Rules of communication in DNR: Topics discussed in occupied territory

Author : Mykyta Sinitsyn

Source :

The difficult economic conditions and the lack of visible prospects over the past three years made the population of the self-proclaimed DNR more talkative and critical regarding their "authorities." However, it is still not worth waiting for pro-Ukrainian speeches in the "republic"
21:08, 4 May 2017

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Freedom of thoughts is one of the main criteria by which the democratic regime of the state is determined. And despite Ukraine from 129th place in 2015 could rise to 102 in 2017, but the "people's" republics of Donbas absolutely do not justify their names.

The media of the republics are fully controlled and censored by the authorities, which is especially noticeable against the backdrop of local newspapers, channels and websites, where about 60-70% of airtime, newspaper space and content is taken by official information of the authorities of the DNR, as well as negative information about life in Ukraine. The share of local news remains on average about 30% of the news, and they often make reports on meetings of local authorities and the next regional event or rally.

Meanwhile, in the life of any city there were always enough problems, and after the introduction of censorship in the media, the only thing people can use to express their thoughts was simple human communication - in the market, in public transport, and finally in their own kitchens. But in “people’s republics” there are some special features of such process.

Pensioners and women are bolder

In 2014-2016, there was a taboo to criticize the actions and the whole situation in the self-proclaimed DNR. People who allowed themselves to speak out loud and with unfamiliar people expressed a different opinion, in many respects risked that there would be some interlocutors who would report this to the so-called Ministry of State Security of DNR. It cannot be said that this phenomenon was massive, and every resident of DNR, who heard seditious thoughts, immediately tried to report this to authorities, but there were enough precedents. As a result, many people became closed and taciturn, reducing their circle of communication to a minimum, which as a rule included several people whom they trust. And relatives not always were in this circle, so sometimes even the siblings tried to avoid each other.

The result was a tactic of behavior developed among the residents of the DNR, who disagreed with the generally accepted opinion or simply did not want to get involved in the "debate", which they considered simply unnecessary.

"I usually say that I'm not interested in politics, and for me it's more important to speak about the family, the weather, whatever, or I recall about the urgent business, the phone call. Once I got into the conversation about utility tariffs, so it ended up with my interlocutor asking, am I really on Ukraine’s side. Since then, my circle of friends is a couple of people at work with whom I communicate on work issues and a couple of friends whom I trust and, if I can’t wait, I can talk to them, "confessed to me one of the residents on an uncontrolled territory.

The population of self-proclaimed "republic," who did not want to get involved in disputes or who feared openly expressing their opinion, adhered to this simple tactic before the censure introduction and now.

Against this background, conversations of the DNR supporters looked much more obvious, most of them were pensioners and middle-aged people who did not hesitate to speak out loud.

Everything changed noticeably about six months ago, when the economic situation in DNR began to deteriorate, which was caused by the blockade of the territory, the cessation of work of a number of industrial enterprises, and hence the loss of work and livelihood. All these factors, coupled with the traditional high prices, the cancellation of the 10% supplement to the pensions, and most importantly - the absence of distinct and positive prospects provoked the growth of "protest" conversations among DNR citizens.

In comparison with 2014-2016, criticism of the DNR leadership actions on the streets of cities can be heard much more often, and it sounds, as a rule, from the lips of those who have nothing to lose.

Related: Russian-backed militant detained in Odessa

This category includes people who are most affected by the recent actions of the "authorities", such as pensioners and women with children. The life of pensioners is not so easy, and with the prohibition of humanitarian organizations that provided food assistance to the population, it became even more difficult. As a result, many of them do not hesitate to "offend" the leadership of the "republic", beginning with the mayor and ending with Zakharchenko. In response to the warnings from interlocutors, they usually say: "I have nothing to lose; I do not believe that something can happen to me."

Also, more often than others, women with children express their opinions, especially lonely moms, who have lost humanitarian aid and do not see the future for them and their children. Like retired people, they do not believe that such an expression of feelings can cause bad things to them.

Some categories that are staying aside such disputes are young people, due to their apolitical nature, and men - young and middle-aged, who have family and children.

"I am responsible for the family and children, if anything happens to me because of a stupid conversation on the street, no one will take care of them, so I prefer not to take risks," one of my acquaintances told me honestly.

Such people can speak their minds only in conversations at home with those who are truly trusted.

What are they talking about?

In addition to the noticeable growth of criticism, sounding on the streets of the self-proclaimed DNR, the topics of conversations have changed significantly.

If in 2014-2015, and in many respects in 2016, the main topics of discussion were military actions, hopes, confidence in a better life as an independent state, or joining the Russian Federation, as well as the fate of “remnants of Ukraine ", now the topics of conversations have changed dramatically.

The fighting did not go away completely, but with the change in scale, have become less relevant, or even "boring" continuing for almost three years. Moreover, people understand that such discussion will not change anything, but, according to many residents who have become superstitious, they will also "call" the war back again.

Interest in the fate of Ukraine for three years decreased, of course, people still have relatives who live "in a big" Ukraine, and basically this topic was reduced to the interest of relatives’ life.

But the hopes for a better life quickly evaporated, the "recognition" of the self-proclaimed DNR documents by Russia did not improve the life in particular, but other factors sharply worsened the economic situation.

Beginning from March, the indisputable leaders among topics discussed by the people is lawlessness of the DNR customs working extremely slowly and not hesitating to demand bribes from those who want to pass without queues, the termination of work of a number of enterprises and the loss of jobs and high wages on a number of goods, such as vegetables, medicines and others, which became particularly noticeable around April 20.

Such exclusively "peaceful" topics of discussions allow us to say that the population in their thoughts moves away from military operations and wants to not just "survive" but live with dignity. However, the latter in the "People's Republic" has undoubted problems.

These are the problems that pensioners and women with children are talking about increasingly often. Unlike in previous years, when people blamed Ukrainian authorities as responsible for all the problems of cities in uncontrolled territories, now the people openly blame local authorities for a bad life in the republic, beginning with the "mayors" and ending with the head of the DNR Olexander Zakharchenko.

However, as the interlocutors confess, criticism of the actions of "DNR authorities " does not at all mean that the speakers have a pro-Ukrainian position or they are waiting for the return of the Ukrainian authorities. People with a pro-Ukrainian position, as a rule, try to hide their negative attitude towards the DNR and not even discuss "slippery" topics, except in the circle of those who are truly trusted.

"People almost do not speak about returning to Ukraine, not only because it is dangerous and is a banned topic, many absolutely sincerely do not want this. Someone cannot accept today's Ukrainian authorities, someone is afraid of Russian propaganda, and really not the best changes in the rest of the state, and someone cannot accept the return to the country, from which for almost three years the shells are flying towards his house ," frankly said one of the local residents.

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