Eastern Ukraine or East Ukraine (russian: Восточная Украина, ''Vostochnaya Ukraina''; uk|Східна Україна, ''Skhidna Ukrayina''), generally refers to territories of Ukraine east of the Dnipro river, particularly Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts sometimes are also regarded as Eastern Ukraine. In regard to traditional territories, the area encompasses portions of the southern Sloboda Ukraine, Donbas, the western Azov Littoral (Pryazovia). Almost a third of the country's population lives within the region, which includes several cities with population of around a million. Within Ukraine, the region is the most highly urbanized, particularly portions of central Kharkiv Oblast, south-western Luhansk Oblast, central, northern and eastern areas of Donetsk Oblast. The most common language in eastern Ukraine is Russian.


The region stretches from southern areas of the Central Russian Upland to the northern shores of the Sea of Azov, from the eastern border with Russia to Black Sea and Dnieper lowlands (including the left banks of Dnieper) to the west. Aside of Dnieper, the major river of eastern Ukraine is Seversky Donets which gave the name to the main economical region for that portion of the country, Donbas (Donets basin).

Cities and population

The territory is heavily urbanized and commonly associated with the Donbas. The three largest metropolitan cities form an industrial triangle within the region. Among the major cities with population of over 200,000 people are Kharkiv, Dnipro, Donetsk-Makiivka, Zaporizhzhia, Mariupol, Luhansk, Horlivka and Kamianske. Cities of Donetsk and Makiivka create what is known as urban sprawl with very close proximity to other important cities such as Horlivka and Yenakieve.


A large majority of voters in eastern Ukraine (83% or more in each oblast) approved Ukraine's declaration of independence in the 1991 referendum, although the numbers were not as high as in the west.Ukrainian Nationalism in the 1990s: A Minority Faith
by Andrew Wilson, Cambridge University Press, 1996, (page 128)
In 2014, pro-Russian protests took place in parts of eastern Ukraine. Some of the protesters were "tourists" from Russia. The war in Donbas resulted in thousands of deaths and over a million people leaving their homes. As of 2016, about half of the territory of Donbas is controlled by the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic.

Culture and language

According to the 2001 census, the majority of Eastern Ukraine's population are ethnic Ukrainians, while ethnic Russians form a significant minority. The most common language is Russian, having long dominated in government and the media. When Ukraine became independent, there were no Ukrainian-language schools in Donetsk.Eternal Russia:Yeltsin, Gorbachev, and the Mirage of Democracy
by Jonathan Steele, Harvard University Press, 1988, (page 218)
Noticeable cultural differences in the region (compared with the rest of Ukraine except Southern Ukraine) are more "positive views" on the Russian languageThe language question, the results of recent research in 2012
RATING (25 May 2012)
and on the Soviet eraСтавлення населення України до постаті Йосипа Сталіна ''Attitude population Ukraine to the figure of Joseph Stalin''
Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (1 March 2013)
and more "negative views" on Ukrainian nationalism.Who’s Afraid of Ukrainian History?
by Timothy D. Snyder, The New York Review of Books (21 September 2010)
During elections voters of the Eastern (and Southern) oblasts (provinces) of Ukraine vote for parties (Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU), Party of Regions) and presidential candidates (Viktor Yanukovych) with a pro-Russian and status quo platform.Communist and Post-Communist Parties in Europe
by Uwe Backes and Patrick Moreau, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008, (page 396)
Ukraine right-wing politics: is the genie out of the bottle?
openDemocracy.net (3 January 2011)
Eight Reasons Why Ukraine’s Party of Regions Will Win the 2012 Elections
by Taras Kuzio, The Jamestown Foundation (17 October 2012)
UKRAINE: Yushchenko needs Tymoshenko as ally again
by Taras Kuzio, Oxford Analytica (5 October 2007)
The electorate of CPU and Party of Regions was very loyal to them. But following the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution the Party of Regions collapsed and the CPU was banned and declared illegal. Effective in August 2012, a law on regional languages did entitle any local language spoken by at least a 10% of the population to be declared official within that area. Within weeks, Russian was declared as a regional language in several southern and eastern oblasts and cities. From that point Russian could be used in those cities'/oblasts' administrative office work and documents.Romanian becomes regional language in Bila Tserkva in Zakarpattia region
Kyiv Post (24 September 2012)
On 23 February 2014, the law on regional languages was abolished, making Ukrainian the sole state language at all levels even in Eastern Ukraine,Ukraine: Speaker Oleksandr Turchynov named interim president
BBC News (23 February 2014)
but this vote was vetoed by acting President Oleksandr Turchynov on 2 March. A February 2015 survey found that eastern oblasts (61%) preferred "second official regional language" over (31%) "state language" status for Russian. The 2012 law on regional languages was repelled by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine on 28 February 2018 when it ruled the law unconstitutional.Constitutional Court declares unconstitutional language law of Kivalov-Kolesnichenko
Ukrinform (28 February 2018)


According to a 2016 survey of religion in Ukraine held by the Razumkov Center, 73.5% of the population in Eastern Ukraine were Christians (63.2% Eastern Orthodox, 8.1% simply Christians, 1.0% Protestants, and 0.3% Latin Rite Catholics), 0.5% were Muslims, 0.3% were Jewish, and 0.3% were Hindus. Not religious and other believers not identifying with any of the listed major religious institutions constituted about 24.7% of the population. It also showed that approximately 55.6% of the population of eastern Ukraine (which in Razumkov's mapping excluded Donbas and consisted of the regions immediately to the west of it) declared to be believers, while 13.4% declared to be undecided or non-believers, and 3.5% declared to be atheist.РЕЛІГІЯ, ЦЕРКВА, СУСПІЛЬСТВО І ДЕРЖАВА: ДВА РОКИ ПІСЛЯ МАЙДАНУ (''Religion, Church, Society and State: Two Years after Maidan'')
, 2016 report by Razumkov Center in collaboration with the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches. pp. 27-29.

Public opinion

A 2007 survey by the Razumkov Centre asked "Would you like to have your region separated from Ukraine and joined another state?" In eastern Ukraine, 77.9% of respondents disagreed, 10.4% agreed, and the rest were undecided. In a poll conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology in the first half of February 2014, 25.8% of those polled in East Ukraine believed "Ukraine and Russia must unite into a single state", nationwide this percentage was 12.5%. A November 2015 poll carried out by Rating Group Ukraine in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, except in Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) controlled areas, found that 75% of residents wanted the entire Donbas region to stay in Ukraine, 7% said that it should join Russia, 1% wanted it to become an independent country, and 3% said that DPR and LPR-controlled territories should leave and the rest of Donbas remain in Ukraine. When asked if Russian-speaking citizens are under pressure or threat, 82% said 'no' and 11% said 'yes'. 2% "definitely" and 7% "somewhat" supported Russia sending troops to "protect" Russian-speakers in Ukraine, while 71% did not. 50% wanted Ukraine to remain a unitary country, 14% wanted it to be a federal country, 13% said it should remain unitary but without Crimea, and 7% wanted it to be divided into several countries. If they had to choose between the Eurasian Customs Union and the European Union, 24% in East Ukraine (including Kharkiv oblast) preferred the ECU and 20% preferred the European Union (in Donbas: 33% for the ECU, 21% for the EU). On joining NATO, 15% were for, 15% were against, and most said that they would not vote or it was difficult to answer (in Donbas: 16% for, 47% against). East Ukrainians were less likely to vote in parliamentary elections.

See also

*Western Ukraine *Central Ukraine *Southern Ukraine *Wild Fields


Further reading

* Serhy Yekelchyk ''Ukraine: Birth of a Modern Nation'', Oxford University Press (2007), , page 187 {{coord missing|Ukraine Category:Geographic regions of Ukraine