Review of Gubarev’s Tell-All: The Torch of Novorossiya – Part 1

April 1, 2016 –

Jacek C. Kaminski, Geopolityka – 

Translated by J. Arnoldski

“The Lonely Fight of Novorossiya: A review of Pavel Gubarev’s book The Torch of Novorossiya

Pavel Gubarev’s book The Torch of Novorossiya is an extremely important source for understanding the essence of the dramatic political and military struggles now taking place in Ukraine. We are dealing not only with the testimony of an important participant in the events, but also the bold forecasts of a political visionary which have a fair chance of being realized. 

In Poland, the 32-year old figure of Pavel Gubarev might be forgotten, but in Ukraine, and especially in Donetsk, he still has a considerable number of followers. We recall that the author was one of the initiators of the uprising in Donbass which led to the proclamation of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the civil war in Ukraine. After the victory of the Euromaidan in Kiev, he initiated the creation of the People’s Militia of Donbass which became the core of the DPR army. On March 1, 2014, Gubarev became the People’s Governor of the Donetsk region, a development which gave the signal for an uprising against the Euromaidan putschists of Kiev. 

After being detained by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) within a week, he was released months following his arrest in the course of war prisoner exchanges thanks to the efforts of the rebel garrison in Slavyansk and the legendary Colonel Igor Strelkov. During the war, Gubarev organized logistics and supplies for Slavyansk after being stormed by soldiers of the Kiev junta and he stood at the head of the “Novorossiya” political movement. He now holds some criticisms of the current authorities of the people’s republics of Donbass, but he nevertheless believes in the realization of his idea of a Great Novorossiya. His proposed vision makes up one of the parts of the publication.

The book consists of around 400 pages and is divided into two separate parts. In the first part, Pavel Gubarev remembers the events of the so-called Russian Spring in Ukraine instigated by the February coup in Kiev in 2014. In the second part, he outlines his vision of the socio-economic system and postulates as to the political system of the state of Novorossiya. Discussing the political events of tumultuous 2014 in chronological order, he also points out the origins of the resistance movement and comments on the socio-political conditions which caused the residents of Donbass and other regions of South-East Ukraine to revolt. The immediate spark that led to this was, of course, the notorious Euromaidan and the resultant seizure of power by pro-Western oligarchs and ultra-nationalist Banderites. This situation was unacceptable for the pro-Russian oriented population of Southeastern Ukraine. 

The author also draws attention to the deep social basis of the rebellion: “The collapse of the Soviet Union and ‘liberal market reforms’ brought hell. Deindustrialization, poverty, wild corruption of the ‘elites’, insane social stratification, and the extinction of the indigenous population,” Pavel Gubarev writes. This process is compared to an overrunning of the country by barbarian hordes. Supposedly independent Ukraine was rendered dependent on the West and ruled by a parasitic class of oligarchs. “Becoming ‘independent,’ Ukraine turned into an impoverished country, a territory of degradation and savagery,” Gubarev suggests. The victory of the Euromaidan meant an overflowing of the cup of bitterness of the pro-Russian minded residents of the [southeastern] regions. 

In the case of P. Gubarev, the factor which motivated him to fight was his apocalyptic vision of the future of world capitalism, whose degradation of Ukraine was only the prelude. “Everywhere, ordinary people are confronted with what degrades them into enslaved cattle and forces them to exist in some kind of charmed circle. Even in the esteemed West, the praised welfare state is a thing of the past. Everywhere the rich are becoming more and more of a closed caste, the middle class is being eroded, and the majority of people are being impoverished. Everywhere the majority of people are pushed away from power.(…) The 21st century will become the ‘bitter age’ for the masses. The trend is obvious  – the rich will become even more richer and powerful(…)And their subjects are waiting for progressive atomization. For the first time in many centuries, they are becoming physically and mentally weaker than their masters.(…) Ukraine’s place in the new reality is unfortunate. It will become one of the poor, diseased states,” the author prophecies. 

The Anti-Oligarch Uprising

The anti-oligarch uprising in Donbass was supposed to protect the region from the fate of plummeting into the abyss with Ukraine. The uprising’s initiator, Gubarev, reveals many interesting facts of the political “kitchen” of the anti-Maidan movement. He emphasizes first and foremost that the social explosion in Donbass was led by the actions of a handful of activists who gathered together spontaneously without any movement and whose efforts culminated in the warmer days of March 2014 in the People’s Militia of Donbass. 

The reign of the oligarchs, including the last of their team, Victor Yanukovich, had led an almost complete sterilization of the country’s independent political groups, especially those with a pro-Russian orientation close to the spirit of the author’s Russian (All-Russian) national idea. Organizations such as the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, which Pavel Gubarev represented as a local councilmen for short period of time, were effectively marginalized by financial and administrative factors. They were unwanted competitors of the Party of Regions in the struggle for the votes of the pro-Russian electorate. 

According to Pavel Gubarev, Russophobic “non-governmental organizations” had complete freedom of action thanks to financing from the West. They conducted intensive work among youth with the aims of nationalist or liberal indoctrination. They also worked in Donbass, but there they found themselves on exclusively ungrateful soil. The author estimates that at the moment of the explosion of the Euromaidan, Western NGO’s had an army of 150,000 so-called volunteers, or paid activists, in Ukraine. On the other side there was only the bureaucratic structure of the Party of Regions, the majority of whose “regionals” joined the victorious camp after the first shock. Gubarev describes his impressions of the congress of the Party of Regions in Kharkov on February 22, 2014: “It became obvious that the ‘elite’ organized in the Party of Regions decided not to go up against the competing group which won on the Maidan. Moreover, one could feel their reluctance to fight, their passivity, their weakness, and fear.” 

“Then it became clear to me: no one will protect us except we ourselves,” he summarizes the moment of his decision to participate in the resistance movement. 

It is necessary to emphasize that during the eight years preceding the Euromaidan, Pavel Gubarev remained aloof from politics, busying himself with an advertising agency and family life. Only this breakthrough led him to begin gathering his widespread ideological friends based on personal contacts and social networks on the internet. He scavenged the first money for activities, $40,000, by stripping his own firm. Set up in this way, an ad hoc group of several dozen people over the course of literally a few days  “swung” Donbass, escalating the rebellious mood. “What our enemies developed over years and decades we had to create in a hurry, in the space of a few days.(…) Propaganda, propaganda, propaganda. As in the days of Lenin and his ‘Spark’” – he recalled. The task was made easier thanks to the fact that a social basis for such a movement already existed. “We became the trigger that launched the organized resistance movement in Donbass,” Gubarev summarizes. 

Even though it was hoped for a long time that it would be possible to avoid armed confrontation with Kiev, it is no secret that one of the main tasks of the group from day one was acquiring weapons. It was hoped that the Kremlin would come to the aid of rebellious Donbass and the other regions of South-East Ukraine with the variant of peaceful annexation of these territories to the Russian Federation as was realized with Crimea. This calculation was based entirely on knowledge gained from the media, because Gubarev had no contact with Moscow. He discloses that the first such contact appeared only on March 5, the day before his arrest and already after the first storming of public administration buildings, when his mobile phone was called by Vladimir Putin’s advisor, Sergey Glazyev. “The phone call literally shocked me. Glazyev said the he supports our deeds in the anti-fascist struggle. These simple words gave me strength,” Gubarev recalls. 

Against the Ukros

The leader of the resistance of Donbass defends his decision to arm his supporters. “Raging Ukro-Nazis were beginning to destroy Soviet monuments. Were we supposed to dutifully wait until this crazy beast came to us? Or were we to lay down our heads before the heirs of the Hitlerites and their indigenous henchmen?(…) Time quickly showed that we were right. In Odessa, where the “Kuliovo Field” movement decided not to take up weapons in hand and did not worry about the force of the authorities but instead hoped to peacefully collect signatures for the autonomy of Novorossiya, their people were simply burned alive. In Zaporozhye, a rally was brutally broken up by force.”

He argues: “In Kharkov, the pro-Russian scene agreed to cooperate with mayor Gennady Kernes. Our friends from other regions of Great Novorossiya made a huge mistake: they agreed to cooperation with the local elite which soon sold them out, and they found themselves in the dungeons of the SBU.” In Donbass, the decisive factor was actually the rejection of any cooperation during the first few days with local politicians and officials, especially with the team of the “owner” of the region, Rinat Akhmetov. Gubarev stresses that the March uprising was simultaneously fighting against both the Kiev junta and the local oligarchs. 

In the book, Gubarev cites his associate Sergey Tsyplakov on the interesting case of psychological breakthrough that came with weapons, violence, and the defensive fighting: “On March 7 or 8, I considered the SBU’s breaking into Gubarev’s apartment with the aim of seizing his personal belongings to be unacceptable, so on April 8 or 9 I purchased 10 firearms from bandits. The psychological barriers hindering operation in combat conditions quickly collapsed.”

The key period after Gubarev’s arrest and the occurrence of incidents in Donbass are described by the author when recalling the memories of his colleagues. He proudly underlines the fact that his exclusion from action did not break the resistance which had already acquired a dynamic of its own. He especially emphasizes the role of his people in establishing contact with Strelkov’s group and helping to transport it from the border to Slavyansk, which became the bastion of the nascent Donetsk People’s Republic. The retelling of this expedition reads like a spy novel and Strelkov’s figure itself is controversial. Gubarev recalls in his superlatives: “[He was] the most brave and most honest person. An unselfish patriot. I would not present him as a genius of all time, but he was in the right place as a commander.” 

Continued in Part 2 

Anti-maidanDonetsk People's RepublicGubarevNovorossiaNovorossiyaSlavyanskStrelkov
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