I wonder how many Russian nationalists know of the Welsh heritage of the industrial city of Donetsk, birthplace of pole-vault legend Sergey Bubka, shoe banging Nikita Krushchev, and Yevgeny Khaldei, the photographer who gave the world the iconic image of a Soviet soldier raising the hammer and sickle over the Reichstag in May 1945?
Donetsk began life in 1869 when Welsh businessman, John Hughes (1814 – 1889), purchased land in the Donbass region of Russia following the award of an Imperial Russian concession to develop metalworks in the area. Hughes had previously been manager of the Millwall Iron Works & Shipbuilding Company. Hughes formed the New Russia Company to raise capital for the venture and in 1870 he, along with some one hundred mainly Welsh iron-workers and miners, moved to Russia.
The metal works he built near the river Kalnius formed the nucleus of a new town that sprang up around the blast furnaces, that became known as Hughesovka, or Yuzovka in Russian, after its founder. Blast furnaces, collieries, and iron ore mines were closely followed by a hospital, schools, tea rooms, bath houses, and the Anglican Church of Saint George and St David. The Welsh and other British workers were housed in their own sector within the town, forming a thriving expatriate community.
By the late nineteenth century the works were the largest in Russia, responsible for seventy-four per cent of all Russian iron output by 1913. Hughes, and the four sons that survived his death in 1889, John James, Arthur David, Ivor Edward and Albert Llewellyn, managed the works until 1917 when the Bolshevik Revolution brought the family connection to an end. The newly formed Soviet state took over the works in 1919, bringing an end to the Welsh diaspora. Yuzovka was renamed Stalino in 1924, and then Donetsk in 1961.
Research from the Defence Studies Department, King's College London
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