How to Make Sense of the Donbas in the Russian-Ukrainian Confl ict in the 21st Century

Hiroaki Kuromiya

[text originally published in:
"Nowy Prometeusz" nr 9, lipiec 2016, ss. 11-22]

The war Russia unleashed against Ukraine in the spring of 2014, which continues to this day, has brought the Donbas in Ukraine to the attention of the entire world. The ongoing war is being fought almost entirely in the Donbas, an industrial centre of coal and steel, and the fortress of allegedly pro-Russian separatists, producing thousands of casualties, both military and civilian. Unlike Crimea, the Donbas, or the Donetsk Basin, has never been a household name in any country outside the former Soviet Union. The fact that little is known about the Donbas and its past makes it difficult for outsiders to comprehend the present situation, let alone to place it within the wider historical context of Ukraine and Russia. To make matters worse, Moscow’s overwhelming propaganda machine has capitalized on this ignorance to distort the historical and political background of the present war in the Donbas.
This essay addresses the issue of the historical identities of the Donbas and seeks to provide a framework to understand the present war in the Donbas.


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