Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatists claim Bolshevik legacy


As German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande were meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, attempting to bargain for a lasting peace in Ukraine, separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine were issuing a “memorandum” – a declaration drawing on Soviet history to justify their continued territorial conquests and self-declared independent statehood. The rebels cited an entity from 1918, the “Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic” (DKSR), which encompassed swathes of territory far outside the areas they control today, namely, the Yekaterinoslav, Kharkov and Taurida Guberniya [guberniya were ‘governorates’ – Tsarist Russian areas ruled by a governor on behalf of the Russian emperor – Ed.]. The implication is that the separatist rebels now controlling parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions presume legal entitlement to the Dnipropetrovsk and Kharkiv regions, as well as most of Ukraine’s coastline. They are trying to lay the “legal” groundwork for the “land corridor” connecting Crimea with mainland Russia, completely depriving the Kyiv authorities of any access to the Sea of Azov.

DKSR founder Fyodor Sergeyev (aka 'Comrade Artyom') was a close associate of Stalin.

DKSR founder Fyodor Sergeyev (aka ‘Comrade Artyom’) was a close associate of Stalin.

The Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic only existed for about a year before it was abolished by the very entity to which it had claimed to belong: the Soviet Russian Republic. Furthermore, the Kremlin soon augmented the territory of Ukraine following the Bolsheviks’ victory in the Russian Civil War, so that ultimately all of the DKSR was absorbed by “Ukraine” (as was Crimea, eventually, as well). This means that, even if one ascribes international legal importance to internal Soviet border-drawing almost a century ago, the rebels’ identification of their separatist territory in 2015 with the DKSR of 1918 (possibly at Moscow’s instigation) is not necessarily a bad omen for the pro-Western Ukrainian government. It may also be significant that the DKSR does not lay claim to all of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, but rather only up to the Dnipro River. The Odessa Region – which would connect the “Novorossiya” territory with the pro-Russian separatist Transnistria region in Moldova – remains outside the Putinist imperial map [See ‘Novorossiya’: Phase 2].

Rebels of the Donetsk People's Republic

Rebels of the Donetsk People’s Republic

It would require Odessa’s local authorities to make a similar declaration of historical inheritance vis-a-vis the “Odessa Soviet Republic” (also briefly in existence in 1918) to put the prospect of a completely landlocked Ukrainian rump state on the map of international geopolitical consciousness. While pro-Russian separatism has not flared in Odessa thus far, a massacre in the city in May 2014 was very likely an attempt by the Russian security services to sow violence, chaos and terror – and thus anti-Kyiv sentiment – among the locals [See Ukraine analysis: Odessa massacre was Russian intelligence op]. We should not be surprised to see further Russian-sponsored subversion and lethal violence in Odessa in the months ahead.

A map of Ukraine in 1918, showing the territories declared by the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic (dark green) and the Odessa Soviet Republic (purple). Ukrainian forces fought the Bolsheviks for control of these areas during the period of the independent Ukrainian state (1917-1921).

A map of Ukraine in 1918, showing territories of “Soviet states” declared by the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic (dark green) and the Odessa Soviet Republic (purple). Ukrainian forces fought the Bolsheviks for control of these areas during the period of the pre-Soviet independent Ukrainian state (1917-1921).

The ‘DNR’ has declared itself the heir of the ‘Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Republic,’ and claims the territory of the former Kharkov, Yekaterinoslav and Tauride Governorates

6 February 2015

The self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” has declared that it considers itself the successor of the “Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Republic” (DKR) proclaimed by the Bolsheviks in 1918 at the 4th Congress of Soviets Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Basin. This is stated in the so-called “Memorandum” adopted on February 6th in Donetsk by the “People’s Council of the DNR.” This is reported on the OstroV website.

In the “memorandum it is emphasized” that in 1918 the DKR included “the territory of the Kharkov and Yekaterinoslav Guberniya, the Krivorozhye and Kherson Guberniya, some of the counties of the Taurida Guberniya, and industrial areas of the region of the Don Cossack Army.” The rebels mistakenly assert that – de jure – the “Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Republic” has never ceased to exist.

Map of the Taurida Guberniya showing its northern border as a red line

Map of the Taurida Guberniya showing its northern border as a red line at the top

On the basis of this, the authors of the “memorandum” exhort the people living on the territory of Ukraine that was never “part of the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Republic, as well as other areas… to become equal subjects of the “Donetsk People’s Republic.”

A DNR separatist rebel brandishes his Kalashnikov assault rifle.

A DNR separatist rebel brandishes his Kalashnikov assault rifle.

The terrorists justify their “memorandum” using the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations and the results of the unrecognized “referendum” of 11 May 2014.

Reference: Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic was a Soviet republic of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR – or Soviet Russia) established by the Bolsheviks in the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Basin in opposition to the Ukrainian People’s Republic. On 17 February 1919, the Defense Council of the RSFSR passed a resolution on the liquidation of the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic.

A poster designed by sympathizers of the Donetsk People's Republic, appealing to both Russian nationalism (double-headed eagle) and Soviet nostalgia (hammer and sickle)

A poster designed by sympathizers of the Donetsk People’s Republic, appealing to both Russian nationalism (double-headed eagle) and Soviet nostalgia (hammer and sickle)

«ДНР» объявила себя наследницей «Донецко-Криворожской Республики» и претендует на территории бывших Харьковской, Екатеринославской и Таврической губерни

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