Dnipropetrovsk Oligarchs: Lynchpins of Sovereignty or Sources of Instability?

In: The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review

The choices made by oligarchs and citizens in Dnipropetrovsk during and after the Euromaidan rebellion of 2013–14 were not just event-driven manifestations in response to domestic and internal pressures. They were responses shaped by historically-composed social structures and interrelationships forged over decades within the region, across southeastern Ukraine, and in relation to competing centers of power—in Kyiv, Moscow, Washington, Brussels and beyond. This paper argues that Dnipropetrovsk—and its leaders—played a crucial intermediary role in not only deescalating tensions in southeastern Ukraine more broadly, but also by buttressing the Ukrainian state in a time of existential crisis. In this analysis, oligarchic self-interest is taken as a given and one factor among many, including the signaling of interventionist intent from an external patron and also deeper, regionally specific, economic and structural forces. This piece brings into the analysis a historian’s understanding of contingency, arguing that analyses of developments in southeastern Ukraine (in the past and present) should strive to better situate regional actors not only in space but also time, so as to better understand the complex set of forces and heterogenous social temporalities shaping their choices.

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