June, 25

The population has noticeably increased in Donetsk. Who are all these people?

08/04/2023 06:01:00 pm
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If we compare life in Donetsk with the pre-war period, before the summer of 2014, from June to the end of August, there were noticeably fewer people and cars on the streets. This was primarily due to the vacation season. The city's residents tried to leave the stuffy city for the sea, river, summer cottage, the mountains or the forest.

However, in the first summer of the war, many residents of Donetsk also left the city en masse in the hope of waiting out the troubled times and returning to their homes and familiar surroundings in two or three weeks. Only by August did many realize that their lives would never be the same as before, and the streets of the city remained deserted for many years.

Currently, something inexplicable is happening in Donetsk during the summer period. The city is filled with people, and the number of cars on the roads, even compared to April and May, has increased significantly. What is truly surprising is the abundance of luxury cars: BMW, Audi, Porsche, Volvo, Lexus, Infiniti and even Tesla. Some of them have russian license plates, but there are also many with Donetsk registration, indicated by the code 80 or 180. As known, since October 2022, after the "DNR" was "accepted" as a subject of the russian federation, they started issuing russian vehicle registration plates here.

The history of assigning codes to car license plates in the "republic" is very interesting. As it turned out, this code previously belonged to the Agin-Buryat Autonomous Okrug. However, it was abolished in 2008 after the merger of Buryatia and Chita oblasts into the Zabaykalsky Krai. Could this explain the influx of Buryats to Donetsk? Did they think that along with the automotive code, the Donetsk oblast would become a new Buryat Okrug?

It's obviously a joke, but in reality, there are indeed many Buryats in Donetsk. And it's not just military personnel and construction workers. They confidently walk around the city dressed in civilian clothes, often in whole families. Apparently, someone who came here once for some business and evaluated the risks to life decided that despite the shelling, the conditions and climate here are much better than in Zabaykalsky Krai. Undoubtedly, what they appreciated the most is that each apartment here is equipped with a separate room with a toilet. The fact that water is supplied only once every three days for a few hours did not bother them much because where they used to live, there was no running water in the houses at all.

Afterward, they shared their enthusiastic impressions with fellow countrymen and relatives who, without much thought, packed their modest belongings and headed for Donetsk.

By the way, since July, in some districts of the "capital of the DNR", they started supplying cold water daily. The quality did not improve - it's still the same brownish water with a characteristic swampy smell. However, it is a reason to be happy. Nevertheless, nobody rushes to throw away water containers filled with reserves. Everything is unpredictable in the "republic". Some speculate that this became possible thanks to the rains that have been pouring down on Donetsk this summer, filling up the water reservoir. "Civilization is returning to our homes!", joke the residents. And the Buryats are equally happy.

Of course, those who come to Donetsk from Zabaykalsky Krai are not residents of major cities like Chita and Krasnokamensk, but rather come from some remote and uncivilized places. Therefore, they walk the streets of the "capital" gape-mouthed, pointing fingers at the lightboxes flashing with advertisements for various goods and services.

Even in supermarkets, they behave like savages. They can stand for a long time in front of shelves with packaged candies, examining them, reading the text on the labels, and eventually leave without taking anything. They also touch and even smell all the fruits before putting them in their basket.

Many of them have not yet mastered the process of weighing produce. They bring apples, bananas, or potatoes to the checkout, and then they are surprised to learn that they were supposed to stick a price label indicating the cost per weight by themselves. The cashier has to explain to each of them for a long time why the item cannot be scanned without proper labels.

Whether it's due to this reason or the fact that there are indeed more people in Donetsk now, queues stretch for several meters, which was not observed since 2014.

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It's an unconfirmed fact, but rumors have it that the russian government has developed a program of preferential loans for housing purchases in the "new regions" specifically for the residents of Zabaykalsky Krai.

According to the same rumors, most of these loans are used to buy apartments in new buildings in Mariupol. However, the Buryats also like Donetsk. Real estate agents say that the newcomers are quite reluctant to consider apartments in Soviet concrete-paneled buildings.

The former residents of the wooden barracks in Zabaykalsky Krai want to live in modern high-rises in Donetsk. However, very soon they have to lower their expectations due to the lack of money. The locals are not far behind either - they have raised real estate prices almost to the level of the pre-war period. As they say, where there is demand, there will be supply.

Of course, those luxury cars, which have noticeably increased on the city roads (especially those with russian license plates) do not belong to all these newcomers from Zabaykalsky Krai. While I cannot assert with certainty, it seems that these are kremlin-appointed officials who are "assisting" in integrating occupied Donbas into the russian legal framework. If the "newcomer" Buryats can be seen in supermarket queues, these individuals can be encountered mainly in restaurants. There, they not only have lunch or dinner but also hold meetings, discuss business matters and even conduct video conferences.

Representatives of both russian and foreign media arrive in Donetsk driving Jeep Cherokees, Range Rovers and Mercedes-Benz cars. Yes, I didn't make a mistake. Here, you can often hear French, Italian, and English speech. I cannot claim that all foreigners strolling around the city or making purchases in stores are related to the press, but in the square near the Donbas Palace hotel, television broadcasts or stand-up performances in different languages are conducted very often.

There are always at least 10 SUVs parked near the hotel. I believe this vehicle choice is not for show but out of "production necessity", so they can reach the front lines with cameras for shooting stories on rough terrain.

The population of Donetsk has also increased due to families of russian military personnel. They can afford buying property in elite neighborhoods with their generous salaries. The living conditions here are relatively tolerable for officers' wives. After all, it's not the taiga or the desert. And one quickly gets used to the shelling. The children, presumably, are left with their grandparents, as you don't hear them on the playgrounds or anywhere else.

The ladies who came to be with their military husbands don't hide their status and, at the first convenient opportunity, demonstrate their superiority over the local residents with their behavior and uncompromising tone. Therefore, when involuntarily finding themselves in their company, the locals prefer to remain eloquently silent or speak exclusively on professional topics: about haircuts, manicures, or rejuvenation procedures, because they make up a large percentage of beauty salons visitors, and the employees have to deal with them.

Meanwhile, no one among the newcomers wants to work in Donetsk. The internet is filled with job advertisements, ranging from manual labor to managerial positions in various "government agencies" and "ministries". However, the "staff shortage" is only getting worse with each passing year. There's no one to drive buses, treat people or educate children. A significant percentage of the personnel shortage is seen in the trade and sales sector. A critical situation is observed in the pharmaceutical industry. Moreover, they promise more than decent salaries, ranging from 30,000 to 100,000 rubles.

And it's understandable. The Buryats, accustomed to working, are unlikely to come here. After all, there one can earn several times more in gold and diamond mining or in the mining industry. Those who come here are those who want to snatch money from the government to purchase housing in the "new regions of russia". I am sure that the "DNR" utilities will have lots of issues with such "new citizens" when it comes to paying utility bills.

As for the officers' wives, they have no urgent need to work, considering their husbands' high salaries. They came here to spend their ill-gotten money in beauty salons. Hence, the population in Donetsk has increased, but in reality, there's hardly anyone willing to work.

Liusia Molchanova, Donetsk, for OstroV