The Donbas—The Last Frontier of Europe?
The Donbas, situated in the far east of Ukraine, is often portrayed as the last frontier of Europe in both a literal and symbolic sense. Far from the heart of Europe, bordering on Russia and heavily Russophone, the Donbas appears, to many observers, to represent the least European area—the area least amenable to European civilization and democracy (whatever “European” may mean). Few people in Ukraine or elsewhere associate the Donbas with “respectable” culture: the Donbas is a coal-and-steel industrial center, the hallmarks of which are not airy theaters or philharmonics, but dark and dangerous coal waste dumps. The Donbas’ notoriety was clinched in 2004 by Ukrainian presidential election fraud, perpetrated by and for Viktor Yanukovych, a politician from the Donbas region who had previously served two jail terms for violent crimes. Moreover, the apparent regionalist tendencies in Donbas politics, which challenge the power of Kyiv, are interpreted by many observers as anti-Ukrainian and pro-Russian separatism. Nevertheless, few people, even ardent Ukrainian patriots, would write off the Donbas. It is possible that the Donbas is too valuable an economic asset to dismiss easily. According to 2002 data, the Donetsk province accounts for only 9.9 percent of the population of Ukraine, but 12.4 percent of the Ukrainian GDP, 22 per?cent of Ukrainian industrial production, and 22.5 percent of total Ukrainian exports.
KeywordsPrime Minister Presidential Election Capture Region Symbolic Sense Jail Term
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