Donets Basin

Donets Basin [Донецький вугільний басейн; Donetskyi vuhilnyi basein] (also known as the Donets Coal Basin, Donbas, or Donets region). The most important fuel source and industrial region of Ukraine and of all Eastern Europe, the location of highly developed coal industry, ferrous-metallurgy industry, machine building, chemical industry, and construction industry, enormous energy resources, diversified agriculture, and a dense transportation network. The Donbas lies in southeastern Ukraine and partly in the western Russian Federation, between the middle and lower Donets River in the north and the northeast and the Azov Upland and Azov Lowland in the south. The basin extends through Donetsk oblast and Luhansk oblast in Ukraine and part of Rostov oblast in Russia. It covers an area of 23,000 sq km.

The Donets Basin or Old Donbas is a territory where the strata of the productive Carboniferous period come to the surface or are overlaid with thin strata of later deposits. In the 1950s coal deposits were discovered in eastern Dnipropetrovsk oblast (western Donbas) and north, south, and east of the Old Donbas, where the strata of the productive Carboniferous are covered with strata of later geological deposits, 500–600 m and more thick. These coal regions, called the New Donbas, along with the Old Donbas constitute the Great Donbas (Velykyi Donbas), which extends for 650 km from east to west and 70–170 km from north to south. The area of the Great Donbas is 60,000 sq km, of which over 40,000 lie in Ukraine and the remainder in the Russian Federation. The smaller, eastern part of the Donbas lying within the boundaries of Russia is populated by Ukrainians. The Donbas Industrial Region has expanded in a westerly and northerly direction, and since 1975 has been expanding in a southerly direction as well. Its future merger with the Dnieper Industrial Region in the west, the Kharkiv Industrial Region in the northwest, and the Mariupol Industrial Region in the south is probable. The territory of Donetsk oblast and Luhansk oblast (53,200 sq km) is often included in the Donbas, although it consists of purely agricultural regions north of the Donets River and the Sea of Azov coastal region. This article will deal only with the Old Donbas.

The geographical location of the Donbas facilitates industrial growth: it lies only 120–150 km from the Sea of Azov, 350–450 km from the Kryvyi Rih Iron-ore Basin, 300–350 km from the Kerch Iron-ore Basin, 300–350 km from the Nikopol Manganese-ore Basin, and close to the largest consumers of coal—the metallurgical, energy, and other industrial centers. A dense network of railways and highways connects the Donbas with the main centers of Ukraine and Eastern Europe.

Physical geography. The Donbas is an undulating, monotonous plain with a maximum elevation of 369 m. The plain is frequently dissected by gullies and depressions 100 m and more in depth. The most picturesque part is the high bank of the Donets River. The Donets Basin is built of thick Carboniferous strata. More recent geological deposits of the Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods appear only at the periphery. The present Donbas went through several foldings from the Upper Carboniferous to the Paleogene periods, followed by leveling and the advance of the sea. The most recent post-Tertiary uplifting caused accelerated erosion and the present dissected relief. The Donbas gets more precipitation than the adjacent regions and hence constitutes a forest-steppe island within the steppe belt (see Donets Ridge).

The original landscape of the basin has been changed considerably by humans, more than any other part of Ukraine or of Eastern Europe. It bears the typical features of human civilization, from ancient burial mounds to modern industrial structures, mines, pyramidal coal piles, factories with their high smokestacks, and densely populated districts, cities, and other urban settlements, with their workers’ districts. The land is crisscrossed by high power lines, a dense network of railways and paved highways, and trolley tracks. The original river system has changed: river valleys and gullies are often sites of reservoirs, a canal network supplies cities with water, depressions caused by the collapse of old mines have given rise to ponds. The ancient steppe came under cultivation for the most part in the first half of the 19th century, and the rest began to be cultivated in the Soviet period. Much arable land, however, is occupied by industrial and residential buildings. In the Soviet period the small wooded valleys and larger forests along the Donets River were partly destroyed and replaced by cultivated woods and parks. Two man-made landscapes intersect in the Donbas: the agricultural landscape with its grain fields and scattered villages and the industrial-urban landscape, which expands constantly by encroaching on the former.

Ecological damage is a major problem in the Donbas. The inhabitants and industry suffer the consequences of river pollution by the chemical industry and the shortage of clean water. The air here is more polluted than in any other industrial or urban region in Ukraine.

Mineral resources. The Donbas is rich in hard coal (particularly anthracites), rock salt, lignite, marl, limestone, clays and other building materials, mercury, and various ores.

The Donbas has one of the largest coal deposits in the world. The proved reserves of class A, B, and C coal were 55.6 billion t in 1977, or 20 percent of the total USSR reserves. The Ukrainian Donbas contained close to 48.1 billion t.

Hard-coal deposits reach depths of 1,800 m. Almost 330 coal seams have been discovered, most of them 0.3–1.5 m thick. Only the 210 top and middle seams, which lie up to 1,500 m beneath the surface, are thick enough to be worked economically, and only 65 seams are being mined today. The number of commercially exploited seams is declining in the east and north. In the Old Donbas coal is extracted to a depth of 1,000–1,200 m, but plans have been made to dig shafts to a depth of 1,500 m.

Various kinds of coal are found in the Donbas. In the central and southwest districts coking coal, which is the best fuel for metallurgy, occurs. It accounts for 26.5 percent of the coal deposits in the Ukrainian Donbas and 10 percent of the coal in the Russian part. In the northwestern part lies a belt of subbituminous, long-burning coal, which comprises 38 percent of the coal deposits and is used mainly in the chemical industry and partly for coking and fuel. Anthracites (30 percent of the deposits) are found in the central, eastern, and southeastern regions. They are used mostly as high-quality, energy-producing fuel, not for coking. The heating value of long-burning coal is 5,600–7,850 kcal/kg, and of anthracite, 7,600–8,800 kcal/kg. Donbas coal generally has a high ash (up to 30 percent) and sulfur (1.5–3.5 percent) content, which interferes with coking. The thinness of many seams makes them unexploitable.

Of the other useful minerals, the huge deposits of rock salt in the northwestern Donbas in the Bakhmutka River Valley—Artemivsk (Donetsk oblast) with proved reserves of 5.4 billion t (see Artemivsk rock salt deposits) and Sloviansk with reserves of 3.5 billion)—and the Kalmiius River and Torets River valleys are of the greatest value. Near Mykytivka are deposits of quicksilver ore-cinnabar (see Mykytivka mercury deposit), which are largely exhausted now. Mercury ores have been discovered more recently in the vicinity of Sloviansk and Druzhkivka. Various ores such as zinc and lead, with an admixture of copper, silver, and gold, are found in the central Donbas in the region of Naholnyi Ridge but have not yet been exploited. From the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th the small deposits of poor iron ores (brown ores and siderites) were worked in the northwestern Donbas and near Artemivsk (Donetsk oblast). In the northwestern Donbas near Sloviansk lignite was discovered, and in the north natural gas is found. Both resources remain unexploited.

Building materials are common throughout the Donbas: limestone, dolomite, gypsum, refractory clays, marl, quartz sands, sandstones (particularly gray and black for paving streets), quartzites, chalk, slates, and pottery clay. Some of these are also used in the metallurgical industry. Limestones are used in the chemical and metallurgical industries; the main deposits are at Olenivka (Dokuchaievsk) (see Olenivka flux limestone deposit) and Karakuba (Rozdolne). Large marl deposits at Amvrosiivka and in the southern Donbas and smaller deposits along the Luhanka River are the basis of the cement industry. Rich deposits of refractory clays are located in the central Donbas, Chasiv Yar being the best-known deposit. Gypsum is found alongside rock salt in the Bakhmutka River Valley, chalk along the Donets River, colored clays in Sloviansk raion, ocher deposits near Izium, kaolin near Volnovakha in the southwest, and quarried stone in Artemivsk (Donetsk oblast).

History of the Donbas. The northern part of the Donbas, lying along the Donets River, belonged in the 11th–13th centuries to the sphere of influence of the Pereiaslav principality of Kyivan Rus’. The Donets was an important route from the Sea of Azov to the Chernihiv principality and to the Pereiaslav principality. The salt lakes near Sloviansk were already being exploited at that time. Like all of southern Ukraine, the territory of the Donbas was controlled by nomadic hordes such as the Pechenegs, Cumans, and Tatars and was never permanently settled. The first permanent settlements were established by the Don Cossacks. The encroachments of Muscovy into Slobidska Ukraine had an important influence on the settlement of the Donbas. In the second half of the 17th century fortified military outposts—Tor (later Sloviansk) and Bakhmut (later Artemivsk)—were established on the frontier with the Ottoman Empire. The salt deposits also attracted settlers. In the mid-18th century both banks of the Donets were settled with Serbs. Two Serbian regiments were organized, and the land was called Sloviano-Serbia. But the Serbs did not turn out to be good colonizers. Some of them left the new settlements, and the Russian government again began to settle Ukrainians in the region. At the time the Donbas was part of the territory controlled by the Zaporozhian Sich (southwestern part), the Don Cossack Host (southeastern part), and Slobidska Ukraine (northern part). After the destruction of the Zaporozhian Sich and the expansion of the Russian Empire to the Black Sea and to the Sea of Azov, the larger, western part of the Donbas was incorporated into the Katerynoslav vicegerency, later known as Katerynoslav gubernia (Bakhmut and Slovianoserbsk, or Luhansk, counties), while the smaller, eastern part belonged to the territory of the Don Cossack Host (part of Tahanrih and Donets counties). This administrative-territorial division remained in force until the Revolution of 1917 (see Don region).

The Donbas's small population began to increase at the end of the 18th century. Ukrainian settlers predominated, but in the east, particularly along the Donets River, there were also Russian settlers. As in other parts of steppe Ukraine, animal husbandry was initially the main occupation. By the 1830s it had become commercial grain growing. The little coal mining that went on, to supply the Luhansk metallurgical plant (opened in 1795 and eventually closed) with fuel, had an insignificant impact on the environment. Without a transportation system and industrial consumers, coal mining remained unimportant: only 40,000 t were produced in 1796–1806. The industry began to grow beginning only in the 1830s in response to the needs of the imperial navy, the cities on the Sea of Azov, the Petrovsky metallurgical plant near Yenakiieve (1859–64), and the Lysychansk metallurgical plant (1866–70).

1870–1917. The industrial development of the Donbas began in the 1870s when railroads linking it with central Russia and the sea were constructed, and particularly when the first Catherine Railroad (1884, now known as the Dnieper Railroad) and the second Catherine Railroad (1902), which linked the Donbas to the Kryvyi Rih Iron-ore Basin, were built. The demand for coal grew, not only from the railways, but also from the metallurgical industry that arose in the Donbas using the iron ore from Kryvyi Rih. The investment of foreign capital was an important factor in the industrialization of the Donbas. French, British, German, Belgian, and Russian capitalists owned almost all the metallurgical plants and mines of the Donbas. The trusts that operated in the Donbas were mostly foreign-owned and included Produgol (1904), which controlled 75 percent of the coal produced in the Donbas (in 1910), and Prodamet (1902), which controlled 18 metallurgical enterprises. By 1871 the Donbas coal industry had the highest production of anthracite in the Russian Empire (249,600 t or 36 percent of the total). By 1913 production had increased to 25.3 million t or 87 percent, of which 22.8 million t were mined in the Ukrainian part of the Donbas. The level of mechanization in the existing 1,200 mines was low (only 0.5 percent of the coal was mined mechanically). The main consumers of the coal were the railways (28.4 percent in 1914) and the metallurgical plants (21.8 percent). Seventy percent of the coal was used locally.

The ferrous-metallurgy developed rapidly in the Donbas. By 1900 it outproduced the largest metal producer of the Russian Empire—the Urals—and became the principal coal and metallurgical base of the Russian Empire. The first modern metallurgical plant was the Yuzivka plant (now the Donetsk Metallurgical Plant), built by the Welsh industrialist J. Hughes in 1872. Other plants were built: Sulin (now Krasnyi Sulin) in 1872 in the eastern Donbas, Druzhkivka in 1894, Alchevsk in 1895 (see Alchevsk Metallurgical Complex), Donetsko-Yurievskyi in 1896, Vilkhivka in 1896, Petrivsk in 1897, Kramatorsk in 1897, Kostiantynivka in 1897 (see Kostiantynivka Metallurgical Plant), Makiivka in 1898 (see Makiivka Metallurgical Plant), and Kadiivka (now Stakhanov) in 1899. These 10 plants produced 1,726,000 t of pig iron in 1913, or 50 percent of the Donbas production (38 percent of the empire's production). Non-ferrous metallurgy was confined to a single mercury plant built in 1886 to exploit the Mykytivka mercury deposit (within the city limits of Horlivka). Machine building was poorly developed: there were heavy-machinery plants in Luhansk (1896) and Horlivka (1895). The chemical industry was in an embryonic stage, consisting mostly of coke plants, which did not process the by-products of coking, but also of chemical plants in Kostiantynivka (1897) and Rubizhne (1905). The Lysychansk and Sloviansk (1913) soda plants produced 70 percent of the soda of the Russian Empire.

Rapid industrial growth alternated with decline during the economic crises of 1873–5, 1881–2, and mainly after 1900. Economic instability caused fluctuations in employment: the number of miners fell from 82,400 in 1900 to 58,000 in 1902, but by 1913 it had increased to 168,000. An industrial boom in the Donbas increased the demand for labor, which was not difficult to meet given the overpopulation in the agricultural regions of Ukraine and Russia. Most of the Donbas workers came from Russia rather than Ukraine, particularly from the industrial heartland and the Central Chernozem region. As a result of this migration, the Donbas became the most Russified part of Ukraine.

The workers' living and working conditions were very difficult. Hence, strikes occurred from time to time, only to be put down by the police and the army. A wave of strikes swept through the Donbas during the Revolution of 1905. In January 1905 the workers of Horlivka staged an armed uprising, which was brutally crushed. (See Map: Industry of the Donets Region in 1913.)

The Ukrainian national movement had little impact in the Donbas. In the 1900s, in addition to the Russian revolutionary press, some Ukrainian publications reached the Donbas. There were also self-organized workers' groups and Prosvita societies in the region. Some of the Ukrainian intelligentsia who worked there (eg, Spyrydon Cherkasenko and Mykola Cherniavsky) helped to raise the national consciousness of the workers. Lev Yurkevych tried unsuccessfully to publish a Ukrainian newspaper for the workers of Katerynoslav gubernia. Donbas themes appeared in Ukrainian literature for the first time: in S. Cherkasenko's collection of short stories about workers, Na shakhti (In the Mine, 1908); in M. Cherniavsky's Donets’ki sonety (Donets Sonnets, 1898), and in Antin Shablenko's poems. The composer Mykola Leontovych also worked in the Donbas.

1917–41. At the beginning of the First World War the rising demand for coal and metals stimulated industrial growth in the Donbas. New branches of the chemical industry geared to military needs were established.

With the outbreak of the February Revolution in 1917, most workers in the Donbas were led by Russian political parties: the Socialist Revolutionaries, Social Democrats (Mensheviks), and particularly the Bolsheviks. The Donbas Bolsheviks constituted a large part of the party's membership in Ukraine in 1917. According to the Party census of 1922, only 16.6 percent of the Donbas Bolsheviks were Ukrainian by nationality, and barely 4.3 percent could speak Ukrainian. Ukrainian parties had little influence among the workers, half of whom were Russian. Bolshevik organizations in the Donbas, headed by Artem (F. Sergeev), Kliment Voroshilov, and Oleksander Parkhomenko, with the help of military units sent from Moscow (A. Egorov's group), gained the upper hand and established Soviet rule in part of the Donbas. The Red Guard organized here fought against General A. Kaledin's Don Cossack army and the Army of the Ukrainian National Republic, which tried from the east and west to force the Bolsheviks out of the Donbas. In December 1917, mostly as a result of the support of Donbas Bolsheviks, a puppet Ukrainian Soviet government was established in Kharkiv. In February–April 1918, when the Bolsheviks withdrew from Ukraine under the pressure of the German and Ukrainian armies, the Donets–Kryvyi Rih Soviet Republic continued to exist in the Donbas and to maintain its independence of Ukraine and Russia. But the Bolsheviks were eventually forced out, and the Ukrainian government gained control of the part of the Donbas that until 1917 had belonged to Katerynoslav gubernia and Tahanrih county. Under the Hetman government the treaty of 8 August 1918 between the Ukrainian State and the Don Cossack domain confirmed the eastern boundary of Ukraine to be the boundary of Katerynoslav gubernia, except for a few modifications eastward in the vicinity of Mariiupol. To preserve the economic unity of the Donbas, a joint Don-Ukrainian commission was formed in Kharkiv to plan and supervise mutually the industry of the region. The power of the Directory of the Ukrainian National Republic in the Donbas was short-lived. The Donbas was seized by the Bolsheviks at the beginning of 1919 and then by the Volunteer Army, which held it to the end of December, when it was recaptured by the Bolsheviks. The efforts of local and Moscow Communists to form a separate state in the Donbas failed, owing to the opposition of the Ukrainian Communists, and the Donbas became a part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic together with the western territory of the Don Cossack domain. The Donets gubernia, with its capital in Bakhmut, was formed. In 1924 the boundaries of the Ukrainian SSR were changed, and the eastern part of the Donbas, containing the cities of Shakhty, Sulin, and Tahanrih, became part of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. (See Map: Eastern Donbas in 1924.)

The industry of the Donbas collapsed during the Revolution of 1917. In 1920–1 only 258 mines were in operation. Most mines were flooded. Coal production fell from 25.3 million t in 1913 to 4.6 million t (18 percent of the 1913 production). Metals production fell to 500,000 t (only one blast furnace was working at the Petrovsky Plant). Soon, however, the reconstruction of the economy began. By 1928–9 the prewar production of pig iron, steel, and coal was exceeded. In 1926 the population surpassed the 1910 figure. The cities grew very rapidly: the population of Yuzivka increased from 49,000 to 106,000. As before the First World War the Donbas attracted immigrants from outside Ukraine, particularly from Russia, for the Ukrainian peasants, enriched now with the lands of the former landowners, were not interested in industry. According to the 1926 census, of 111,139 immigrants to the Donbas, 33, 814 were Ukrainians and 63,910 were Russians.

In the second half of the 1920s and at the beginning of the 1930s the Donbas was Ukrainized (see Ukrainization), although the process did not advance as far there as in other areas of the Ukrainian SSR. Ukrainian schools were established side by side with Russian elementary schools and secondary schools. The Institute of People's Education in Luhansk was Ukrainized, but a Ukrainian and a Russian division were eventually set up. Some of the press was Ukrainized: the oblast newspaper Luhans’ka pravda was published in Ukrainian. Ukrainian theater groups were formed in the cities and villages, and later drama theaters were organized. Ukrainian theater groups often toured the Donbas. The Ethnographic Commission of the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences studied the folklore of the Donets Basin workers. From 1926 the Scientific Society of the Donets Region was active in Luhansk and was headed by S. Hrushevsky. Ukrainian writers such as Hryhorii Bahliuk, V. Haivoronsky (Vasyl Haidarivsky), Borys Pavlivsky, V. Ivan-Kramatorsky, Kost Herasymenko, M. Ledianko, and Anatol Halan either wrote or began their careers in the Donbas. The writers Volodymyr Sosiura, Pavlo Baidebura, A. Klochchia, Mykola Upenyk, Dmytro Tkach, H. Stetsenko, and others came from the Donbas but lived elsewhere in the Ukrainian SSR. The Donbas writers' organization Zaboi was founded in 1925 and was later Ukrainized. It published a journal Zaboi. In 1932 the monthly Literaturnyi Donbas began to appear, but it was Russified the following year as many Ukrainian cultural and literary figures in the Donbas were liquidated or exiled. Ukrainization was brought to an end that year, and only some manifestations of national culture were tolerated. (The Donbas is the most Russified region of Ukraine today: the schools, theater, and mass media are primarily Russian.)

A debate on the role of the Donbas in Ukraine's economy took place in the 1920s. The Ukrainian side argued for the integration of the Donbas into Ukraine's, not Russia's, economy to enable Ukraine to overcome the heritage of tsarist colonialism. The integration did not occur; hence, the development of Ukraine's economy in the 1930s was uneven.

From the late 1920s industrialization in the Donbas was accelerated under the five-year plans. The old anthracite mines were rebuilt, and new ones were built. Coal production rose to 37 million t (76 percent of USSR production in 1930). The anthracite industry became very concentrated: in 1934, 196 anthracite mines (out of a total of 339) produced 85.4 percent of the coal in the Donbas. Mining became increasingly mechanized: by 1937 almost 90 percent of the coal was mined by mechanized means, but 30 percent of the hardest labor, involving loading, continued to be manual. In 1932 the first combined coal-mining and loading machine in the world was invented in the Donbas.

The construction of thermoelectric stations was speeded up: in 1928–32, 10 stations (DRES) were built, producing 630,000 kW in 1932. The largest of them were in Shterivka, Zuivka, and Lysychansk.

Ferrous metallurgy developed at a slower pace. New plants were not built, although working ones were rebuilt in Makiivka, Donetsk, and Yenakiieve. This diminished the Donbas's importance in Ukraine's production of metal. But non-ferrous metallurgy developed rapidly: an enrichment factory was built in 1934 at the Mykytivka mercury plant in Horlivka, and the Ukrtsynk zinc plant was built in 1930 in Kostiantynivka. Machine building, which had been poorly developed, grew at an unusual rate with the establishment of a mining-machinery plant in Kramatorsk (1930), a coal-mining-machinery plant (1932) and a tractor-parts plant (1935) in Luhansk, and a machine-building plant in Kadiivka (1934). Operating machine-building plants in Donetsk (see Donetske Machine-Building Plant), Luhansk, Pervomaisk (Luhansk oblast), Horlivka (see Horlivka Machine-Building Plant), and elsewhere were rebuilt. Existing chemical plants were reconstructed, and new ones built, including a chemical-pharmaceutical plant in Luhansk (1932–6), a nitrogen plant in Horlivka (1934), and coke-chemical plants in Yenakiieve, Horlivka, and Novomakiivka. New armaments plants developed quickly, and military production at existing metallurgical and machine-building factories increased.

Up to the Second World War the Donbas remained the leading industrial region in Ukraine and the entire USSR. Table 1 shows the production in various industries in 1940.

As the Donbas became more industrialized, the population increased. Donetsk oblast and Luhansk oblast grew from a population of 2,960,000 in 1926 to 4,940,000 in 1939. (See Map: Donets Basin: Urban Population in 1926.) The largest urban concentrations in Ukraine arose in the Donbas. The population increased in these years usually at the cost of other parts of Ukraine. Owing to the fact that in the period of Stalinist terror and collectivization it was easier to survive in the Donbas than in the agricultural countryside, there was an increase in the proportion of Ukrainians in the region: Stanislav Kosior stated at a plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine that in 1926–39 the proportion increased from 26 percent to 33 percent in Staline (now Donetsk) and from 43 percent to 60 percent in Luhansk. (See Map: Ethnic Map of the Donets Basin in the 1930s.)

From 1941 to the 1980s. During the Second World War the Donbas was several times the theater of military confrontation and suffered extensive damage. Almost all plants and coal mines were ruined or flooded. Their equipment was evacuated beyond the Ural Mountains and was not returned after the war. During the 22 months of German occupation the Ukrainian part of the Donbas suffered an economic loss of 37 billion rubles (at 1926–7 values). The reconstruction of the Donbas economy was completed by 1949, when coal and metals production reached the 1940 level. In 1950 the Donbas produced 78 million t of coal (84 million in 1940) and in 1955, 116 million. This growth in production is attributable to an increase in the number of mines from 306 in 1941 to 355 in 1955, the modernization of existing mines (including the mechanization of mining and transporting), the deepening of the mines by an average of 100 m every seven years, and an increase in the work force from 200,000 in 1940 to 427,000 in 1955. In the 1960s coal mining was intensively mechanized and automated (in 1960 there were 5 complex mechanized mines, while in the 1950s there had been none, and by 1965 there were 56) and became more concentrated (in 1955, 138 t were extracted daily per mine; in 1965, 1,214 t were extracted). These trends led to greater labor productivity and a decrease in the number of miners from 522,600 in 1963 to 399,000 in 1967, while the number of mines fell to 350. In 1967, 176.6 million t of coal were mined.

The metallurgical industry, which in 1955 produced 7.4 million t of pig iron (21.6 percent of USSR production), 8.3 million t of steel (18.3 percent), and 6.8 million t of rolled steel (22.2 percent), grew as a result of expanded production and improvements in technology. At the end of the 1950s, four blast furnaces were constructed, and almost all the plants were converted to the modern methods of smelting, which use natural and coke gas and oxygen. Ferroalloy and non-ferrous metallurgy developed at the same time: in 1962 a ferroalloys plant was built in Almazne and a non-ferrous–metals plant in Artemivsk (Donetsk oblast); as well, the Mykytivka mercury production complex in Horlivka was reconstructed. The shortage of fresh water for metallurgy and thermoelectricity was partly overcome by the building of the Donets-Donbas Canal (1954–7) and the Dnieper-Donbas Canal (beginning in 1969).

In the 1960s the growth rate of the metallurgical industry slowed somewhat. Production increased in absolute terms (21.8 million t of pig iron were produced by 1970), but no new plants were built because of the Soviet economic policy of accelerating the development of industrial complexes beyond the Urals and decelerating Ukraine's industrial growth.

What is peculiar to the postwar economy of the Donbas is the accelerated growth of the machine building (particularly in the area of mining equipment and machinery), the chemical industry, the power industry, and the building-materials industry. Since the mid-1960s light industry and the food industry have also developed rapidly. At the same time the relative weight of the coal industry in the economy of the Donbas has diminished.

Until recently the Donbas oblasts (Donetsk oblast and Luhansk oblast) were economically the most highly developed oblasts of Ukraine. Now Dnipropetrovsk oblast and Zaporizhia oblast have outstripped the Donbas oblasts, and their populations are increasing at a faster rate. The economic integration of the Donbas with Ukraine decreased in the 1980s. A large number of firms in the Donbas were under the jurisdiction of all-Union ministries. Hence, the government of Ukraine had little control over the development of the Donbas and the role it played in the development of Ukraine's economy.

The electrical-energy foundation of Donbas industry was strengthened by the construction of large thermoelectric stations beginning in the 1950s: at Myronivskyi (500,000 kW), Sloviansk (2.1 million kW), and Starobesheve (2.3 million kW; since 1967 the largest in Ukraine). Existing stations—Zuivka, Shterivka, etc—were modernized. To connect the operative electric stations with the Volga Cascade 400 km of transmission lines were installed in 1965.

As industry developed, the Donbas became an important scientific research and development center of Ukraine. In 1964 a branch of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR with a host of research and planning institutions was established in Donetsk. There are 19 institutions of higher learning, with many branches, where tens of thousands of students are taught. Although the relative weight of its Ukrainian population grew in the 1960s and 1970s, the Donbas remained at the fore of Russification processes in Ukraine. Lectures in higher and secondary schools were given in Russian. Most of the oblast newspapers published in the Donbas appeared in Russian. Ukrainian textbooks were not available, and most of the publications of Donbas publishers were in Russian. Opposition to the destruction of the Ukrainian culture in the Donbas was spreading, however. This was evident from the examples of the Ukrainian human-rights activists Ivan Svitlychny, Oleksa Tykhy, Ivan Dziuba, Nadiia Svitlychna, Vasyl Stus, and Mykola Rudenko, who were born or worked in the Donbas.


Metallurgy. The leading branch of the Donbas economy is metallurgy. Today the Donbas is the largest producer of metals in Ukraine: in 1975 it produced 23.2 million t of cast iron (50 percent of Ukraine's production, 24.9 percent of the USSR's production); 25.8 million t of steel (48.6 percent and 18.3 percent respectively); and 21.7 million t of rolled steel (49.1 percent and 18.9 percent). Ferrous metallurgy is based on the iron ore of the Kryvyi Rih Iron-ore Basin, the manganese of the Nikopol Basin, and the fuel and limestone of the Donbas. A high degree of concentration is characteristic of the metallurgical industry: the four largest plants produce over 50 percent of Donbas steel. The metallurgical plants are large territorial-manufacturing complexes with their own coke-chemical plants, slag-cement plants, and refractory-products factories. They are closely linked to coal mines (the Kirov Metallurgical Plant in Makiivka owns over 40 of them). Besides cast iron, various high-quality steel alloys and rolled steel (70 percent in the form of profiled steel) are made here. The main centers of the ferrous-metallurgy industry are Makiivka, Donetsk, Yenakiieve, Alchevsk, Kramatorsk, and Kostiantynivka. The large reserves of fuel and cheap electricity have stimulated the growth of non-ferrous metallurgy, which utilizes local quicksilver in Horlivka (of the Mykytivka mercury complex) and zinc concentrates from the Far East (at the Ukrtsynk plant in Kostiantynivka). A plant of non-ferrous metals is also located in Artemivsk (Donetsk oblast). (See Map: Dnieper–Donbas Metallurgical Complex.)

Anthracite industry. In the Donbas economy this industry is second in importance. Although other anthracite fields have were in the former USSR, those of the Donbas had the highest production, yielding in 1976, 191.4 million t (26.9 percent of the USSR production). In 1975 there were 325 mines here. The largest of these were the Abakumov (in Donetsk); Kapitalna (in Krasnoarmiisk), the largest in the former USSR (13,500 t daily); Prohres (in Torez); and n-21-bis (in Makiivka). The deepest of the mines were the Kirov (in Donetsk) at 1,033 m, and the V. Bazhanov (in Makiivka) at 1,012 m. Sixty-eight enrichment plants are in operation. Coal mining in the Donbas has a high degree of mechanization: by 1975 cutting was 100 percent mechanized; loading in drifts, the most labor-intensive process, was 92 percent mechanized; and haulage and loading onto railroads was 100 percent mechanized. The degree of mechanization was higher than in France, Belgium, or West Germany. Ninety mines have a complex mechanized or automated system of extraction; in 1975 these produced 73.8 million t or 41 percent of the underground production. Production has become more concentrated: a single mine produced 1,805 t of coal per day in 1975. The territory that is mined has expanded north, west (a group of mines in the Krasnoarmiisk coal-industry region), and south. Today close to 640,000 people are employed in the coal industry, yet there is a constant shortage of labor because of the high level of worker fluidity (almost 40 percent of the average work force). Relatively high wages are designed to encourage workers to stay in one place. In 1976 a shorter, 30-hour, work week was introduced. The cost of coal mining is relatively high in the Donbas because mines have to be sunk deeply. The average depth of extraction was 292 m in 1956 and 437 m in 1968. Forty percent of the proved reserves of coal are in seams 0.5–0.8 m thick; 13 percent of the seams are inclined, and 20 percent are vertical.

Machine building. The Donbas is the second-largest producer in Ukraine of machines: it produces 44.9 percent of Ukraine's metallurgical equipment, 97 percent of the coal-mining machines, and 95.2 percent of the locomotives built in the former USSR. Based on the local metallurgy and energy, branches of the heavy-machine-building industry were organized first to supply the metallurgical industry, the coal industry, the coke-chemical industry, the chemical industry, the railway industry, and the construction industry. Plants specializing in mining machinery tend to be located in coal-mining regions. The largest of them are the Kirov Plant in Horlivka, the Parkhomenko Plant in Luhansk, the Komsomol Plant in Donetsk, and the plants in Druzhkivka, Yasynuvata, and Debaltseve. The largest machine building plants for ferrous metallurgy are the Lenin Plant and the Ordzhonikidze Mineral Enrichment Complex in Kramatorsk and the plant in Stakhanov. The largest machine-tool construction enterprises are the Chubar Plant in Kramatorsk, the Frunze Plant in Krasnorichensk (formerly Kabannie), and the Ivanivka Plant.

A number of plants in Torez, Kostiantynivka, Donetsk, Luhansk, and Sloviansk (see Sloviansk Heavy-Machine-Building Plant) serve the electrotechnological industry and the power industry. Transport machinery is built in Stakhanov (railway cars) and Luhansk (at the October Revolution Steam Locomotives Plant, one of the largest in Ukraine). As well, equipment for the chemical industry and agriculture and various complex instruments are produced in the Donbas.

Chemical industry. Led by the coke-chemical branch, which developed mostly after the Revolution of 1917, this is an important part of Donbas industry (see Coke-chemical industry). Fourteen enterprises, located near mines and metallurgical plants, produce almost half of the coke-chemical output of the former USSR. The largest are the plants of Donetsk, Yenakiieve, Kramatorsk, Alchevsk, and Avdiivka (the largest in Europe). The other branches of the chemical industry that are highly developed are those producing mineral fertilizers (50 percent of Ukraine's production), synthetic tars, plastics, polymer materials, sulfuric acid, and caustic and soda ash. The Khimprom complex in Sloviansk and the Lenin Soda Plant in Lysychansk produce all of Ukraine's soda. The large chemical firms include Styrol in Horlivka, Azot in Siverskodonetsk (see Siverskodonetsk Azot Manufacturing Consortium), Krasytel in Rubizhne (the sole manufacturer of synthetic dyes in Ukraine; see Rubizhne Krasytel Manufacturing Consortium), and plants in Kostiantynivka, Lysychansk, Donetsk, Verkhnie, Proletarsk, and elsewhere.

Electric power. The enormous electric power supply required by Donbas industry is provided by thermoelectric stations organized into the most powerful energy system in Ukraine—the Donbasenerho. The largest thermoelectric station in Europe—the Vuhlehirsk State Regional Electric Station (DRES), which produces 3.6 million kW—is located near Debaltseve. Several stations here are among the largest in the former USSR: the Zuivka 1 and 2 in Zuhres (2,780,000 kW), the Luhansk near Shchastia (2.3 million kW), the Sloviansk (2.1 million kW), and the Kurakhove (1,460,000 kW). Almost all of the stations are fired by crushed anthracite, the by-products of the enrichment plants, and partly by natural gas and mazout. Today the Donbas produces over one-third of Ukraine' s electric power. The main consumers of electricity are the coal industry (over 40 percent), the metallurgical industry (20 percent), machine building, and the chemical industry. Most of the power is used in the Donbas itself, and some is exported to Russia and East European countries.

Building materials. The Donbas is rich in the raw materials needed for industrial and residential building and produces one-third of Ukraine's building materials (see Building-materials industry). The main branches of the industry are cement (at Amvrosiivka); window glass (at Kostiantynivka, Lysychansk, and Makiivka: 93.5 percent of Ukraine's glass comes from the Donbas); and refractory materials (at Chasiv Yar, Krasnohorivka, and Dokuchaievsk). The manufacture of reinforced-concrete structures, ceramic facing, and thermo-insulating products of brick, etc, is well developed and is usually done in regions of industrial and residential construction. The mining of natural stone material such as limestone or basalt, in the Sloviansk, Volnovakha, and Dokuchaievsk raions, also plays an important role in the economy of the area.

Light industry. This branch is developing rapidly and employs many women. Textile plants in Donetsk, Artemivsk (Donetsk oblast), Makiivka, Kramatorsk, and particularly the silk mills of Luhansk and Stakhanov produce 25 pecent of Ukraine's textiles. Leather and shoe factories are located in Donetsk, Makiivka, Luhansk, Kramatorsk, and Dzerzhynsk (see Light industry).

Food industry. The best-developed sectors of the food industry are the meat-processing industry and dairy industry, with over 50 meat-packing plants in Donetsk, Luhansk, Torez, Lysychansk, etc; the bread industry, with over 100 large bakeries; and the brewing industry and liquor and spirits distilling. The champagne and wine plant in Artemivsk (Donetsk oblast) is one of the most famous distilleries in the area.

Agriculture. Farming in the Donbas differs somewhat from that of the Ukrainian steppe region. It is hindered by the poorer soils and greater erosion that result from the higher relief and frequent dry winds, and it mainly takes the form of suburban cultivation, specializing in garden vegetables, potatoes, orchards (particularly apple orchards), dairying, and poultry raising. Many miners who live on the city outskirts raise their own domestic animals and poultry and cultivate small gardens.

(See Map: Industry of the Donets Basin.)

Transportation. The Donbas has the densest and most used railway network in Ukraine. There are 3,000 km of main track and nearly 3,000 km of side track serving various industries. The largest railway junctions are Yasynuvata, Chervonyi Lyman, Popasna, Luhansk, Ilovaisk, Rodakove, and Debaltseve. Lines serving suburban areas are very important in the Donbas. The main railroad lines are the meridional line connecting the Donbas with Kharkiv and Moscow and with the Sea of Azov coastal region (Mariupol, Tahanrih, Rostov-na-Donu) and the line connecting the Donbas with the Dnieper Industrial Region (Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, Kryvyi Rih) and with the Don River, the Volga River, and the Caspian Sea.

The freight transported in the Donbas constitutes half the freight in all of Ukraine. Coal, metal, machinery, and chemical products are carried out of the Donbas, and iron ore (from the Kryvyi Rih Iron-ore Basin and the Kerch Iron-ore Basin), manganese ore (from the Nikopol Manganese Basin), lumber, petroleum, food products, and textiles are brought in.

Automobile transportation is well developed: Donetsk oblast and Luhansk oblast have 15,000 km of roads (of which 9,700 km are paved), which connect all the cities of the region. The main highways are Luhansk–Kharkiv, Luhansk–Donetsk, and Moscow–Kharkiv–SlovianskDebaltseveRostov-na-Donu. Trolleybus and trolley-car transport have developed considerably, providing interurban transportation in urban clusters.

Airports in Donetsk, Mariupol, Siverskodonetsk, and Luhansk connect the Donbas with many cities in Ukraine, Europe, and the former USSR. Mariupol is the commercial seaport of the Donbas.

The Donbas is dissected by various pipelines, including the Soiuz main gas pipeline from Orenburg and the Moscow–Stavropol pipeline, which has branches to Luhansk, Stakhanov, Lysychansk, Horlivka, Sloviansk, and other places. Donetsk receives natural gas from Krasnodar krai, and Sloviansk gets gas from Kharkiv oblast.

Water for domestic and industrial use is supplied by large reservoirs such as those in Vuhlehirsk, Starobesheve, Vilkhivka, and Staryi Krym, and by the Dnieper–Don Canal and the Donets–Donbas Canal, which extend from the Donets River to the heartland of the Donbas.

Population. The Donbas is the most densely populated region of Ukraine and, after the Moscow region, of all of Eastern Europe. In 1979 almost 6.5 million people lived in an area of 23,000 sq km, that is, 283 people per sq km. In the 1860s scarcely 400,000 people lived in this area, and the density was similar to that in steppe Ukraine. The rapid development of industry brought about the great population increase: in 1897 the population was 1.1 million; in 1926, 1.7 million. A large natural increase (27.7 per 1,000 annually in 1924-8 as compared to 23.2 in all Ukraine) and in-migration into the area accounted for the swift growth. In 1926 only 23 percent of the Donbas population was born there. Primarily Russians of the Central Chernozem and Central Industrial regions moved to the Donbas. Ukrainians migrated in much smaller numbers, mainly from neighboring districts. In 1897, for example, only 45 percent of the migrants to the Donbas were born on Ukrainian territory, and in 1926 only 32 percent, while barely 12 percent of workers migrating to the Donbas came from other parts of Ukraine. By 1902 half of the workers in the Donbas were non-Ukrainian. The reason for this was the reluctance of Ukrainian peasants to change their way of life and their work. They preferred to emigrate (see Emigration) as farmer-colonists to Central Asia and the Far East rather than to go to the mines and factories of the Donbas. Most of the migrants to the Donbas were men of working age. In 1926 they outnumbered the women 100 to 96 (the ratio was 100 to 106 for all of Ukraine). Thirty-five percent of the men were between the ages of 20 and 39 (30 percent in Ukraine).

The ethnic composition of the Donbas has also been influenced by its location on the Ukrainian-Russian ethnic border and the presence of a number of Russian peasant islands in the Ukrainian Donbas. In 1926 Ukrainians constituted only 58.4 percent of the region's population; Russians, 33.4 percent; Jews, 2.2 percent; Germans, 1.6 percent; Belorussians, 0.8 percent; and Poles, 0.5 percent. Russians were the majority in the cities: 48.9 percent of the population was Russian while only 40.4 percent was Ukrainian. In the larger cities the difference was even larger: in Donetsk the figures were 56.6 percent and 26.2 percent; in Makiivka, 64.5 percent and 28.5 percent.

The population of the Donbas grew particularly rapidly in the period of the first five-year plans at the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s. In six years (1927-32) the population increased by 25 percent: in the cities by 13.9 percent and in the countryside by 11 percent. In 1933-8 the population increased by 56 percent. Table 2 shows the growth rate of the largest cities.

In contrast to the past, in the 1930s most of the migration to the Donbas was from other regions of Ukraine, particularly from the countryside, because the demand for labor and better working conditions made survival easier in the Donbas than elsewhere during the collectivization, Famine-Genocide of 1932–3, and Stalinist terror.

The German-Soviet war (see Second World War) caused a sharp decline in the population: part of it was evacuated by the Soviets, about 320,000 people were deported as Ostarbeiter to Germany, about 420,000 perished, and some scattered into the countryside where food was easier to come by. The 1940 population size was reached again only in the mid-1950s. The population changes in the period from 1940 to 1980 are presented in table 3, which applies only to Luhansk oblast and Donetsk oblast (53,200 sq km) rather than to the Donbas as a whole. The population growth was most rapid during the first two five-year plans (1928–37), when the average rate of growth was 4.2 percent annually. It slowed down in the 1950s and the first half of the 1960s (to 1.5 percent) (see Map: Population of Donets Basin, 1956); since then it has constantly decreased (to 0.3 percent in 1976–9). Now the annual growth rate is below the natural rate of increase. In the 1980s in-migrants came mostly from the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. The estimates for the Donbas proper in 1926 and 1979 are shown in table 4.

Today the Donbas is the most densely populated region of Ukraine. Ninety-three percent of its population is urban. Villages survive only on the periphery of the region and sometimes among the large urban concentrations. Many of them are becoming increasingly urbanized. (See Map: Donets Basin: Cities and Towns.) The present cities and towns (smt) have developed from former small industrial or mining settlements, which at first consisted of primitive, unsanitary barracks and workers' earthen huts (shankhaiky, sobacheivky, pekinynky) scattered chaotically around factories and mines. Only a few of the older towns—Bakhmut, Luhansk, Sloviansk—had the appearance and the status of towns. The character of the towns and cities changed after the Revolution of 1917 because of the growth of industry and population: not only did they increase in area, but they also acquired proper city centers. The process is still continuing. As late as 1940, however, many workers, particularly newcomers and single men, still lived in barracks and even in earthen huts on the urban outskirts. The cities of the Donbas are constantly growing: suburban settlements merge with the cities, certain cities merge with each other, and worker's settlements become cities. Many cities do not have distinct centers. Some stretch along streams and railroad lines for many kilometers and are not sharply distinguished from other cities; for example, Kostiantynivka–Oleksiievo–Druzhkivka extend along the Kryvyi Torets River for 25 km. Some cities have almost merged with others, for example, DonetskMakiivka. In 1979 there were four cities with over 300,000 inhabitants, nine cities with 100,000–300,000, and eleven cities with 50,000–100,000 in the Donbas.

Ethnic composition. The ethnic composition of the Donbas population can be extrapolated from the census data for Luhansk oblast and Donetsk oblast. Figures for 1979 are shown in table 5. The ethnic composition of the urban and rural population in the two oblasts is shown in table 6.

Linguistic Russification has advanced rapidly. In 1959, 21 percent of Ukrainians in both oblasts gave Russian as their native language; in 1979 the figures were 36.7 percent in Donetsk oblast and 28.4 percent in Luhansk oblast. In 1970, 13 percent of Ukrainians did not know the Ukrainian language. In 1979, 2,723,000 people (34 percent of the total population of both oblasts) gave Ukrainian as their native language; 4,485,400 (62 percent) gave Russian. In 1959, 3,142,000 (47 percent) gave Ukrainian as their native tongue, and 3,752,000 (56 percent) gave Russian. Thus, an absolute decline in the number of Ukrainians who consider Ukrainian their native language was occurring.

The ethnic composition of the Donbas proper cannot be described more accurately. Approximate figures from 1970, however, can be compared to the figures for 1926, which are quite accurate. These are shown in table 7.

Main industrial and population centers. These are located mostly in the central part of the Donbas near the rich deposits of coking coal. The densest concentration of population is in Donetsk and nearby Makiivka, the largest centers of the coal, machine-building, and coke-chemical industries. Some of the largest metallurgical plants in Ukraine are found there: the Lenin Plant in Donetsk, the Makiivka Metallurgical Plant, and huge machine-building plants producing mining equipment, metal structures, industrial machines, etc. Along with Yasynuvata, Khartsyzk, and several other cities and towns, Donetsk–Makiivka is the largest urban cluster in the Donbas and the second largest after Kyiv in Ukraine. Almost 2.5 million people live in an area of 600 sq km. About 20 km north of Donetsk lies another cluster, consisting of Horlivka, Yenakiieve, and other cities, of almost 800,000 people in an area of 500 sq km. There the coal industry, the metallurgical industry, machine building, the coke-chemical industry, and the chemical industry are concentrated.

Farther north a third cluster—Kostiantynivka, Druzhkivka, Kramatorsk, Sloviansk and several other cities—stretches along the Kazennyi Torets River for 50 km and has a population of 800,000. Kramatorsk is the center of machine building, with two huge heavy-machine-building plants and an industrial-machine-building plant. Druzhkivka and Kostiantynivka have metallurgical as well as non-ferrous metallurgical, chemical, and glass plants. Sloviansk is primarily a center for the chemical (soda) industry, but it has a heavy-machine-building plant and an armature-insulation plant.

The fourth cluster, consisting of Stakhanov, Alchevsk, and the smaller cities of Pervomaisk (Luhansk oblast) and Popasna, has a population of almost one million. It is an important coal, coke-chemical, and metallurgical center. The metallurgical industry is concentrated in Alchevsk, the ferroalloys industry in Stakhanov.

Luhansk, which is somewhat removed from the region's heartland, is the oldest and the second-largest industrial center. Its population is about 425,000, and it is known for machine building, particularly of steam locomotives, and industrial-machine building.

The cluster of Lysychansk, Siverskodonetsk, Rubizhne, Kreminna, with over 400,000 inhabitants, lies along the Donets River. It is the largest chemicals center in the Donbas, with plants such as Azot in Siverskodonetsk (see Siverskodonetsk Azot Manufacturing Consortium), Krasytel in Rubizhne (see Rubizhne Krasytel Manufacturing Consortium), and a soda plant in Lysychansk, where the largest oil refinery in Ukraine is also located. The coal and glass industries are well developed there.

The last large population cluster is Torez-Snizhniansk in the south, with a population of 350,000. Its primary industry is coal.

Lutugin, L.; Stepanov, P. Donetskii kamennougol'nyi bassein (Saint Petersburg 1913)
Fomin, P. Gornaia i gornozavodskaia promyshlennost' iuga Rossii, 1–2 (Kharkiv–Bakhmut 1915–24)
Kubijowytsch, W. ‘Das Donetzbecken,’ Osteuropa, 1936, no. 2
Narysy rozvytku narodnoho hospodarstva Ukraïns'koï RSR (Kyiv 1949)
Geologo-issledovatel'nye raboty. Materialy po stratigrafii i paleontologii Donetskogo basseina (Moscow–Kharkiv 1950)
Logvinenko, N. ‘Iskopaemye ugli Ukrainy,’ in Narysy ekonomichnoï heohrafiï URSR, 2 (Kyiv 1952)
Ocherki razvitiia narodnogo khoziaistva Ukrainskoi SSR (Moscow 1954)
Vakulev, G. Razvitie ugol'noi promyshlennosti Donetskogo basseina (Moscow 1955)
Nesterenko, O. Rozvytok promyslovosti na Ukraïni, 2–3 (Kyiv 1962-6)
Potolov, S. Rabochie Donbassa v XIX veke (Moscow–Leningrad 1963)
Man'ko, I.; Makhrachov, O. Ekonomichni raiony Ukraïny (Kyiv 1965)
Kiselev, V. Vsenarodnaia pomoshch' v vosstanovlenii Donbassa v 1943-45 gg. (Moscow 1975)
Chumachenko, M. ‘Promyslovist' Donbasu v iedynomu narodnohospodars'komu kompleksi kraïny,’ ERU, 1977, no. 5
Kniga o Donbasse. Priroda. Liudi. Dela, 2nd edn (Donetsk 1977)
Naselenie i trudovye resursy Donbassa (Kyiv 1977)
Tykhyi, O. ‘Rozdumy pro ukraïns'ku movu i kul'turu v Donets'kii oblasti,’ in Rozdumy: Zbirnyk stattei, dokumentiv, spohadiv (Baltimore–Toronto 1982)

Volodymyr Kubijovyč

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]

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