Monday, 14 April 2014

kleinstaaterei

With the level of public will or involvement remaining unclear and the source of dissent an elusive factor—strange to consider in the first place that regions are careening towards the right to assert their independence with only the ultimate goal being to align themselves with another power in sight, the cities of Ukraine, though under the microscope and garnering much attention, do tend to be overlooked, imagined out of context, scale or compartmentalised.  Much is being said about psyche and exceptionalism, the economic importance of the industrial eastern part of the country, the need for stability and security thereof with also quite a bit of name-calling, like the US styling of counter insurgency efforts by the government in Kyiv as anti-terror operations or pledges to shore up debts, but there is little in terms, I think, in terms of profiles for these metropolitan cities, which have their own character and history.

Donetsk grew out of factory workers’ dormitories built by a steel and coal magnate from Wales named John James Hughes in 1869 (strangely, not long after hostilities ended), while under commission for the Russian Imperial Navy.  The settlement was originally named Hughesovka in honour of the Welch industrialist, who was a genius although functionally illiterate and could not read minuscule letters—Юз, yuz being the closest approximate sound.  Staffed with skilled and well-educated workers, the metalworks soon grew self-sufficient and with the Bolshevik revolution, the city’s name changed several times.  It seems hard for a boom town—especially one that has never gone bust, just like so many in this region, that is relatively young as well, to establish for itself an identity—and I am sure being known, by turns, as Yuzovka, Trotsk, Stalino and then after a tributary of the Don river, may have not helped with cohesion.  Looking on from outside, I am astounded by the vast swaths of land that continue to defy recognition and know there’s much unknown out there, aided and hindered by the tough schooling in geography that conflict teaches—since, although this rust belt (Donetsk incidentally won international recognition as the cleanest factory town in the world, in 1970) is emerging as the focus of attention, having of course existed all along (or at least since its founding, not all that long ago) and having existed as an independent entity even under Soviet auspices but it was easier to understand the map as a bloc, it is also a struggle to follow along with the series of contentions and we become prone to perfunctory judgments.