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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Novorossia: l’anniversaire qui n’a pas eu lieu

by Stéphane Aubouard

Novorossia: The Anniversary That Didn’t Happen

Translated Wednesday 27 May 2015, by Gene Zbikowski

One year after its (re)birth on May 24, 2014, New Russia, the union of the two self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, is having a hard time defining its identity.

While on May 11 there were celebrations in the streets of Lugansk and Donetsk on the first anniversary of the Lugansk Peoples Republic and the Donetsk Peoples Republic, the festivities in honor of “Novorossia” (New Russia) on this Sunday, May 24, 2015, were conspicuous by their absence. New Russia had been proclaimed a year earlier.

The concept, theorized by Pavel Gubarev, the present governor of Donetsk and founder of the New Russia party, is based on a mixture of Slavic identity politics, economic protectionism and Orthodox Christianity, while referring to the historical location of the New Russia that was set up after the Russian-Turkish war at the end of the 18th century.

While the concept had been attractive over a six-month period, the Minsk 2 accords – which were signed last February (under the aegis of France and Germany) and in which Russia definitively indicated that it was not recognizing this New Russia – have certainly been fatal – at least for a while – to the establishment of this irredentist project.

In Saint Petersburg last week, during a forum on the Ukrainian crisis, Igor Strelkov, one of the charismatic commanders of the armed forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic, and a defender of the New Russia concept, took stock after one year of “existence”: “First off, the military defeat of the Ukrainian armed forces was not total due to Moscow’s diplomatic position,” he said to the local press agency, Novorossia. “Moreover, the absence of a clear ideology clouds the meaning of the struggle against Kiev, within New Russia. Today, an imitation of a state structure is being produced in the Republics, where gangsters and oligarchs are taking the reins of power and of the army.”

Accordingly, the murder this weekend of Alexei Mozgovoï, who commanded a battalion in the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR), leads one to ask questions. Attacked by men who opened fire on his automobile, the military leader was not the first to die in similar circumstances in Lugansk, even though the rebel authorities are accusing Ukraine of being behind the murder.

“But that doesn’t mean that the gangsters are in power in the LNR,” explained Irina, a university English teacher and pro-independence activist. “The two Republics are in the process of formation, so it’s difficult to judge at first sight. In any case, it’s true that the Lugansk Republic is having a harder time forming and functioning than the Donetsk Republic, whose ministries are already at work. Novorossia doesn’t exist yet, we’ll have to wait.”

For Boris Litvinov, the general secretary of the Communist Party of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the problem is also located – as Igor Stelkov noted – in the ideological crisis that the Republics are experiencing. But Litvinov’s point of view is the exact opposite of Stelkov’s. “It must not be forgotten that the Donbas region is first and foremost a working class region,” the communist leader explained, “with, it is true, a strong attachment to the Soviet period. To think this New Russia, it will hence be necessary to avoid falling into religious and regionalist symbols, as some are attempting to do.”

Gyorgy Yankov, the vice-president of the Donbas miners trade union, also says this in his own way. “While we can agree on the territorial project of New Russia, it will be necessary not to fall into identity politics, a value that is contrary to those of our region … where internationalism is anchored.”

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