center had changed, Donbas separatism would have been the instrument of neo-imperial revanche. Luhansk political analyst Serhiy Chebanenko observed the appearance of “Luhansk peoples’ movement”, the analogue of “Donetsk international movement” , with anxiety. Leader of the organization Valeriy Cheker wrote, “Our movement is for the autonomy within Ukraine. But if Ukraine does not sign the union treaty, then we can speak only about the transfer to the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation”. Then Chebanenko predicted the events of the 2014 in his article “It is impossible here” which is frightening from the modern point of view. He described the development of the events: strong anti-Ukrainian and anti-democratic hysteria, formation of local defense, armed conflict, separation of the Donbas which would be either a part of Russia or would turn into a “grey zone”, and hunger, destruction, and coldness for the population of the Donbas.
More than that, demands to “defend the Luhansk region” from nationalists sounded in Luhansk.
In September 1991, historian and the region researcher Boris Lokotosh called for the creation of Donbas own armed forces at the founding meeting of the Democratic Donbas Movement. His same-minder Litvak called for conducting a Donbas assembly where to make the decision on withdrawal of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions from Ukraine and for creating Malorossia republic.
These claims led to the split of the new public movement. On October 26, 1991, there was the last battle of the autonomy supporters before the referendum on Ukrainian independence. There was a meeting of the deputies of the South-East of Ukraine (remember this term!) in Donetsk. Its participants rejected separatism saying that they were for the federalization of the future Ukrainian state. However, the delegation from Dnipropetrovsk declared the meeting unauthorized and calmed down their colleagues from the Donbas.
Kostyantyn Skorkin, for RN
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