De-industrialization and Conflict in Donbas: Capacity building in Ukraine to make Donbas (mono)towns inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. (IZOLYATSIA. Platform for Cultural Centre, Kyiv, Ukraine; CRSCEES at the University of St Andrews, UK; Center for Urban History of East Central Europe, Lviv, Ukraine). Funded by the Scottish Funding Council Official Development Assistance Global Challenges Research Fund

image provided courtesy of izolyatsia.org

Four years of conflict in Donbas, Ukraine, have resulted in a dire humanitarian situation. Since hostilities began in 2014, approximately 1.7 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced, while over 2,500 civilians have been killed, and over 9,000 injured as a result of armed clashes. While the roots of the crisis are complex, one factor on which scholars are increasingly placing emphasis is the problem of “failing” Donbas cities. The Soviet monotown model, according to which cities were established around a single industry or company, has proven unsustainable after the collapse of socialism. With the closure of many Donbas mines and steelworks in the 1990s, communities faced mass unemployment, large-scale out-migration from the region, the dilapidation of company-provisioned housing and communal services, major social and health problems, and growing cultural deprivation.

The post-industrial history and heritage of the Ukrainian East nevertheless presents enormous potential for cultural innovation and community empowerment. Evidence of this potential is already clear from a number of grass-roots initiatives that have creatively reanimated industrial heritage objects and contributed to the region’s cultural diversification and positive re-evaluation (Vilna Khata in Kramatorsk, Teplytsia and Top Place in Sloviansk, among others). Yet, in spite of the manifest value of industrial patrimony, no national/regional programmes or business models currently exist for the adaptive reuse of Ukraine’s industrial structures. Through research and fieldwork, knowledge exchange and practitioner mentorship, publications and public outreach activities, the project will prompt a reappraisal of this heritage and stimulate innovative and informed approaches to its management.

CRSCEES Visiting Fellows

In 2019, CRSCEES will welcome two Visiting Fellows in connection with the (mono)town project.

Iryna Sklokina

Iryna is a historian and Research Fellow at the Center for Urban History of East Central Europe (Lviv, Ukraine). She is a participant on several international projects about historical memory and oral history, including “Region, Nation and Beyond: An Interdisciplinary and Transcultural Reconceptualization of Ukraine” (research sub-topic “Political Death Cult of the Fallen Soldiers in Ukraine in the Past 20 years”) and the Horizon2020 project “OpenHeritage – Organizing, Promoting and Enabling Heritage Re-Use Through Inclusion, Technology, Access, Governance and Empowerment”. At the Center for Urban History Iryna researches historical heritage, in particular industrial and Soviet heritage. Among her recent publications are the co-edited and co-authored volumes “Labor, Exhaustion,

and Success: Company Towns of the Donbas” (2018) and “Politics and Memory: Dnipro – Zaporizhzhia – Odesa – Kharkiv from 1990s till Today (2018), as well as articles on the making of the post-WWII memorial landscape and practices of heritage tourism under socialism.

Dmytro Chepurnyi

Dmytro is the cultural manager and curator of the Donbas Studies Research Project at IZOLYATSIA. Platform for Cultural Initiatives in Kyiv. Dmytro was born in Luhansk, Ukraine, and studied at Taras Shevchenko National University. He runs curatorial projects at IZOLYATSIA which innovate new artistic and cultural approaches around Donbas issues. “Donbas Studies” is an independent research platform that establishes research networks, contributes to the current discourse on Donbas and problematizes social changes through artistic and cultural practices. Its activities include workshops, exhibitions, and art residency projects that engage with the transformation of public spaces in (mono)towns in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. “Donbas Studies” aims to promote a culture of participatory and democratic values.


UK-Ukraine network 

Facilitated by the CRSCEES Fellows and drawing on an established network of UK contacts formed as part of the “The Hughesovka Project: Fostering dialogue and creativity around migration, culture, and European identity in Wales and Ukraine,” a UK-Ukraine knowledge exchange network is being created. A central goal of the network was to exchange information and expertise about the management of sustainable cities and communities and to help local actors to formulate informed and innovative responses to the challenges of post-industrial transformation in the conflict-affected Ukrainian East. The following essays, reflecting on project themes, were commissioned and published by project partners:

Victoria Donovan, Greetings from Hughesovka: British migrant epistolarity and the setting-into-place of an industrial landscape in turn-of-the-century Donbas / Вікторія Донован,  Вітання з Юзівки: листування британських мігрантів і освоєння індустріального ландшафту на Донбасі на зламі XIX-XX ст

Kateryna Iakovlenko, The role of witness and narrator during the war in Donbas / Катерина Яковленко,  Роль свідка та оповідача під час війни на Донбасі

Anastasiya Ponomaryova, KARZ-12 initiative: dreaming about positive gentrification / Анастасія Пономарьова,  Ініціатива КАРЗ-12 – мрія про позитивну джентріфикацію

Darya Tsymbalyuk, Memory of coal / Дар’я Цимбалюк, Пам’ять вугілля

Lyubov Yakymchuk, The wall. How war tells stories / Любов Якимчук, Стіна. Як війна розповідає історії


Network partners include:

Arts Alive Wales (Crikhowell, UK); British Council (Kyiv, Ukraine); Durham Mining Museum (Durham, UK); Donetsk Regional History Museum (Kramatorsk, Ukraine); Glamorgan Archives (Cardiff, UK); Izolyatsia: Platform for Cultural Initiatives (Kyiv, Ukraine); LeithLate (Edinburgh, UK); Pinchuk Arts Centre (Kyiv Ukraine); Pitman’s Parliament (Durham, UK); Plus/Minus (Sieverodonetsk, Ukraine); RedHouse (Merthyr Tydfil, UK); Urban Curators (Kyiv, Ukraine); Ukraine Crisis Media Centre (Kyiv, Ukraine); historians.in.ua, korydor.in.ua, donbasstudies.org.


Networking workshop in Kyiv and Donbas

The project will fund a two-week workshop in Ukraine with a special focus on the cultural potential of the communities of monofunctional cities of the Donbas, namely: Sieverodonetsk, Lysychansk and Rubizhne.

image provided courtesy of izolyatsia.org

The goals of the workshop are to:

• strengthen the potential of local activists and create new opportunities for their growth via interregional and international collaborations;

• create a space for the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and practices;

• research urban and regional identities and post-industrial transformation;

• gain understanding of the cultural and political peculiarities of Ukraine’s industrial regions and to contribute to media discourse about Donbas;

• reflect on artistic and research practices, the way we use them and their possibility of being employed from within the community rather than as tools by external actors;

• advance values connected to the preservation of heritage and the creation of new forms of community cooperation within formerly industrial regions;

The workshop is open to artists, curators, researchers, NGO activists, urbanists, students, and postgraduates, as well as people who were born, live or are familiar with the cities of the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.

For more information about the workshop see:


Donbas Studies Summer School 2019 The Plant Gave Us Everything_final

For further information about the project, contact: Dr Victoria Donovan ([email protected]).

You can also follow the project on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/monotown/

image provided courtesy of izolyatsia.org

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