Workers of the Donbass Speak

Survival and Identity in the New Ukraine, 1989-1992

By Lewis H. Siegelbaum & Daniel J. Walkowitz

Subjects: Industrial / Labor Relations
Series: SUNY series in Oral and Public History
Paperback : 9780791424865, 226 pages, July 1995
Hardcover : 9780791424858, 226 pages, July 1995

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Table of contents




The Kuibyshev Raion

A Note on the Organizational Structure of Ex-Soviet Mines


Part One
Worker Stories: The Older Generation, 1989

Introduction to Part One

1. Narsis Melikian, Retired Mining Engineer

2. Ivan and Gennady Kushch, a Miner's Dynasty

3. Marfa Ivanovna Limonets, Retired Mineworker and Her Daughter, Olga Nikolaevna Bondarenko

4. Viktor Mikhailovich Ignatov, Retired Steelworker

5. Evgenia Feodorovna Zilova, Retired Steelworks Employee

6. Vladimir Feodorovich Pogorelov, Miner-electrician

7. Feodor Skripai, Retired Miner

Part Two
Labor Politics, 1989-1992

Introduction to Part Two

Survival Strategies: The Miners of Donetsk in the Post-Soviet Era

Stephen F. Crowley and Lewis H. Siegelbaum

I. August 1989

8. Valery Vladimirovich Samofalov, Chair, Strike Committee, Kuibyshev Mine, August 2, 1989

9. Kuibyshev Mine Trade Union Conference, August 5, 1989

II. May 1991

10. Discussion—Kuibyshev Mine Leaders

Gennady Kushch, Chair, Council of Labor Collectives, Kuibyshev Mine

Valery Samofalov, Vice-Chair, Council of Labor Collectives, Kuibyshev Mine

Gila Tengizovich Alizaev, Director, Kuibyshev Mine

11. Discussion—City Strike Committee:

Nikolai Volynko, Member,

Yuri Leonidovich Makarov, Co-Chair,

Mikhail Krylov, Co-Chair

III. June-July 1992

12. Discussion—SNOP Delegates

Yuri Timofeevich Pivovarov, Chair, Donetsk Regional Federation of "Solidarity" Trade Unions of Ukraine

Olga Pavlovna Samofalova, Chair, Independent Trade Union of Textile Workers of Donetsk Cotton Mill

Sergei Gurovich Ignatov, Chair, Trade Union of Police and Judicial Personnel

Sergei Ivanovich Sobchakov, Chair, Union of Aviation Controllers in Donetsk

13. Evgenii Grigorevich Belous, Chair, Kuibyshev Mine Trade Union Committee

14. Giia Alizaev, Director, Kuibyshev Mine

15. Valery Samofalov, Miner, Kuibyshev Mine

16. Yuri Makarov, Co-Chair, Donetsk City Strike Committee

17. Mikhail Krylov, Co-Chair, Donetsk City Strike Committee

Part Three
Survival and Identity, 1992

Introduction to Part Three

"Normal Life": The Crisis of Identity Among Donetsk's Miners

Daniel J. Walkowitz

18. The Kushch Family

Gennady, Driver, Kuibyshev Mine Nadezhda, Housing Administrator, Kuibyshev Mine

Marina, Nadezhda's Daughter

Liudmilla (Gennady's ex-wife), Clerk, State Hardware Store

Ivan, Mechanic at Kuibyshev Mine and Pensioner

19. The Samofalov Family

Valery, Miner, Kuibyshev Mine Tatiana, Laboratory Assistant, Chemical Reactive Plant Svetlana Zaguliaova, Their Married Daughter

20. The Mezhinskii Family

Vera Aleksandrovna, Packer, Chemical Reactive Plant

Aleksandr, Miner, October Mine

21. The Zadorozhnyi Family

Viktor Andreevich, Accountant, Doka-TV; Former Komsomol Organizer, October Mine

Irina, Bank Economist on Maternity Leave

22. Vladislav Nikolskii, A New Entrepreneur, Director, Intertour Travel Agency

23. The Varevoda Family: Intellectual Workers

Yuri, Mining Engineer

Svetlana, Physicist at the City Planetarium

Viktor Yatsenko, Their Son-in-law, A Physicist

Aleksandr Yatsenko, Viktor's Father, A Professor

Vera, Svetlana's Mother, A Pensioner


This is an oral and local history of the coal mining town of Donetsk in the Ukraine. The workers describe their changing political and economic goals and their reaction to Western culture, the rising tides of nationalism and religion.


In July 1989 coal miners throughout the Soviet Union engaged in a massive strike that briefly captured world headlines and inaugurated a movement of strike committees that persisted across the Soviet/post-Soviet divide. In this collection of interviews and essays based on encounters over a three-year period, the voices of industrial workers and their families in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, the coal capital of the Donbass, are heard.

The stories collected here allow Western readers to "hear" these people describe their struggles for survival and identity in conditions of economic, political and social disintegration/transformation; and to analyze their testimonies and other kinds of texts in terms of changing meanings of work, gender, and national identity. Included are an examination of the "older generation" that came of age during the Stalin era; an analysis of the miners' movement and the trade union politics that emerged out of the strike of 1989; and a focus on the social crises and cultural disorientations accompanying Ukrainian independence.

Lewis H. Sigelbaum is Professor of History at Michigan State University. He has written and co-edited six books on Russian and Soviet labor history. Daniel J. Walkowitz is Professor of History at New York University. He is the author of Worker City, Company Town: Iron and Cotton Worker Protest in Troy and Cohoes, New York, 1855-1884, and The Mystification of the Middle Class: Gender and Social Identity among Social Workers, 1900-1980. He has also produced several video documentaries including "Perestroika from Below."


"This book is a valuable contribution to the field of post-Soviet studies; it addresses a number of crucial issues in an engaging and informative way. Most importantly, it allows Western readers to hear Russian and Ukrainian miners and their families speak in their own words. The interviews included here bring to life people of the former Soviet Union as they struggle to cope with the economic, political, and societal disintegration taking place around them. Particularly today, when scholarship and media coverage alike pay nothing more than lip-service to the 'hardships of economic transition,' it is important that Western audiences understand the hopes and insecurities felt by people of the former Soviet Union." -- David Hoffmann, Cornell University