European dreams and European nightmares in prewar Donetsk

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Soviet and Post Soviet Review


This article is based on interviews with and questionnaires completed by Donetsk area residents when the author visited the city January 7-17, 2014. They demonstrate that, at least among Donbas area residents with higher education, there were possibilities for building a "European dream" that Euromaidan protesters in Kyiv championed. Fighting for the rule of law, human rights, and an end to corruption - values identified with the Euromaidan - could have transcended Ukraine's regional divisions. Even those skeptical of "European values" still agreed that they belonged to one nation with differing political objectives. Yet the manipulation of the Kyiv protests by politicians, outbursts of violence in Kyiv, continued stereotypes of Ukraine's regions, and complex economic ties with Russia and Europe made this European dream elusive. Escalating violence in January 2014 and the sudden implosion of the regime of Viktor Yanukovych the next month polarized public opinion in Donetsk. Due to manipulations by local politicians, pro-Russian activists, and pro-Russian propaganda in local media, Donetsk residents and others in the Donbas protested the Kyiv "Junta" and demanded greater rights for their region. The ensuing geopolitical battle brought about greater Russian intervention, both politically and militarily, making it impossible for civil society to resist the sudden emergence of separatist republics. As pro-Russian activists and armed militants, some from across the Russian border, terrorized pro-Ukrainian citizens and Euromaidan activists, the European dream in Donetsk came to an end for the foreseeable future.


History and Geography

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