Why Ukraine’s fight against the virus deserves a look

Published in Health
Monday, 11 May 2020 11:47

On the surface, there is nothing interesting in Ukraine’s fight against coronavirus. Although we don’t know what will happen next, something in Ukraine’s reaction to the virus deserves a second look.

On the surface, there is nothing interesting in Ukraine's fight against coronavirus. At this point, the country has been hit less by the virus than many other countries in Europe have. It does not even enter the top-30 in terms of the number of cases detected; its total death toll just passed 100 (with the daily toll mostly ranging between 5 and 10), compared to over 20,000 in the US, close to 20,000 in Spain, Italy and France, or over 3,000 in Germany.

Although we don't know what will happen next, something in Ukraine's reaction to the virus deserves a second look. The key thing: the country was incredibly fast to introduce a strict quarantine. It was introduced on March 11 when only 1 (!) case was detected. Ukraine closed its borders in mid-March, when the number of reported cases was below 10, with just 1 person dead from the virus.

This early action can be explained simply: Ukrainians are afraid of threats. They are used to them, they face them too often, and understand that sometimes you need to act quickly. Ukrainians enjoy little feeling of protection, a high feeling of a security vacuum and often prefer to act too early instead of too late.

Yevhen Hlibovytskyi, one of Ukraine's most wide-thinking intellectuals, likes to repeat that Ukrainians are perhaps the world's champions in survival. Security and safety values are those which Ukrainians share regardless of their region and which cross language, identity, religion and economic discrepancies.

According to World Values Survey's regular reports, Ukraine remains high in rational values, compared to traditionalist values; but low in terms of self-expression values, and much more inclined towards survival values. This means that Ukrainians, although more rational than we think them to be, will rather choose survival than development.

This is understandable given the peculiarities of Ukraine's history. Ukraine lost about 4 million people in Stalin's artificial famine in 1932-1933; about 1 million died in both the famines of the early 1920s and 1946-47. During World War II its population was reduced by a quarter: about 10 million people, of whom 3-4 million people died as Red Army soldiers; and out of 6 million Holocaust victims, 1 million come from Ukraine. Millions were also victims of the Soviet GULAG, as the Ukrainian intelligentsia was practically annihilated in the 1930s, and many prominent dissidents were sent to the GULAG after  Khrushchev's short-lived Ottepel.

Russian occupation of Crimea and parts of Ukrainian Donbas in 2014, and practically everyday news about deaths on the frontline ever since, merely added to this major feeling of insecurity that penetrates Ukrainian society. Add to this not only the coronavirus pandemic, but also recent forest fires in the Chornobyl area, during which Ukrainian society lived in fear that nuclear waste stores in the area would be affected.

The security vacuum is both external and internal. From outside as Ukraine lacks a security umbrella enjoyed (at least theoretically) by NATO member states, and from inside, as a Ukrainian citizen often sees law-enforcement services as an additional threat rather than protection.

There is a Ukrainian proverb that says it is better to overestimate a threat than to underestimate it. This was the logic behind the strict quarantine that was introduced so early.

Curiously, it is religion that could provoke spiraling in the number of coronavirus cases. Even more curiously, it comes from the Russian church in Ukraine (UPC-MP). Earlier, its Archbishop Pavel, head of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, said that "one should not be afraid of" the epidemic and that the faithful should "hurry to church and hug one another". Not surprisingly, Lavra became one of the hot spots of the virus in Kyiv. Just recently, Metropolitan Onufriy, the head of the UPC-MP, said its churches will hold Easter Sunday services on 19 April -- contrary to quarantine measures and to calls made by other churches (including the newly-established Ukrainian autocephalous church) to stay home. If church attendance is not limited, crowds of people will go to churches on Easter Sunday and face huge risks of virus infection.

What happens this Sunday will also be a test as to how rational Ukrainians are, and whether survival instincts are strong enough to keep them at home.

However, if the security mindset succeeds, it might pose a global question for the future. Namely, should security logic dominate over liberty logic? Should "liberal" openness be victimized and blamed for the pandemic?

It is already being blamed by neo-authoritarian actors who see the pandemic as an additional argument to blame democracy and openness. It is increasingly used by Russian propaganda against the democratic world. With the coronavirus pandemic we are entering a new global debate, where liberal democracy will be brutally attacked.

In this situation, it is important that countries and communities make a clear distinction: more security does not mean less democracy. Limitations of freedom are tolerable when necessary for public health and public safety, but not as a tool to solve all other problems.

The need for a balance between security and freedom, which was stressed by many thinkers in Ukraine over recent years, needs to be real. A balance where freedom is the necessary and unavoidable pole, and security is regarded as the tool to protect our lives and our key values -- including freedom itself.

This material was first published by Ukraine Verstehen

 
 
VOLODYMYR YERMOLENKO
chief editor at UkraineWorld.org, director for analytics at Internews Ukraine

 

Europe’s Donbas: How Western Capital Industrialized Eastern Ukraine

Published in World
Saturday, 08 June 2019 12:38

Russian aggression in Donbas in 2014 drew Europe's attention to this forgotten region. We would like to remind you, however, that the industrial potential of Donbas was built up in 19th-early 20th century and thanks in the main to Western European money.

In the 15th-17th centuries, these territories, previously known as the Wild Steppe, became part of the lands of the Ukrainian Cossacks(link to "Why Are Cossacks the Key to Understanding the Ukrainian Nation?"). As a result of the Russian-Turkish wars of the 17th-18th centuries, these lands were fully incorporated into the Russian Empire. Donbas began to be industrialized in the second half of the 19th century.

According to historians, in the late 19th - early 20th century, more than 800 million gold francs from Belgium, France, Great Britain, Germany, and Switzerland were invested in the economic development of this Ukrainian region. It was part of the Russian Empire at that time.

Cities like Donetsk, Luhansk, Druzhkivka, Yenakiieve, Selidove, Mariupol, Kostyantynivka, Horlivka, Debaltseve, Torez, Kramatorsk, Lysychansk and other cities in the Donbas region received an industrial boost from Europeans during that period.

DONBAS: FOUR SPHERES OF INFLUENCE

In the 19th century, which was when the Donetsk coalfield was discovered (the actual name 'Donbas' only became widespread at the beginning of the 20th century), foreign investment flooded it immediately. The Russian Empire needed new technologies and up-to-date heavy industry to re-equip its military-industrial complex. And in the 1890's Belgium became the first country – an official partner – to create an entire network of coal and steel enterprises, a unified system of rail connections, and even the newest fittings.

Belgian investors put 550 million gold francs in this steppe (and almost desert) region. To recalculate this into today's more, this would be more than 5.5 billion Euro.

Following the Belgians, investors from other European countries came to Ukraine's Donbas. Thus, there were four nominal spheres of influence – the so-called "Belgian province" with its centre in the city of Luhanskthe "German land" in the south of Donetsk Region, the "French region" in its eastern part, and the "English region" in the center.

The Belgians and French owned 90% of the foreign capital in Ukraine's Katerynoslav (now - Dnipro city) province, a large part of which was called Donbas. In 1900, there were about 300 enterprises in Donbas; foreign investors owned most of them. In 1913, the share of foreign capital reached 70% of total coal mining in Donbas and 86% of total ore mining in the Kryvyi Rih basin.

BELGIUM: ⅔ OF ALL INVESTMENTS IN THE COALFIELD

Nowadays, Belgium is a small country, but at that time it was the third biggest nation in the world in terms of its industrial capacity. It had also big colonial ambitions (remember Belgium's Congo in Africa). At the beginning of the 20th century, Belgium was fourth in terms of investment in the Russian Empire and had ⅔ of total investment in the Donetsk coalfield. There was a direct train to Donbas from Brussels.

In 1895, the Russian-Belgian Metallurgical Society was organized in Donbas at the initiative of several Belgian businessmen. In 1914, 31 Belgian companies were already operating there. Ten of them operated in metallurgy, seven – in the mining industry, six – in trams, and five – in producing construction materials and glass.

In Belgium, there were nine provinces at the time, and they called Donbas "the 10th province".

The participation of Belgian investors in the region's development was interrupted by the Bolshevik revolution, which destroyed the concept of "capitalist property"for decades. This fact supposedly became one of the reasons why Belgium recognized the Soviet regime only in 1935.

FRANCE: HUGE INJECTION OF FUNDS BEFORE THE REVOLUTION

The fastest French investments penetrated into the sphere of heavy industry before the Russian Bolshevik revolution. For example, in November 1914, at a meeting of shareholders of the Donetsk-Yuriivsk Metallurgical Society, 36,726 shares were presented. 510 of them belonged to the French, 61 – to Germans, 25 – to Belgians, 75 – to American capitalists, and the remainder belonged to domestic industrialists and bankers. The Alchevsk Iron and Steel Works, as founded in 1895, is one of the most famous enterprises of this society.

Before WWI, according to the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Empire, 159.1 million rubles of foreign capital were invested in the coal mining industry of the country. The share held by coal enterprises located in the Donetsk coalfield amounted to 118.6 million rubles, i.e. 74%. French capital invested 82 million of the figure, Belgian 24 million, and the capital of other countries of Western Europe reached 12.6 million rubles.

As for the metalworking and machine-building industry of Ukraine, at that time foreign capital reached 44.6 million Rubles there. Among them, Belgium invested 20.2 million, England – 12.2 million, Germany – 6.7 million, France – at least 5 million, and other countries – 0.5 million Rubles.

DONETSK: A BRITISH CITY WITH EUROPEAN SALARIES

The heart of the "English region" was the village of Yuzivka, which was founded in 1869, which turned into an industrial city after the construction of a metallurgical plant there. Nowadays this British-based city is known as the city of Donetsk.

In 1869, John Hughes, a British mining engineer from South Wales, founded the Russian-British Novorossiysk (Metallurgical) Society of coal, iron and rail production to raise a capital. In 1870, he moved to the Donbas region where he started to build a plant.

In 1872, the first blast furnace was in operation, and soon, despite the difficult start, the company demonstrated huge success. In 1910, John Hughes launched a new progressive production technology, based on anthracite. By that time, it was used only in the United States. In 1913, 74% of iron of the entire Russian Empire was produced in Yuzivka. Initially, the plant employed six thousand workers from the locals, and for 25 years their number had reached 50 thousand people.

At that time, salaries in the Donbas were also European level salaries.

In 1959, during his visit to the USA, the Soviet Secretary General Nikita Khrushchev mentioned that he worked as a mechanic of a machine-building plant in Yuzivka in 1914. Its owner was Edward Boss, an Estonian. The 20-year-old Khrushchev earned 40-45 Rubles a month. In today's figures that is more than one thousand Euros.

KOSTYANTYNIVKA: BELGIAN ARCHITECTURE AND CHEMICAL PLANTS

Kostyantynivka was built by immigrants from Belgium. As a result, this city can also boast Belgian architectural monuments from those times. The entire city infrastructure is a sequel of initial constructions.

Unfortunately, one of the most interesting architectural monuments of the city -- the house of the Gomon -- was destroyedrecently. It was built by JSC Belgian Society of Kostyantynivka's glass and chemical plants in 1902 for the manager of the bottle factory named Gomon. Anyway, the stable near this house is still kept in good condition. The Belgian office has also remained.

The secret of preserving architectural heritage is quite simple. If it is used, its owner maintains it in a decent condition.

LUHANSK: GERMAN LOCOMOTIVES

German investment came preferably to Luhansk Region.

For example, one of the most famous Luhansk enterprises – the Luhansk steam locomotive plant – was founded by the German industrialist Gustav Hartmann in 1896as Russische Maschinenbaugesellschaft Hartmann and renamed Lokomotive factory Octoberrevolution in 1918 after the Russian revolution.

LYSYCHANSK: BELGIAN HERITAGE ABROAD AWARD

At the end of the 19th century, a big part of the city of Lysychansk belonged to the village of Verhnie. Here in 1887 the Belgian engineer Ernest Solve launched the production of soda with his Belgian chemical company Solway and a merchant from Perm called Ivan Lyubimov. Unfortunately, the factory is no longer operational – it was destroyed in 2013 before the very beginning of Russian military aggression in Ukraine.

Along with that, company built houses for factory workers, gymnasium buildings, hospitals, and a church. For example, an up-to-date four-floor hospital in Lysychansk was built by the Belgians.

The Belgians built a total of 33 objects in Lysychansk. 30 of them have been preserved to this day.

In February 2018, the architecture of Lysychanskreceived the Belgian Heritage Abroad Award (2017).

________________________________________________________________

Europeans brought not only the technology of industrial productionto Ukraine, but also business skills, management experienceof large enterprises, connections with banking and industrial groups, and the spirit of capitalist entrepreneurship, thereby contributing to the industrialization of Ukraine.

By the time of the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the Donbas, previously known as "Russian America" and the flagship of industrial Europe, was in a state of decline. The economic ignorance of the Soviet authorities had led to Donbas becoming a backward region in ther 1980s with loss-making production. Today, most of its factories are located on territories occupied by the Russian Federation. Some of them are either ruined or still operate using the equipment installed at the end of the 19th century.

Sources used in this article:

Valentyna Lazebnyk, "Steel in the Steppe. View from Ukraine".

Wim Peeters, "Steel on the steppe".

Materials from the exhibitions "Foreign investments in Ukraine, end of the ХІХ – beginning of the XX century. Part I: Belgium" and "Foreign investments in Ukraine, end of the ХІХ – beginning of the XX century. Part II: France", organized by the Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

Sources used in this article:

Valentyna Lazebnyk, "Steel in the Steppe. View from Ukraine".

Wim Peeters, "Steel on the steppe".

Materials from the exhibitions "Foreign investments in Ukraine, end of the ХІХ – beginning of the XX century. Part I: Belgium" and "Foreign investments in Ukraine, end of the ХІХ – beginning of the XX century. Part II: France", organized by the Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

TETYANA MATYCHAK

 

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