Donets Basin

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"Donbas" and "Donbass" redirect here. For other uses, see Donbas (disambiguation).
Simplified map of the Donets Basin on the map of Ukraine.
Map of economic activity in Donbas. Unofficial Donbas region is pink; official oblast borders are shown as black lines.

The Donets Basin (Ukrainian: Донецький басейн, translit. Donetskyi basein; Russian: Донецкий бассейн, transliterated Donetskiy bassein), known commonly as the Donbas (Ukrainian: Донбас) or Donbass (Russian: Донба́сс), is a historical, economic and cultural region of eastern Ukraine and southwest Russia. A coal mining area[1] since the late 19th century, it has become a heavily industrialised territory suffering from urban decay and industrial pollution.

The Donbas Euroregion covers the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine, and also Rostov oblast of the Russian Federation.[2]

Donbas is currently the most densely populated of all the regions of Ukraine (excluding the capital city of Kiev). The city of Donetsk is considered the unofficial capital of Donbas.


Donbas covers three administrative oblasts (provinces) in the east of Ukraine: the easternmost part of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast around the city of Pavlohrad (the so-called "Western Donbas"), the northern and central part of Donetsk Oblast (the southern part is perceived to be Pryazovia coastland) and the southern part of Luhansk Oblast (the northern part is perceived to be Slobozhanschyna). In Russia, the northwestern parcel of the Rostov Oblast is part of the region.

Before the intensive industrial development, the Donbas area was a typical part of the vast Great Eurasian Steppe.

Donbas is a heavily-urbanized territory with several conurbation areas. It is reflected in the region's complicated administrative division which is characteristic of small "cities" (towns) being subordinated to larger neighboring "cities", and so on to higher levels.

"Donbas" refers to a larger supranational region including a part of neighbouring Rostov Oblast in Russia (the "Russian Donbass") also specialized in coal mining. This is explained by the fact that the Donets Coal Basin geographically extends into that area. But the "Russian Donbass" is of lesser economic importance compared with the part belonging to Ukraine since 1991.

Natural resources[edit]

Despite history of extensive extraction, the Donets Basin still contains coal deposits suitable for decades of further mining. However, estimates on overall longevity of the large-scale mining in the region vary due to mounting costs, international competition and environmental concerns. In the Russian part 32 coal mines were operating in 1999 and produced about 10 Million t, the number declined to 14 until 2004.[3] The part in Ukraine produced 36 Million t coal in 1999.[4]


Russian poster from 1921 — "Donbass is the heart of Russia".

The name of the region originates from the coal-field discovered in late 19th century which was named after the Donets river flowing across the region.

In 1676, the first town of the Donbas emerged: Solanoye (now Soledar) which was built for the profitable business of extracting newly discovered rock-salt reserves. In 1721, vast and rich coal fields were found, which started the "industrial boom" which allowed the region to flourish into the first half of the 20th century.

According to linguist George Shevelov in the early 1920s the share of secondary schools teaching in the Ukrainian language was lower than the share of the Donbas ethnic Ukrainian population.[5] Even though the Soviet Union had ordered that all schools in the Ukrainian SSR should be Ukrainian speaking (as part of its Ukrainization policy).[6]

Surveys of regional identities in Ukraine have shown that around 40% of Donbas residents claim to have a "Soviet identity".[7] In May 2014 Roman Horbyk of the Södertörn University concluded that "incomplete and archaic institutions" had prevented the Donbas residents who in the 20th century "As peasants from all surrounding regions were flooding its then busy mines and plants on the border of ethnically Ukrainian and Russian territories" from "acquiring a notably strong modern urban – and also national – new identity".[5]

On April 8, 2014, following the 2014 Crimean Crisis, pro-Russian separatists occupying the Luhansk Oblast administrative building planned to declare independence as the Luhansk Parliamentary Republic, after other pro-Russian separatists declared Donetsk People's Republic in the Donetsk Oblast. As the Luhansk Parliamentary Republic ceased to exist, the separatists declared the Luhansk People's Republic and staged a referendum on separating from Ukraine on May 11, 2014. Neither of the referendums have been legitimized by any outside governments.[8] Ukraine does not recognize the referendum, while the EU and US declared the polls illegal. [9] Since mid-April 2014 the pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian army are fighting the War in Donbass.[10]

Coal mining-related issues[edit]

Main articles: Coal in Ukraine and Coal mining

Occupational safety in coal industry[edit]

The coal mines of Donbas are some of the most hazardous in the world due to enormous working depths (down from 300 to 1200 m) as a result of natural depletion, as well as due to high levels of methane explosion, coal dust explosion and rock burst dangers.[11]

Despite these, even more hazardous illegal coal mines have massively appeared across the region in recent years.[1][12]

Environment destruction[edit]

Coal-mining spoil tips along the Kalmius river in Donetsk.

Intensive coal mining and smelting in Donbas has led to severe multi-faceted damage to the local environment and residential comfort. The most common threats throughout the region include:

Additionally, several chemical industry waste grounds in Donbas have become undermaintained and pose a constant threat of major emissions to the environment.

One unusual threat is the result of the Soviet-era 1979 project of nuclear-explosion mining in Yenakieve.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]