Eastern Ukraine

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Several Oblasts can be referred to as "Eastern Ukraine":
  Red - always included
  Orange - sometimes included

Eastern Ukraine or East Ukraine (Ukrainian: Східна Україна, Skhidna Ukrayina) generally refers to territories of Ukraine east of the Dnieper river, particularly Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhia Oblasts sometimes are also regarded as Eastern Ukraine. In regards to traditional territories the area encompasses portions of the southern Sloboda Ukraine, Donbas, the western Azov Littoral (Pryazovia).

Almost a third of the country's population lives within the region, which includes several cities with population of around a million. Within Ukraine, the region is the most highly urbanized, particularly portions of central Kharkiv Oblast, south-western Luhansk Oblast, central, northern and eastern areas of Donetsk Oblast.


The region stretches from southern areas of the Central Russian Upland to the northern shores of the Sea of Azov, from the eastern border with Russia to Black Sea and Dnieper lowlands (including the left banks of Dnieper) to the west. Aside of Dnieper, the major river of eastern Ukraine is Seversky Donets which gave the name to the main economical region for that portion of the country, Donbas (Donets basin).

Cities and population

The territory is heavily urbanized and commonly associated with the Donbas. The three largest metropolitan cities form an industrial triangle within the region. Among the major cities with population of over 200,000 people are Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk-Makiivka, Zaporizhia, Mariupol, Luhansk, Horlivka and Dniprodzerzhynsk. Cities of Donetsk and Makiivka create what is known as urban sprawl with very close proximity to other important cities such as Horlivka and Yenakieve.

Oblast (Province) Ukrainian name Area in km2 Population at
2001 Census
Population at
2012 Estimate
Notes [1]
Donetsk Донецька область 26,517 4,825,563 4,403,178
Kharkiv Харківська область 31,418 2,914,212 2,742,180
Luhansk Луганська область 26,683 2,546,178 2,272,676
Total for 3 Oblasts 84,618 10,285,953 9,418,034
Zaporizhia Запорізька область 27,183 1,929,171 1,791,668
Dnipropetrovsk Дніпропетровська область 31,923 3,561,224 3,320,299
Total for 5 Oblasts 143,724 15,776,348 14,530,001

The Zaporizhia and Dnipropetrovsk Oblasts are more frequently associated with Southern Ukraine, although the western portion (the Kryvyi Rih basin) of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast is often included with Central Ukraine.


A large majority of voters in eastern Ukraine (83% or more in each oblast) approved Ukraine's declaration of independence in the 1991 referendum, although the numbers were not as high as in the west.[2][3]

In 2014, pro-Russian protests took place in parts of eastern Ukraine. Some of the protesters were "tourists" from Russia.[4][5] The war in Donbass resulted in thousands of deaths and over a million people leaving their homes.[6] As of 2016, about half of the territory of Donbas is controlled by the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic.

Culture and language

Ethnic Ukrainians in Ukraine by oblast (2001 census)
Population with Ukrainian as their native language in Ukraine by oblast (2001 census)

According to the 2001 census, the majority of Eastern Ukraine's population are ethnic Ukrainians, while ethnic Russians form a significant minority. The most common language is Russian, having long dominated in government and the media. When Ukraine became independent, there were no Ukrainian-language schools in Donetsk.[7]

Noticeable cultural differences in the region (compared with the rest of Ukraine except Southern Ukraine) are more "positive views" on the Russian language[8][9] and on the Soviet era[10][11] and more "negative views" on Ukrainian nationalism.[10]

During elections voters of the Eastern (and Southern) oblasts (provinces) of Ukraine vote for parties (CPU, Party of Regions) and presidential candidates (Viktor Yanukovych) with a pro-Russian and status quo platform.[12][13][14] The electorate of CPU and Party of Regions is very loyal to them.[14]

Effective in August 2012, a law on regional languages entitled any local language spoken by at least a 10% of the population to be declared official within that area.[15] Within weeks, Russian was declared as a regional language in several southern and eastern oblasts and cities.[16] From that point Russian could be used in those cities'/oblasts' administrative office work and documents.[17] On 23 February 2014, the law on regional languages was abolished, making Ukrainian the sole state language at all levels even in Eastern Ukraine,[18] but this vote was vetoed by acting President Oleksandr Turchynov on 2 March.[19][20] A survey found that eastern oblasts preferred "second official language" over "state language" status for Russian.[21]

Public opinion

A 2007 survey by the Razumkov Centre asked "Would you like to have your region separated from Ukraine and joined another state?" In eastern Ukraine, 77.9% of respondents disagreed, 10.4% agreed, and the rest were undecided.[22]

Kiev International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) geographic division of Ukraine used in their polls.

In a poll conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology in the first half of February 2014, 25.8% of those polled in East Ukraine believed "Ukraine and Russia must unite into a single state", nationwide this percentage was 12.5%.[23]

A November 2015 poll carried out by Rating Group Ukraine in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, except in DPR and LPR-controlled areas, found that 75% of residents wanted the entire Donbas region to stay in Ukraine, 7% said that it should join Russia, 1% wanted it to become an independent country, and 3% said that DPR and LPR-controlled territories should leave and the rest of Donbas remain in Ukraine.[24] When asked if Russian-speaking citizens are under pressure or threat, 82% said 'no' and 11% said 'yes'.[24] 2% "definitely" and 7% "somewhat" supported Russia sending troops to "protect" Russian-speakers in Ukraine, while 71% did not.[24] 50% wanted Ukraine to remain a unitary country, 14% wanted it to be a federal country, 13% said it should remain unitary but without Crimea, and 7% wanted it to be divided into several countries.[24] If they had to choose between the Eurasian Customs Union and the European Union, 24% in East Ukraine (including Kharkiv oblast) preferred the ECU and 20% preferred the European Union (in Donbas: 33% for the ECU, 21% for the EU). On joining NATO, 15% were for, 15% were against, and most said that they would not vote or it was difficult to answer (in Donbass: 16% for, 47% against).[24] East Ukrainians were less likely to vote in parliamentary elections.[24]

See also


  1. All statistics sourced from: State Statistics Committee of Ukraine.
  2. Ukrainian Nationalism in the 1990s: A Minority Faith by Andrew Wilson, Cambridge University Press, 1996, ISBN 0521574579 (page 128)
  3. Ivan Katchanovski. (2009). Terrorists or National Heroes? Politics of the OUN and the UPA in Ukraine Paper prepared for presentation at the Annual Conference of the Canadian Political Science Association, Montreal, June 1–3, 2010
  4. Roth, Andrew (4 March 2014). "From Russia, 'Tourists' Stir the Protests". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    "Russian site recruits 'volunteers' for Ukraine". BBC News. 4 March 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Protesters Storm Kharkiv Theater Thinking It Was City Hall". The Moscow Times. 8 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Ukraine Situation report No.33 as of 27 March 2015" (PDF). OCHA. 27 March 2015. Retrieved 31 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Eternal Russia:Yeltsin, Gorbachev, and the Mirage of Democracy by Jonathan Steele, Harvard University Press, 1988, ISBN 978-0-674-26837-1 (page 218)
  8. The language question, the results of recent research in 2012, RATING (25 May 2012)
  9. http://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine/poll-over-half-of-ukrainians-against-granting-official-status-to-russian-language-318212.html
  10. 10.0 10.1 Who’s Afraid of Ukrainian History? by Timothy D. Snyder, The New York Review of Books (21 September 2010)
  11. (Ukrainian) Ставлення населення України до постаті Йосипа Сталіна Attitude population Ukraine to the figure of Joseph Stalin, Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (1 March 2013)
  12. Communist and Post-Communist Parties in Europe by Uwe Backes and Patrick Moreau, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008, ISBN 978-3-525-36912-8 (page 396)
  13. Ukraine right-wing politics: is the genie out of the bottle?, openDemocracy.net (3 January 2011)
  14. 14.0 14.1 Eight Reasons Why Ukraine’s Party of Regions Will Win the 2012 Elections by Taras Kuzio, The Jamestown Foundation (17 October 2012)
    UKRAINE: Yushchenko needs Tymoshenko as ally again by Taras Kuzio, Oxford Analytica (5 October 2007)
  15. Yanukovych signs language bill into law. Retrieved 2012-09-07.
  16. Russian spreads like wildfires in dry Ukrainian forest. Retrieved 2012-09-07.
  17. Romanian becomes regional language in Bila Tserkva in Zakarpattia region, Kyiv Post (24 September 2012)
  18. Ukraine: Speaker Oleksandr Turchynov named interim president, BBC News (23 February 2014)
  19. Traynor, Ian (24 February 2014). "Western nations scramble to contain fallout from Ukraine crisis". The Guardian.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Kramer, Andrew (2 March 2014). "Ukraine Turns to Its Oligarchs for Political Help". New York Times. Retrieved 2 March 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Halya Coynash (13 April 2015). "Bad News for Moscow on the Language Front". Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group. Retrieved 1 January 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "Would you like to have your region separated from Ukraine and joined another state (regional distribution)". Razumkov Centre. 18 June 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "How relations between Ukraine and Russia should look like? Public opinion polls' results". Kyiv International Institute of Sociology. 4 March 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 24.5 "IRI's Center for Insights Poll: Pessimism High after Two Years of Violent Conflict with Russia; People in the Ukrainian-Controlled Territories of Donbas Want to Remain Part of Ukraine". International Republican Institute. 12 January 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading