The Englishman John Houges is a founder of Donbass Metallurgical Industry
Donetsk cannot make boast of the century-old history, engraved in the architectural forms. Not long ago Donetsk reached its 140 year. Once there was only a workers’ settlement with the population of one and a half hundred residents. Today it is an industrial megapolis and a business centre of the East of Ukraine with the population of million people.
In the very heart of Donetsk city there is Donetsk Metallurgical Plant. That was the beginning of the industrial city life.
In the 19th century Donetsk steppes, rich in black coal were attractive for foreign investors. The government of tsarist Russia was interested in involving them, because they were not able to found the metallurgical industry at that place on their own.
One day an entrepreneur John Hughes arrived to the thinly populated area located on the bank of the river Kalmius. In his native country he was a director of the metallurgical plant located close to London. From local people Hughes learnt that Donetsk territory was rich not only with coal but also with iron ore. That finding made the entrepreneurial manufacturer interested and inspired him.
In 1869 a business from Wales concluded and agreement with the Russian government on operating coal mining works and launching a rail lines production. John Hughes founded the New Russia Coal, Iron and Rail Producing Co” for that purpose. Without any delays the Englishman started to build a plant and houses for workers in the settlement. Hughes brought about half a hundred of specialists with him and all the necessary equipment. But according to historians, after the first winter in Donets steppe, only three of all Englishmen stayed there….
This is what Professor of Jerusalem University Theodore Friedgut wrote about Donetsk territory in his book “Iuzovka and Revolution”: «The Donbass was unpopulated. Mine and factory settlements developed mostly in places that had no previous social structure or institutions. In this they resembled some of the new settlements in America… British owners of this company town bossed Russian workmen in a community served by Jewish artisans and merchants. All these groups were surrounded by Ukrainian peasants reluctant to participate in the industrialization of their region”. Only several years later the Englishman’s plant occupied a leading position in metal production in Russia. The settlement around the plant was gradually developing. Thousands of unemployed people searching for earnings started to come from vast territories of the Russian Empire. In the course of time that settlements was named Yuzovka after the executive manager of John Houges’ plant.
Scientists, writers and journalists came from all part of Russia to watch “The New California”. One day a famous chemical and physical scientist Dmitry Mendeleev visited Yuzovsky plant. He got amused with the seen.
«You have performed a feat, - he addressed to the businessman Houges. - A recent desert has become alive. It is evident that the result is good, and all that is a complete success. The possibility is demonstrated by deeds ». It is interesting that today the scientist’s utterance glorifies the Symbol of Donetsk region.
The plant was an object of delight, but the style of living in Yuzovka drove the visitors into horror.
“The most unhappy place! Workers come back home from work to the low-ceiling earth houses. They breath the dust of coal …earth and roads”, - the russian writer Vikenty Veresayev shared his impressions about what he saw in Yuzovka at the end of 19th century.
Ordinary workers who were local citizens lived in earth houses, wooden barracks located closely to the plant and coal mines. Houses of the English people were situated in the southern part of Yuzovka standing in straight rows. John Houges decided to build a lovely mansion in English style for his family. The northern part of Yuzovka was called “The New World”, where mostly salesmen and craftsmen resided. There was a market and tavern there.
In 1870 as a part of Yuzovsky plant they opened a hospital, built schools for Russian and Ukrainian children. There was also “the English school” for children of the British personnel. English people built saunas, tea-houses, organized work of a fire-fighting team. "The New Russian Community" even supported an Orthodox church on their own funds.
Nevertheless, social development of Yuzovka left much to be desired. Hard labor in coal mines and at the plant, public drunkenness, insanitariness and epidemics … In 90-ties of the 19th century the settlement was seized with choleras. In 1892 Yuzovka was attacked by “cholera rebel”. A crowd of indignant workers was blazing through everything in their path; they were burning shops, taverns and houses. According to historians, that particular rebel changed the appearance of the settlement. The architectural shabbiness was substituted with the proper order and straight streets, - “the Lines”- edged with sidewalks and trees. Tidy houses, shops, restaurants, hotels, offices and banks were erected…
But the founder of Yuzovka did not have luck to see how the settlement of his plant had changed for the better. In summer 1889 he died in St. Petersburg and the developing plant was inherited by his sons …
By 1917 Yuzovka got an official status of a town though it had overgrown a “settlement status” a long time ago. It was inhabited by more than 50 thousand people. According to the historian Theodor Friedgut, more than a half (57%) of the population were Russians, 18% were Jews, and the third position was occupied by Ukrainians (13%). Armenians, Polish and Byelorussians also lived in Yuzovka (totally they amounted to 8%). Altogether out territory was inhabited by representatives of more than 30 nationalities.
In 1924 the town was renamed into Stalino, and about half a century later (in 1961) it got its modern name Donetsk.
The role of John Houges is still disputed. The attitude of the local authority to the founder of Donetsk Metallurgical Plant is also questionable. On the one hand, the master of “New Russian Community” was eternalized in the monument erected on Artyoma Street that is a central street of Donets city (which used to be the First Line of Yuzovka). On the other hand, The Houges’ mansion that in the old times used to very beautiful, is a living history of the city, has been left for the mercy of fate. The mansion of Yuzovka founder is hopelessly becoming ruined and it has all chances to disappear one day.