While listening to news of recent events in Ukraine, I remembered Valintin Chukalov, a Ukranian coal miner I met in 2000, when Appalshop filmmaker Herb E. Smith and I documented international mine safety workshops conducted by MSHA. Valentin accompanied us on visits to several deep mines surrounding Donetsk, Ukraine. This industrial city is the heart of the Donbas – the coal mining region of eastern Ukraine that is closely aligned with Russia.
In this interview Chukalov explains how the transition from the socialized mines of the Soviet era to private enterprise created serious problems for many coal miners and their families. These issues are part of the background for today’s political unrest in Ukraine.
Speaking in 2000, Chukalov said: “As we transition to the market economy, uneconomic mines are to be shut down, and they are the majority. Out of the 300 mines in the Ukraine, 200 are to be closed. This creates social issues to be addressed – what to do with the laid off miners?
This interview was originally broadcast in 2000 on WMMT 88.7 fm in Whitesburg, Kentucky.
I hope that this post provides context for the complex relationship between coal mining, industrialization and global politics.
Tom Hansell, March 2014