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There were links between Merthyr Tydfil and Russia from the time of Sir John  Josiah Guest and Lady Charlotte when the Dowlais Works supplied iron of the  developing railways and a Russian Arch-Duke visited Dowlais. It is hardly surprising that when Imperial Russia wished to develop its own industry and
exploit its mineral resources that a Welshman should be invited to lend  technical expertise. Such assistance came from John Hughes, an engineer born  in Merthyr Tydfil around 1815 whose father was an engineer with the  Cyfarthfa Works.


John Hughes

John Hughes

(Courtesy of Rod Heather)

In 1869 John Hughes started his great enterprise in the Donbass region of  the Ukraine, a sparsely populated area of open steppe. With his key workers he went on to open collieries and build blast furnaces in this challenging new environment. The winter of 1870 was exceptionally harsh and there was an outbreak of cholera, but despite the hardship and difficulties, John Hughes and his small workforce built the first blast furnace in less than eight months. The first phase in Russia’s stupendous industrial development was about to begin. By April 1871 the first iron was smelted. Skilled Welsh workers, such as John Jones of Dowlais, were vital but courage and determination was essential. By 1874 all difficulties had been overcome and the puddling furnaces were in continuous action, producing about 150 tons of iron a week and over 8,000 tons of iron rails were rolled each year. Within
10 years there were over two thousand persons employed and iron smelting exceeded 20, 000 tons.

A Bullock Train hauling a boiler.


1872 The First Blast Furnace

Welsh emigrants were recruited to work in this New Russian Company’s Works and Mines. Many men brought their wives and children with them despite the terrible journey and the awful temperatures. Rees Richards a furnaceman from Dowlais wrote home that, ‘ I have seen 60 degrees of frost here and puddlers working at the furnaces with gloves on and sheepskin coats on their backs.’ As time went on Russians and Ukrainians were trained and able to fill many positions as foremen and managers in the iron-works and mines.

A well wrapped up worker's

child plays in the garden


Hughes provided many necessary amenities for his workers. He opened a 12 bed hospital as early as 1870 and there were soon schools, churches, a fire brigade and tea houses. The Company also gave money towards the Orthodox church and other religious institutions for the cosmopolitan population. It also paid for the settlement’s police force. There were also five inns,  ten wine-cellars, four beer halls and a vodka wholesale outlet. The Russian steel workers had to have their beer, essential for all workers in heavy industry, this was supplied by the South Russia Brewery Co Ltd. John Hughes believed in looking after his workforce and took an interest in the welfare of his employees. Compensation was payable for industrial accidents and easier light work was offered to widows and injured workers.



The Hospital in the 1890's

The Beer House

New Anglican Church


John Hughes established a town, steel works and colleries in the Ukraine. His town is today a modern industrial city, with a population of over a million. Since 1961 its name has been Donetsk and today the Russian town is proud of its Welsh connection. The success of Hughes' enterprise encouraged investment, enabling the Donbass to develop into a major industrial region.


The first 'modern' Russian leader, Khrushchev, attended school in Donetsk, then still known by its founders' name, Hughesovka. When he came to Britain in 1956 he said that, 'My father worked in a mine near the Hughesovka Metal Factory which once belonged to the Welshman, John Hughes'.




The Blast Furnaces - 1888



Central Pit, Coke Ovens & Blast Furnaces - 1912

A Owens of Swansea took the following photographs on his travels in the Ukraine,

Russian wartime submarine that was in the Black Sea, part of the Ukraine War Memorial at Hughesovka.


War Memorial.




War Memorial.


World War Two entrance to Partisan Tunnel hideout.



  Hughesovka   Hughesovka  


  Hughesovka   Hughesovka  


Two of Hughesovka Folk.


Rod Heather sends us some more photographs of Hughesovka:

Hughes Family Home


Hughesovka Football Team - 1912




Hughesovka Hospital Interior - 1907


Hughesovka Pharmacy - 1901




Hughesovka - Street Scene





A Monument of John Hughes was erected in Hughesovka (now known as Donetsk).

These photographs of the monument were taken in 2008 near the Scientific Library of Donetsk Technical University.

(Photographs Courtesy of Oleg Izmaylov)



Hughes Family Home in Hughesovka (Donetsk) - June 2009

(Photographs Courtesy of Oleg Izmaylov)










Rod Heather has a new book out about

John Hughes  and Hughesovka.


 For more details on the book, please click

the image on the left.


Do you have any photographs or information relating to Hughesovka?

If so, please contact us, by clicking the 'Contact Us' button.