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Donbas Military Conflict, the Role of Criminal Subculture

Nikolas likes to study different subcultures, and theirs roles in the social life using different social and psychological theories

The Specifity of the Criminal Subculture in Donbas

  • Donbas oligarchs, further sponsors of “Russian Spring” grew from bandits of dashing '90s.
  • The main sources of profits for builders of wild capitalism were hostile takeovers of enterprises, smuggling, murders, racketeering, as fraud too. The considerable growth of crimes coincided with the privatization of the state property. The criminal groups were dividing the sphere of influence massacring each other.

"Notions" of the Criminal World

  • The “notions" of criminal world organized the specific anti-social system. In it, they justify crimes based on feeling of " brotherhood and truth in their society ”, from their point of view, redistribution of wealth as a result of theft and blackmail.
  • The rising and presence of criminal subculture on such broad territory of Ukraine is development of deviated juridical consciousness of the post-soviet society. On the territory of the former USSR there were its Donbases. As a rule it was industrial regions (Ural, Kuzbas, and Western Siberia, Kazakhstan) with a great number of miner’s towns. As in Ukraine, the near criminal groups of the population were becoming the basis of social protests.
  • In contrast, on the Donbas only, these groups became the shock force of anti-state action.

The Role of Oligarchs

  • The richest oligarchs in Ukraine, Rinat Akhmetov, came from that environment. Victor Yanukovitch, the former “governor” of the Donetsk oblast and President of Ukraine, had some criminal records, which provided him the necessary charisma for the majority of residents in Donbas.

It permitted to the outright criminal to remain in Ukrainian politics till events in Maydan.

The Former President of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovich was From Donbas

The President Yanukovich

The President Yanukovich

New Slave-Owners

  • The criminal subculture was dominated in the Donbas politics. Each town, each enterprise had its “watching”. Moreover, criminal groups started cohesion with state power at local places. This infusion gave the particularity of Donbas before official Kyiv. It was the basis for considering the region with non-formal status and preferences in economics.
  • With time Ukrainian society understood it as the way to political catastrophe.
  • An enormous region of a great European country occurred in the power of new slave-owners. As a result, the population received the status of the low paying workforce at the “wronged out” enterprises and mines.

Objective Causes for Bandit Region

  1. No doubt, the opinion about Donbas as the bandit region, taking root in prewar Ukraine, has objective causes. Among them, we can see criminalization and marginalization of workers’ masses that survived the economic crisis.
  2. Official Kyiv didn’t interfere with “slave owners”, having criminal past, the turning into serf population of the whole region.
  3. As a result, Russia used social contradictions, accumulated with years of Ukraine Independence, and wide spreading of criminal subculture among ordinary residents of Donbas.

The Military Detachment Somaly From Former Criminals With Their Commander M.Tolstyh,Nick Givi.

Military Detachment Somali

Military Detachment Somali

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Why did the Black Swan fly in Donbas ?

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. What were the main sources of profits for builders of wild capitalism?
    • Takeovers of enterprises
    • racketeering
    • Smuggling, murders, fraud, racketeering, and takeovers of enterprises
  2. What was the juridical consciousness of the post-soviet society in Donbas?
    • It had the right juridical consciousness
    • It had the deviated juridical consciouness based on the "notions" of the criminal world
  3. What traditional fears did owners of Donbas use to hold population in obidience?
    • Damned West
    • Damned West and Bandera

Answer Key

  1. Smuggling, murders, fraud, racketeering, and takeovers of enterprises
  2. It had the deviated juridical consciouness based on the "notions" of the criminal world
  3. Damned West and Bandera


Hiroaki Kuromiya. (2002). Freedom and terror in the Donbas : a Ukrainian-Russian borderland, 1870s-1990s Author: Hiroaki Kuromiya Publisher: Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2002. Series: Cambridge Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet studies

Kuzio, Taras.(2017). Putin’s war against Ukraine. North Charleston: Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2017. Pages 474/link/5c3e083392851c22a37710a7/download

Pidgora, Mikita.(2015). The criminal subculture of Donbas at the service of extremists.

Donbas, Military Conflict and the Regional Criminal Subculture


Nikolas Turustus (author) from Ukraine on April 25, 2020:

My deepest thanks, Chris! Some historians compare this region with Wild West, the phenomenon of Frontier. I met works of Japanese scientist Hiroaki Kuromia, he has been researching it for twenty years. Donbas identity requires holistic studies. Yours

CHRIS57 from Northern Germany on April 25, 2020:

Interesting article. Didn´t know about these specifics in the Donbas region. However i think this kind of development did happen and does happen, whenever government authorities are weak.

Happens in the south of Italy, where Mafia, Camorra is in control, f.e. handing out food packages to the poor in Corona times.

Happens even in the European Union. Who is in the lead? 2 criminal ladies. There we have indicted criminal Christine Lagarde, head of European Central Bank and Ursula von der Leyen, escaping from fraud charges in Germany to become head of the EU.

What do you expect? Politics and criminal organisations were and are deeply connected, no matter where on this planet.

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