Donbas in the 20th century
Donbas entered the twentieth century entered as one of the industrial centers of the Russian Empire.

The industry of Donbass was developed with the help of foreign investments, mainly French and Belgian.

Despite the rapid growth of the population of Donbas, most of its cities remained working settlements, because of which the traditions of the urban lifestyle were formed slowly. In fact, several worlds coexisted in the Donbas, which intersected little: the world of cosmopolitan Donbas capitalists and highly paid engineering specialists, who quickly grew rich during the industrial boom; the gloomy world of the international working class - hard work in coalmines and factories in the absence of social guarantees, drunkenness and rough life; the world of the Ukrainian village that surrounded the industrial centers, whose inhabitants preferred move to other regions instead of going to the coalmines; the world of various national communities of Donbass - German and Jewish colonists, Greeks of the Azov Sea, etc.

All these complex interlacing created an explosive social situation. During the revolution of 1905, the Donbas was beset by strikes, riots and insurrections, which were often accompanied by interethnic strife and Jewish pogroms.

During the First World War, the situation of the Donbas was difficult: a significant part of workers was mobilized to the front; by the end of the war the workers were replaced by cheap labor from China, so another ethnic element appeared in Donbas.

The revolution of 1917 revealed all the accumulated political, economic, social and national contradictions. Democratic reforms quickly led to anarchy, aggravated by the economic crisis, entrepreneurs closed down their enterprises, workers refused to work, and there began interruptions in the supply of food.

The greatest popularity in the region was acquired by radical Bolsheviks; in a number of places they received power even before October 1917 in a democratic way, for example, in Lugansk. After the October coup d'etat, violence was swept up the Donbas - the Don Cossacks, who did not recognize the power of the Soviets, carried out punitive raids against rioting coalminers. The industrial region became the center of confrontation between the Ukrainian People`s Republic and the Soviet Russia. By the end of 1918, the Donbas again found itself under the Bolshevik rule. In 1919, the region was the scene of fierce battles between the Reds and the Whites, cities were ruined and passed from hand to hand, red and white terror rages. In addition to the main opposing forces, there were also detachments of anarchists led by Nestor Makhno. By 1921, the civil war ended in the victory of the Bolsheviks, who were engaged in the restoration of the economy of Donbas, involving the surviving old specialists into this process.

In 1920, the Bolsheviks carried out an administrative reform. As a result, a large part of the Donbas was included into one territorial unit - Donetsk Province. In 1925, its territory was divided into five administrative districts, and in 1938 the territory of Donbas was divided into the territories of Stalino region (now Donetsk region) and Voroshilovgrad region (now Luhansk region).

In the late 1920s, the Soviet government embarked on a policy of forced industrialization, which was supposed to put an end to the USSR`s lagging behind the West. Industrialization was carried out by administrative-command methods. During the first five-year plan new coalmines and factories were commissioned, old enterprises were reconstructed. The avalanche rates of coal mining led to numerous accidents and catastrophes. The responsibility for them was assigned to "pests" - mostly pre-revolutionary engineers. A series of public trials was conducted, which ended in executions and long prison terms for those convicts. All this created an atmosphere of suspicion and terror.

The terror reached its peak in 1937-1938, when the victims of mass executions were party workers, local intelligentsia and ordinary workers. Tragically, repression affected the ethnic diversity of the region – the local Greeks, Germans, Bulgarians were deported. The collectivization of agriculture, conducted at the same time, led to the mass famine of 1932-1933 (known as Holodomor), which also covered the agricultural zones of the Donbas. The villagers fled to the cities and to coalmine settlements. As a result, by 1940, two-thirds of the inhabitants of the region were urban dwellers; the Donbas became the most urbanized region of the USSR.

The Second World War brought new disasters and destruction to the Donbas. In 1941-43, the territory of the province was occupied by the Nazis. It was subjected to robbery and terror against the local population, in particular in Artemivsk, Lugansk, Donetsk, where there were mass executions of local Jews. On the territory of the occupied regions, there was the Resistance movement - mostly communist (for example, the Young Guard organization in Krasnodon). However, branches of the Ukrainian nationalists also operated in a number of cities.

In the postwar years, the industry of Donbas was recovering at the same rapid pace. In 1946- 47, Donbas was affected by a severe drought, which led to a new famine with human casualties.

The flourishing of the Donbas as an industrial region, its peculiar "golden age" took place in the 60-80s. To some extent, this was facilitated by the CPSU General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev, who began his working career in the Donbas. During this period, the standard of living in the region increased compared to the catastrophic first half of the 20th century. The Donbas cities began to acquire a modern look, large housing construction was conducted, and new cities emerged (for example, Severodonetsk). The natives of the Donbas began to play a large role in the elite of the Soviet Union and Ukraine. However, as early as in the 1970s, the crisis in the economy of the Donbas began to increase. It was caused by the inefficiency of the planned economy, the decline in the demand for coal in the world economy and the depletion of natural resource deposits. Y the time of the disintegration of the USSR, Donbas became a region with an inefficient and obsolete economic structure.

"Perestroika" pushed the decay of the Soviet economy. In the late 80`s and early 90`s, the Donbas was captured by coalminers` strikes. The formation of independent Ukraine in 1991 was supported by the inhabitants of Donbas. However, soon the euphoria gave way to the disappointment caused by the deepening economic crisis. In the 90-ies, the Donbas passed through a painful de-industrialization, during which unprofitable coalmines and factories were closed, leaving thousands of people without means of subsistence. Chronic non-payment of salaries caused explosions of social protest. The situation was aggravated by the predatory policies of local elites, the growth of banditry. In the 90s, the Donbas was the "red belt" of Ukraine, its inhabitants voted for the Communist Party, as a symbol of the rich years of the 1960s and 1970s for the region.

«y the beginning of the 2000s, the crisis phenomena in the economy had been overcome; large assets had grown on the ruins of the Soviet economy, primarily the financial and industrial group of Rinat Akhmetov, who controlled most of the Donbas economy.

In 2004, Donbas became the arena of political opposition - presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovich, former governor of the Donetsk region, was perceived by the inhabitants of Donbas as "their" candidate who defended the interests of the region, and his defeat during the "orange revolution" caused by falsifications in favor of Yanukovych, was perceived as a "stolen victor". In the course of 2004-14, this confrontation between the Donbas and the pro- European, democratic vector of Ukraine`s development only intensified, local separatist sentiments were fueled by Russia. Despite the fact that in 2010 Yanukovych still managed to become the president of Ukraine, the isolationism of Donbas remained a problem for the unity of the country.

In 2014, after the overthrow of the Yanukovych regime in the course of Euromaidan, the separatist forces of Donbas, with the support of Russian special services, organized a mutiny against the new Kiev government. That mutiny culminated in the creation of unrecognized republics and a full-scale military conflict in the East of Ukraine, which continues to burn in a glowing form to this day.

Konstantin Skorkin
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