Few areas of Europe have taken such a body blow from the world economic crisis as the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine, home to giant enterprises in the steel and metals industry in which orders have dried up nearly completely and prices have plummeted.
In the Donetsk region, home to 4.6 million people, around 80 percent of the economy is tied to the metals industry. In January, when industrial production dropped by a precipitous one-third throughout Ukraine as a whole, in Donetsk it fell by half against the previous year.
Small wonder, then, that Sergei Yeryomin is looking for some place to vent his rage and despair. Mr. Yeryomin, his wife, Tatyana, and thousands of others lost their jobs at the giant Kirov Metallurgicals Factory in this city on Jan. 1.
“If we had a leader to lead us out on the streets, we would go,” he said, sitting in his living room and wondering how to support his wife; his son, Anatoli, 15; and his daughter, Ekaterina, 8. “In Makeevka, everyone was connected to the factory. If it wasn’t the father, then the son worked there.”
In the absence of a galvanizing voice rallying the workers, or a politician in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, to marshal the popular anger, Mr. Yeryomin and many others are focusing their unhappiness on the borders of this part of Europe, sliced and diced in countless wars through the centuries.
“I look with pride at Russia,” said Mr. Yeryomin, who lived in Russia as a child and counts himself among the 40 percent of inhabitants of the Donetsk region who are considered ethnically Russian. “We should cut Ukraine in two, and give half to Poland and half to Russia.”