Activists in Eastern Ukraine Hold Mock Poll to Join the U.K.

How It Works
March 25 2014 11:42 AM

Donetsk’s Welsh Dream

hughes
John Hughes (the Welshman, not the Chicagoan).

via glamarchives.gov.uk

Activists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, which has been the site of clashes between pro-government and pro-Russian protesters over the past few weeks, have proposed holding a “referendum” on whether their city should secede secede from Ukraine and join the United Kingdom:

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

"Donetsk is a British city! God Save the Queen," said the jocular appeal posted on social networks, following the Moscow-backed March 16 referendum on Crimea's secession from Ukraine to Russia.
Advertisement

It’s a joke, obviously, a mockery of Moscow’s claim that Crimea’s historical links to Russia justify the annexation, but it’s also rooted in Donetsk’s interesting history.

The industrial city of about 950,000 people on the Kalmius river was once known as Hughesovka or Yuzovka, after its Welsh founder John Hughes.

Hughes was an engineer, born in Merthyr Tydfil in 1814 or 1815. After building a successful shipbuilding and ironworks company in Britain, which was known primarily for developoing armored plating for warships, he was invited 1868 by the imperial Russian government to buy a concession in eastern Ukraine to set up a metallurgy and rail-producing factory.     

According to a 2010 BBC feature, “Hughes provided a hospital, schools, bath houses, tea rooms, a fire brigade and an Anglican church dedicated to the patron saints St George and St David.”

Hughes died on a business trip to St. Petersburg in 1889, and the plant was taken over by his sons, but nearly all the foreign investors left after the 1917 revolution. During the Soviet period, the city was renamed Stalino, before being given its current name, Donetsk, in the 1960s. It’s still a center of Ukraine’s coal and steel industries, though the region has struggled in recent years.

There’s a statue of Hughes in the city today, and last year the Ukrainian parliament approved plans to honor him with a museum and a commemorative stamp.

In any case, it’s a very clever parody. According to the Moscow Times, “more than 7,000 people had supported the proposal by Sunday, with an online poll showing about 61 percent of respondents favored accession to Britain, and another 16 percent favored ‘broad regional autonomy’ with English as an official language.”

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

There Are New Abuse Allegations Against Adrian Peterson

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

John Oliver Pleads for Scotland to Stay With the U.K.

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Jurisprudence

Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 

The Juice

Ford’s Big Gamble

It’s completely transforming America’s best-selling vehicle.

I Tried to Write an Honest Profile of One of Bollywood’s Biggest Stars. It Didn’t Go Well.

Here’s Why College Women Don’t Take Rape Allegations to the Police

The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 1:51 PM Here’s Why College Women Don’t Take Rape Allegations to the Police
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 15 2014 8:56 PM The Benghazi Whistleblower Who Might Have Revealed a Massive Scandal on his Poetry Blog
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 15 2014 4:38 PM What Is Straight Ice Cream?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 15 2014 8:58 PM Lorde Does an Excellent Cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 15 2014 4:49 PM Cheetah Robot Is Now Wireless and Gallivanting on MIT’s Campus
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 15 2014 11:00 AM The Comet and the Cosmic Beehive
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.