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

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

160 Countries Host Marches to Demand Action on Climate Change

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 21 2014 2:00 PM Colin Farrell Will Star in True Detective’s Second Season
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.