A Welshman in Ukraine

Collections - Posted 09-05-2022

In the year 1870. A Welshman by the name of John Hughes stood in a desolate land in Eastern Ukraine. This land was chosen as the site of his ironworks. The area, later to be named Hughesovka after him, became an enormous industrial complex attracting workers from all over the world.

Hughes was born in Merthyr Tydfil in 1814, and made a name for himself in South Wales and London for being the mastermind behind several steel foundries. He learnt his trade under his father at the Cyfarthfa Iron Works and by the time Hughes was in his mid 30s, he owned his own foundry in Newport. He then moved to London to continue his meteoric rise. In 1870, Hughes was given the opportunity by the Russian Tsar to bring his expertise to Imperial Russia.



His newly formed company, the New Russia Company Ltd., not only created a new industry within the region, but also provided amenities for the newly formed population, with churches, hospitals, and other important services available, to ensure a happy and harmonious working environment. Workers were even allowed to re-locate their families to the new region, in the hope that this would minimize homesickness.

The working conditions were tough with hot dry summers, dust storms, torrential spring rains, and harsh winters with large snowfalls. Hughes hoped that the good rate of pay and consistent work, which many other countries couldn’t provide, would compensate for the extreme weather conditions that the workers had to endure.

Hughesovka, latterly Stalino, then Donetsk, became a thriving community by the early 21st century, with the region becoming an important part of the Donbas region. Unfortunately, conflict soon followed.

References and online sources:

Edwards, S. Hughesovka: a Welsh enterprise in Imperial Russia : an account of John Hughes of Merthyr Tydfil, his New Russia Company, and the town, works and collieries which he established in the Ukraine, 1992

Thomas, C. Dreaming a city : From Wales to Ukraine : The Story of Hughesovka/Stalino/Donestsk, 2009*

Glamorgan Family History Society Journal, No. 128 (December 2017), p. 10-13 (Diggins, R. Hughesovka: a Welsh enterprise in Imperial Russia)

*Includes DVD ‘Hughesovka & the New Russia – Best Documentary BAFTA Cymru’


Ian Evans,

Shared Cataloguing Programme Manager.

This post is also available in: Welsh

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