Workers of the Donbass Speak
Survival and Identity in the New Ukraine, 1989-1992
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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