[HCCN] THE WELSHMAN WHO FOUNDED DONETSK IN UKRAINE

Hugh Curran hugh.curran at maine.edu
Wed Feb 23 16:30:05 EST 2022


*THE WELSHMAN WHO FOUNDED DONETSK, UKRAINE **(published in OpEd News
&“Informed Comment”)*

In the 18th century a migration took place in the Donbas region of Ukraine
which Tsarist Russia named “New Russia” after rich coal resources were
discovered. The man who was chosen to facilitate mining and to develop
steel mills was John Hughes who was born in Wales. He had become a
well-known developer of steel mills in England and armor plating for ships
as well as gun carriage for heavy guns in 1864. His reputation for
metallurgy and shipbuilding gave him considerable fame in Britain. Due to
his reputation for steel mill production he was invited by the Russian
Tsar, Alexander II to come to the coal mining region of southeastern
Ukraine in 1869 and develop its coal and steel potential for the production
of iron rails.

Since British production had fallen off in the mid 1760s due to an
industrial crisis brought on by the collapse of the London stock exchange,
John Hughes saw the Russian Empire as an opportunity to develop more steel
industries. The Grand duke, Constantine, who was the brother of Tsar
Alexander helped acquire the necessary mining properties and Hughes formed
the Novorossiysk Society to raise capital in Britain. Russians and British
invested heavily in the joint stock company.

By 1871 the site that Hughes began to develop was an old Cossack town known
as Oleksandrovka, where he built steel mills and established several
colleries. He eventually brought his family and over 100 Welshmen. As the
region evolved into a city it was named "Yuzovka" in honor of Hughes,
(Yuzov being a Slavic pronounciation).With development of Yuzovka, a large
number of rural workers from the Ukraine and Russia came for employment
opportunities and within a few years Yuzovka was among the largest
metallurgical enterprises in Russia.


Hughes designed and financed a hospital, churches and schools. Although he
only lived until 1889, dying in St. Petersburg at the age of 75, his legacy
as the founder of Yuzovka (renamed Donetsk) was such that his home was
preserved and a substantial statue of Hughes was placed in the center of
Donetsk. John Hughes and wife Sarah had seven children, including five
sons. The eldest John James Hughes continued to live in Donetsk and became
the head of the family and by the time of his death in 1917 the city of
Donetsk had 67,000 people.



By 1913 Hughes mills produced 74% of Russia’s ironworks, much of this due
to the Welshmen who came with Hughes and later brought their families. But
the Bolshevik revolution changed all this and almost all the Welsh returned
to Britain. The soccer team his fellow Welshmen formed continues to be a
featured sport in a city whose metro area now numbers 2.2 million.  In 2013
the Ukrainian ambassador, Khandogiy, celebrated, with Welsh civic leaders,
the 200 year anniversary of John Hughes birth.*

As Yuzovka (ie Donetsk) grew in importance the Russian language became the
majority language as industrialization around the coal and steel mills
progressed. It was at this point that the name *Donbas* came into use,
derived from the term "Donets Coal Basin" (River Donets with extensive coal
reserves.

According to a Census in 1897, Ukrainians, formerly known as Ruthenians,
spoke a Slavic language, and comprised 52% of the population of region,
while ethnic Russians made up 28%. In Ukraine itself 41 million people is
the total population while 8 million residents identify as ethnic Russians
and 33 million identify as Ukrainians. Although 2000 school districts use
the Russian language in teaching, surveys indicate that the majority of
ethnic Russians still prefer an independent Ukraine.


One of the reasons for insisting on complete independence from Russia was
the deep trauma sustained during the *Holodomor* Famine (ie *Great Famine)
which took place* from 1932 to 1933 resulting in the death of at least 3
million Ukrainians. The term *Holodomor* refers to a conviction among many
Ukrainians that there was an intention among the Russian ruling class to
bring about the deaths of so many Ukrainians. The intention seemed evident
in the refusal of the Soviet government to permit outside aid and their
prevention of migration away from famine regions as well as their
confiscation of seed grain for the next year’s planting. Although the
Soviet Union also suffered famine in 1932-33 it resulted in 8 million
deaths, of which 3 million were Ukrainian, a mortality skewed against
ethnic Ukrainians in this terrible catastrophe which was, in actuality, the
result of colossal mismanagement and criminal negligence.

What has taken place more recently after the demise of the Soviet Union was
the expansion of NATO in 1991, to include Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, as
well as: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. This reduction of Russia’s sphere
of influence was related, to some extent, with Russia’s defense budget,
which is only 8% of the United States, with NATO spending 20 times as much
as Russia on defense.



According to the historian, Professor Ronald Grigor Suny, a full-scale
invasion would be a catastrophe for Russia. He notes that, economically,
Russia is a declining power with a GDP equaling half of California. Russia
depends on fossil fuel exports to fund most of its government services,
including the military. With such limited resources Russia should be aware
that they could be mired for years in an endless war if they invaded
Ukraine. It is still fresh in the memory of Russians that they spent ten
long years involved in an unpopular and expensive ground war in
Afghanistan. And even though the Russian military are presently near the
borders of the eastern Ukraine where the Donbas militias from Donesk and
Lukansk would provide support, they must realize that the majority of
Ukrainians continue to be strongly opposed to any incursions into their
country.

* *https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-40345030
<https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-40345030>*

*Hugh J. Curran teaches in Peace & Reconciliation Studies at the University
of Maine in Orono.*
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