John Hughes was a Welsh Industrialist whose life’s work continues to influence modern day affairs. Born 200 years ago in Merthyr Tydfil, John had worked for and owned a number of industrial concerns in both South Wales and London when in 1869 he acquired a concession from the Imperial Russian Government to develop a metal works in the largely unpopulated Donbas region on land to the north of the Azov Sea on the banks of the Kalmius river. The area was known as Novorossiya (literally New Russia) and had been conquered by Russia from the Zaporizhians, Crimean Tartars and the Ottomans within the previous century. By the mid 19th century Russians were colonizing the area in great numbers building towns and industries.
John Hughes founded the ‘New Russia Company Ltd’ and in 1870 sailed in a fleet of 8 ships to Russia. On board was all the equipment needed to establish an ironworks, along with skilled Welsh ironworkers and miners. Construction of the new ironworks began immediately, and developed into a state of the art facility with eight blast furnaces capable of a full production cycle. It produced its first pig iron in 1872. During the 1870s collieries, iron ore mines and brickworks were constructed and the area was became a self supporting industrial centre. The town that grew to support the concern was known as Hughesovka (Юзовка) after its founder.
The town prospered and by the early 20th century was producing nearly three quarters of Russia’s iron. After John Hughes’ death in 1889 the works were managed by four of his sons, but with the Bolshevik revolution the family’s connection with the works came to an end. However, in the years preceding this many Welsh and British workers had emigrated. Most left after the revolution although descendants of British workers can still be found locally.
The city was renamed Stalino in 1924, and changed again in 1961 to its current name, Donetsk. The local football team, Shakhtar (Miners) Donetsk, is a Europa cup regular. Nicknamed the moles because of the area’s mining connections, their strip supposedly matches Newport County’s because John Hughes’ first business was based in Newport. Donetsk now finds itself in the news again because of tensions between Ukraine and Russia over this Eastern Ukrainian province.
Two of the seventy-five 75th accessions relate to Hughesovka. These form part of a large collection of material. To find out more about Hughesovka and the related documents held here at Glamorgan Archives take a look at our Hughesovka Research Archive web pages http://www.glamarchives.gov.uk/hughesovka/hka-index.html