‘Donetsk Peoples Republic’ Declares Itself Successor to 1918 Bolshevik Statelet

February 7, 2015
Workers' demonstration by the Hotel Metropol during February Revolution in Kharkiv in 1917.

Staunton, February 7 – The so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR) has declared itself to be the successor to the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic which existed nominally within Soviet Russia in February-March 1918 between Ukraine’s signing a treaty with Germany and Soviet Russia’s signing the treaty of Brest-Litovsk.

The 1918 variant presented itself as a response to the German challenge, defined itself as being part of Soviet Russia rather than part of Ukraine, and claimed territories far in excess of those it actually controlled, three things that may have recommended it to the current leaders of the DNR and their Moscow backers.

In addition to those factors which the authors of this week’s declaration stress, there is another one that should give Ukrainians and their supporters pause: After the 1918 statelet was liquidated by Moscow, its leaders moved on to Kharkiv and helped form the Bolshevik government of Soviet Ukraine.

The Donetsk-Kriovoy Rog Soviet Republic was never recognized by anyone, including Soviet Russia, but its utility for Moscow was shown when it was liquidated by Moscow and folded into the Ukrainian Soviet Republic and when many of its leaders then moved on to Kharkiv and helped form the Bolshevik government of Soviet Ukraine.

On February 5 , the People’s Council of the DNR approved and released a memorandum stating that the current “republic” considers itself to be “the legal successor” of the 1918 one and asserting, incorrectly, that the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Republic had never ceased to exist de jure.

The memorandum notes that in 1918, the DKR included “the territories of Kharkiv and Yekaterinoslav guberniyas, Krivoy Rog of Kherson gubernia, part of the districts of Tavride gubernia, and the industrial regions of the Oblast [region] of the Don Cossack Forces.” In fact, the DKR claimed all of these but did not control most of them.

And the memorandum concludes with an appeal to all “peoples living on the territory of Ukraine which at one time were ‘part of the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog republic and also other oblasts … to become full-fledged subjects of ‘the Donetsk Peoples Republic,’” according to the Inforesist report.

Commenting on the DPR action, Aleksandr Kazakov, the director of the Moscow Stolypin-Struve Center for Liberal-Conservative Policy, says that this memorandum “changes the entire political configuration in the region” and thus needs to be attended to most closely.

Kazakov says the declaration is important because it means that it is no longer possible to call the people behind the DPR “separatists” as they are simply restoring something that existed earlier rather than breaking away from any country. But there is an even more important aspect from his point of view.

According to the Moscow analyst, it is important to recall that the 1918 DKR was created not as an ethnically-based territory but rather was “a region formed according to economic principles,” something that makes it an additional threat to the current arrangements in the post-Soviet space.

Meanwhile, another commentator interviewed by the same outlet, Viktor Zakharov, the deputy director of the Moscow Institute of Russian History, lays stress on the fact that the DKR was “initially founded as part of Russia” and there had no relationship to the Ukrainian state or anything ethnic. The same thing is true of the DNR now, he insists.