Donbas in Focus is a research project based at the University of St Andrews, supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, led by Dr Victoria Donovan. It explores the cultural construction of Donbas, a heavily industrialised region in Eastern Ukraine through a series of workshops, exhibitions and publications, exploring synergies and comparisons with (post-)industrial sites in England, Wales and Scotland. Through archival research, artistic collaboration and community engagement, the project prompts a reappraisal of the value of post-industrial history and heritage, highlighting its potential for stimulating innovation in education, creativity and tourism.

Donbas in Focus is he culmination of 6 years of work across a number of collaborative research projects funded by The Carnegie Foundation, Global Challenges Research Fund, and the House of Europe. These projects have brought together researchers, museum professionals, artists and activists working in post-industrial regions of the UK and Ukraine. This growing community set out to work in the context of Russia’s ongoing war, which started in Donbas in 2014. The project brings to light marginalised histories of post-industrial regions, exploring the entanglements and intersections of these stories. This cooperative work has brought together local and international initiatives, joined by the aim to safeguard, rethink and creatively respond to local heritage, the spectre of war, and the risks of erasure.  

On 24 February 2022, when Russia launched its full-scale invasion against Ukraine, this work gained new urgency. While travel to Donbas remains impossible for many of us, and hot war, illegal occupation and mass destruction have disrupted the work of many of our colleagues and partners, knowledge about and engagement with the Ukrainian East is more vital than ever. This space brings together the results of the many interlinked projects that our community has contributed to, to help anyone interested in exploring this fascinating region, and regions with similar stories of industry and post-industry beyond Ukraine, using this knowledge to act against erasure. 

Links to partner projects:  

Enthusiasm (2017, The Carnegie Trust)

De-industrialization and Conflict in Donbas: Capacity building in Ukraine to make Donbas (mono)towns inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. (2018-2019, Global Challenges Research Fund)

The Plant Gave Us Everything: the Role of Art and Community Engagement in the Cultural Transformation of Donbas Monotowns (Global Challenges Research Fund, 2019):

Un/archiving Post/industry: Engaging Heritage and Developing Cultural Infrastructures (Global Challenges Research Fund and House of Europe, 2019-2020)

Artwork: (c) Oleksandr Kuchinskyi
Archival photos: courtesy of Gwent Archives and West Lothian Council