The capital of the Donetsk oblast, Donetsk is on the River Kalmius in the Donets Basin in the east of the country. It has long been an important centre of the Ukrainian mining and metallurgical industries.
At the heart of Ukraine’s coal-mining region, the city was originally named Yuzovka after Welshman John Hughes who set up a steel mill to exploit coal in 1872. Donetsk was a purpose-built workers’ settlement for the local factory. In 1924 it was renamed Stalino, reflecting the success of the Soviets in the revolution of 1917. In 1961 it became Donetsk.
Having suffered heavily during World War II Donetsk was redeveloped in the post-war era by the Soviets and its industrial capacity expanded.
In recent years miners have struck over poor working conditions, highlighted by two major accidents. An explosion in 1998 killed 63 miners and another explosion in May 1999 claimed 39 lives.
During the 2014 conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels, the city became a centre point for protests and violence. On 11 May 2014, the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts held a referendum on independence from Ukraine. It was alleged that 90% of the population voted in favour of independence, and the self-proclaimed state of the Donetsk People’s Republic was declared with Donetsk as its capital. Neither the referendum nor the DPR were recognized by any other state.
Coal mining and metallurgy continue to be the mainstays of the economy. Also important are chemicals, textiles, food processing, heavy engineering and scientific research. There are a university and several institutions of higher education.
Donetsk lies on major road and rail routes and there is an airport.
Places of Interest
There is a concert hall and numerous theatres.