The region has a distinct identity and doesn’t fit neatly into either Russia or Ukraine
FILE PHOTO. Gorky Mine in Donbass. 08.09.1932. © Sputnik
Current events have brought a renewed focus on the Donbass, a historical region on the border of Ukraine and Russia. By the standards of history, this area has emerged quite recently, and has always stood a little apart. It’s important to understand its evolution when viewing this crisis, which began in 2014.
Today, Donbass is an industrial and mining region, but for a long time it was largely uninhabited. The steppe zone that ran along the southern borders of medieval ‘Rus’ (not yet divided into Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus) was called the ‘Wild Fields.’ It was home to nomadic peoples and farmers only moved south with great difficulty. After the Mongol invasion in the 13th century, the Wild Fields was a dangerous place to find yourself.
Around four hundred years, a few peasants from Russia and Ukraine began to gradually settle in the future Donbass.
A great leap forward came in the 19th century when the coal deposits discovered there became necessary for industry. It was then that many of the cities without which it is impossible to imagine today’s Donbass were founded. In 1869, the British industrialist John Hughes built a factory around which the village of Yuzovka grew – it had a few more names, including Stalino, before a local man renamed it Donetsk, in 1961.