To what extent were ethnic divisions in Donbas a driving force behind the russian 2022 invasion?

In che misura le divisioni etniche nel Donbas hanno dato impulso all’invasione russa del 2022?

Jack Cathcart


On the 11th May 2014, the self-proclaimed “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk, which had emerged in opposition to the Maidan revolution which ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, would hold referendums on the issue of independence from the state of Ukraine. These referendums, which were considered illegal by the Ukrainian government, were subsequently followed by eight years of conflict in the Donbas region, leading up to the February 2022 full scale Russian invasion. This research will seek to examine how the Russian Federation, as a state actor, co-opted and reframed economic and social problems that resulted from the failure of the state-building process in Donbas since 2014, presenting them as ethno-nationalist grievances, in order to establish a pretext for the 2022 invasion. The research will include an exploration of the history of the Donbas region and reactions to Ukrainian independence, polling before and after the Maidan revolution in the occupied regions until 2020, and the economic and social problems (specifically citizenship and voting) that emerged after the stalling of the Novorossiya project. The article will then compare these real world events with statements from the Russian media, examining how grievances were consistently framed as a national issue, whilst pushing the narrative that ethnic Russians and Russophones were under threat in Donbas.


L’11 maggio 2014 le autoproclamate “Repubbliche Popolari” di Donec’k e Luhans’k, sorte in opposizione alla rivoluzione del Majdan che aveva rovesciato il presidente Viktor Janukovič, tennero dei referendum sulla questione dell’indipendenza dallo Stato ucraino. A questi referendum, considerati illegali dal governo ucraino, seguirono poi otto anni di conflitto nella regione del Donbas, culminati nel febbraio 2022 in un’invasione su vasta scala da parte della Federazione Russa. Questa ricerca tenterà di esaminare il modo in cui la Federazione Russa come attore statale ha cooptato e ridefinito i problemi economici e sociali risultanti dal fallimento del processo di costruzione statale avviatosi nel Donbass dal 2014, presentandoli come rimostranze etnonazionaliste onde avere un pretesto per l’invasione del 2022. La ricerca comprenderà anche un’esplorazione della storia della regione del Donbas e le reazioni all’indipendenza ucraina, i sondaggi nelle regioni occupate prima e dopo la rivoluzione del Majdan fino al 2020, e i problemi economici e sociali (in particolare la cittadinanza e il voto) emersi dopo lo stallo del progetto della Novorossija. L’articolo inoltre metterà a confronto questi eventi del mondo reale con le dichiarazioni dei media russi, esaminando il modo in cui le rimostranze venivano sistematicamente ridefinite come una questione nazionale, al tempo stesso portando avanti la narrazione secondo la quale nel Donbas i russi e i russofoni erano in pericolo.

Parole chiave

Donbas; Russian nationalism; Ukraine; Russian Federation; ethno-nationalism; Donbas; nazionalismo russo; Ucraina; Federazione Russa; etnonazionalismo

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