More Russian, less Soviet

01.08.2014 | By Olha Nesteruk

There are things which will remain unchanged despite the war. For example, Luhansk will remain the easternmost regional center in Ukraine. It will remain the city, whose 200-year history is inseparably linked to Ukraine. In the Russian Empire Luhansk was a part of the most eastern Slavyanoserbsk county of the Yekaterinoslav Governorate, since 1882 it has been a county town (i.e. an administrative center). Since that time Luhansk has been used to focus on Yekaterinoslav current Dnipropetrovsk

Of course, Luhansk will still be proud that it has become the cradle of Ukrainian metallurgy. Industrial development of the Donetsk Basin started with the Luhansk foundry, around which the whole city grew. For the needs of the foundry the first mine was opened not far from the Lysyacha ravine (in the current Lysychansk), which in 1796 marked the beginning of commercial production of coal in the Donbas and throughout the Russian Empire. The first coke was produced in the Russian Empire already in 1799, and in 1800 the Luhansk foundry put into operation the first blast furnace, which used coke for production of the first cast iron, which in its turn was used for kernels, bombs and grenades (then Ural smelters worked exclusively on charcoal).

And, of course, Luhansk will remain the birthplace of Vladimir Dal lexicographer and maker of the famous Explanatory Dictionary of the Living Great Russian Language, collector and writer of Russian fairy tales (published them under pen name Kazak Lugansky (Cossack from Luhansk)), who knew Ukrainian language and did not suffer from any greatpower chauvinism. In Luhansk there is a Dal museum and three monuments to him, there is also Dal St., and the Eastern Ukrainian National University and the secondary school No. 5 were also named after the great scholar.

We may expect that the ethnic composition of the city will not change much. For many decades, up to the early 1990s, Luhansk has been replenished with almost identical migration flows of Russians (mostly from Russia) and Ukrainians (rural counties in Luhansk oblast, as well as from other oblasts). The 2001 census counted in Luhansk 49.6% of Ukrainians and 47% of Russians (among all regional centers only Donetsk had a higher share of Russians 48.2%, and Ukrainians 46.7%).

The most dramatic changes should be expected in the outlook and worldview of residents of Luhansk. The world around them will actually change. The main difference will be in the purification of Ukraine (though not complete, but still quite radical) from the Soviet mentality, that is, the Soviet legacy in the public consciousness, political culture and public practice.

By the way, Luhansk itself has quite a successful experience of getting rid of the Soviet legacy. For example, in its own name. In 1935 1958 and again since 1970 Luhansk was named Voroshilovgrad after the native of the Verkhnye village (now part of Lysychansk) Kliment Voroshilov a Bolshevik leader, who headed the Luhansk Council of Workers Deputies in 1905, and for a few months in 1917 was the chairman of the Luhansk Bolshevik Committee, the Luhansk Council and the Luhansk Duma, in 1925 1940 he was the USSR Peoples Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs, and then Peoples Commissar for Defense Affairs (as well as one of Stalins closest associates in mass repressions), in 19531960 he headed the presidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR. On May 4, 1990 at the suggestion of the city and regional councils and local laborers the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR renamed Voroshilovgrad back to Luhansk and Voroshilovgrad oblast into Luhansk oblast.

Even earlier, in October 1989, residents of Luhansk supported the proposal of machine tool builders from the Lenin works and elected Moscow journalist Yuri Shchekochikhin editor of the investigations department at the Literaturnaya Gazeta, author of such acclaimed publications as Lion Prepares to Jump and The Lion Jumped, first to expose existence of the organized crime in the USSR, to be their representative at the Congress of the Peoples Deputies of the USSR. Shchekochikhin was a member of the Interregional Group of Deputies (its cochairmen were Boris Yeltsin and Andrei Sakharov), which advocated elimination of the power of the CPSU. Later, he was elected to the State Duma of Russia (1995 and 1999) as a member of the Yabloko party, and on July 3, 2003 he died from a mysterious peracute illness, after his investigations touched the interests of corrupt officials of the highest level.

At present Ukrainian authorities are extremely interested in active involvement of ethnic Russians in the process of getting rid of the postSoviet mentality and lifestyle in the country, especially in the east of Ukraine, that is, where their share of the population is particularly high. Luhansk may assume the role of the center of development of Russian culture, free from Sovietimperial stereotypes which are inherently antiUkrainian and antiRussian.

Central authorities, in turn, could support municipal initiatives from residents of Luhansk, moreover, create a network of institutions, which would work for fulfillment of the common interests of the Ukrainian state and Russian community. In fact there are plenty of such common interests.

For example, there is a need to create textbooks in Russian literature, history, social studies for Russian schools, which would reflect the contribution of ethnic Russians into allUkrainian culture. Another example development of relations with the Russian speaking Ukrainian diaspora (both in Russia and in other countries).

Much has been said about the need to develop broadcasting in Russian, especially for residents of the eastern and southern regions, as well as foreign broadcasting (radio broadcasting addressed to the audience in foreign countries). Speaking of creation of original information product (rather than Ukrainian programs and shows translated into Russian), Luhansk also could become the center for such work.

Naturally, for all that the initiative of residents of Luhansk is needed in the first place.

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