IDPs and a University in Exile Breathe New Life into a Town: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns - Pokrovsk, Ukraine

from Tufts University
Published on 17 Dec 2018 View Original


This case report examines the impact of internally displaced persons (IDPs) on the social life and culture of an eastern Ukrainian town: Pokrovsk. It explores the impact on this town of both an influx of IDPs and the relocation of one of the country’s largest universities.

In November 2013, tens of thousands of people in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city, protested against the government’s decision to abandon plans to sign an association agreement with the EU. The protests erupted into a revolution. In February 2014 about 100 activists were killed by security forces, President Viktor Yanukovich fled to Russia, and the opposition took over. In the spring of 2014 Russian military forces annexed Crimea, the peninsula in the south of Ukraine. Petro Poroshenko was elected president on 25 May 2014. Then in the summer of 2014 pro-Russian armed groups seized parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts,2 while Ukrainian government forces launched military operations in response. Now there is a 500-kilometer line of separation between the Russian-supported separatist districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and the rest of Ukraine.

Pokrovsk is an industrial town in eastern Ukraine, in the western part of Donetsk oblast. It is a transportation hub, known as “the western gate of the Donbas.”3 It is located about 37 miles (60 kilometers) from the contact line, or collision line, which is the demarcation between Ukraine and territories of the self-proclaimed republics, the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. In 2014 Pokrovsk had a population of 64,500 people, and in 2017 it grew to about 75,200 people as a result of IDP influx.

Between June 2014 and January 2015, thousands of IDPs fled Donetsk City during the conflict and came to Pokrovsk. In October 2014, one of the largest and oldest universities in Ukraine, Donetsk National Technical University (DonNTU), was relocated from Donetsk to Pokrovsk.4 The relocation occurred because militants from the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic began to seize university buildings. Students and professors were forced to make a choice, either to stay and work under the self-proclaimed government, or to leave. As a result, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine evacuated 18 universities from the occupied areas.