[Marxism] Inside East Ukraine’s Make-Believe Republics - The Daily Beast

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat May 17 06:24:05 MDT 2014

Aside from separatist dreams, the leaders come from different political 
traditions and seem able to swap ideological allegiances with unabashed 

Thirty-one-year-old Gubarev, who has had a series of jobs, including 
advertising salesman and seasonal work for an entertainment company as a 
Santa Claus for hire, has switched affiliations with careless 
intellectual promiscuity—shifting from membership of the neo-Nazi 
Russian National Unity party to joining the pan-Slav Progressive 
Socialist Party. On Wednesday he announced the creation of  his own 
party—the Novorossiya (New Russia) Party. “The new party will be led 
only by those people who in this difficult time showed themselves as 
true patriots of their Motherland and proved themselves as true fighters 
and defenders of their Fatherland,” he said in a statement.

Gubarev says elections for a parliament will soon be announced. Other 
leaders say the elections should be for a president and there are signs 
of increasing splits in the separatist leadership over joining Russia or 
being an independent state.

The lack of preparedness by the Donetsk breakaway leaders is reminiscent 
of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in March, when Russian separatist 
Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov, a notorious crime boss, waved away 
trifling questions about technical details concerning government and 
laws saying all such matters could quickly be resolved by working groups 
following a vote to secede.

But in Crimea’s case it was clear that the Black Sea peninsula would 
quickly be folded into Russia and annexed with indecent haste by Moscow. 
There are signs that Moscow may be having buyer’s remorse now when it 
comes to eastern Ukraine, preferring the option of keeping Ukraine 
destabilized and fragmented and eventually transformed into a federation 
more easily manipulated by the Kremlin. And if Russia doesn’t speedily 
comply with Monday’s appeal by separatist leaders to annex the oblast, 
then this Donetsk Republic is likely to last less time than its predecessor.

Separatist inadequacy was stripped away midweek by the Kiev-appointed 
official regional governor Serhiy Taruta, a successful businessman and 
Woody Allen look-alike. Unfazed by the 89 percent majority claimed by 
the separatists in Sunday’s referendum, Taruta quipped, “Behind the two 
words Donetsk Republic there is nothing of substance.” Speaking to 
reporters at the plush Donbas Palace Hotel in central Donetsk, he noted 
the new republic “exists in name only. They have no economic and social 
programs, no law enforcement.”

But the separatists continue to think they are basking in the glory of 
their accomplishment. Suddenly nobodies have become somebodies—an 
ego-inflating, if daunting prospect when you claim to be governing 4.3 
million people.

Three days into the life of the fledgling country and separatists 
dissemble on how far advanced they are in state making. “We have a group 
of experts working on things now,” says 31-year-old Myroslav Rudenko, 
who like Gubarev is a history graduate from Donetsk National University. 
He insists the unrest in eastern Ukraine is homegrown and a mirror image 
of the Maidan uprising in Kiev that ousted President Yanukovych in late 

“On the constitution they will come up with a few drafts and we will 
choose which one to adopt,” he adds. How the selection will be made and 
by whom, he can’t say. Nor has he any idea what models will form the 
basis of their thinking. Likewise he is unclear on the legal system or 
whether the new republic will be a presidential or a parliamentary 

Unless Russia President Vladimir Putin does decide to annex the east, 
the separatist leaders are on a hook they don’t appear to know how to 
get off. They are even having difficulty overcoming basic day-to-day 
problems in the outrageously trashed 11-floor regional administration 
building they occupy in Donetsk. Leaders are constantly issuing 
contradictory orders and security commanders are bickering. Recently 
when a group of separatist gunmen raided an emergency services building 
in Donetsk and kidnapped a couple of firemen, some leaders complained 
the action was stupid. “So if we have a fire here, will the firemen come 
now that we have grabbed some of their people?” one demanded.

Official Donetsk Republic business is frequently log-jammed because the 
high command has only one stamp for documents and identity papers. A 
hard-pressed secretary on the 11th floor, the chaotic nerve center of 
the political leadership, holds it and is faced every day with clamoring 
groups needing her to stamp papers.

On the outskirts of Slovyansk, a hundred kilometers away, frustration is 
building among some of the townsfolk. “We never thought we would be in 
the middle of a battlefield,” says Galina, a 49-year-old mother of two, 
who has built up a good life in Slovyansk with her advertising executive 
husband. They have a large, modern house and a café business. But they 
live on a junction on the outskirts of town in a district that has seen 
clashes between separatist gunmen and Ukrainian Special Forces.

“We keep our lights off when it gets dark,” says Galina, over tea at the 
family’s kitchen table. She fusses around hospitably, offering radishes, 
cucumbers, spring onions—and some delicious cheesecakes. But the 
atmosphere of domesticity is fragile. Her house has been shot up in 
firefights and in the background we can hear the occasional report of 
guns. Outside, her husband lifts his head from working on the family’s 
vegetable garden.


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