Referendum in the DPR: “Don’t give up! Put a bird, a dove of peace!

Published by
Peter Kavinsky

On the first days of voting, the election commissions go house by house, apartment by apartment.

A picture: Dmitry STESHIN


This referendum was expected for 8 years, but it happened suddenly. Although sources told me over the summer that clips had already been prepared on local Republican TV channels. But no one knew the exact date, although I personally felt that it would not be possible to go on vacation in September. The authorities, recalling me from the village to… Donbassfound such words that all that was left to do was mumble or quickly wrap up: “How can you miss the Referendum, you’ve been there for eight years, from the start!”.

There was nothing to complain about.

I did not know when I would return home, so I immediately decided to put winter tires with spikes under the car. Sept. Tire mechanics near Moscow, first they were surprised by my act, then they were drenched by it. One had a father from the Luhansk region. The men remembered their military specialties. A Marine, the second air defense officer. Moaning, pulling at the wheels, they complained that their backs had been torn off, but the general summary was, “It will be necessary, let’s go to war.” When parting, they treated the hubs of my car with some kind of cunning copper spray, saying, “This is ours for you, bro.”


Another bell, a sign of a change in internal life in the country, is the behavioral reactions of Rostov traffic officers, famous for their cunning and ruthlessness. The lieutenant who stopped me was already rubbing his hands and imagining him writing me a fine for driving on off-season tires. Then I saw a Kevlar body armor pulled over the back of the chair instead of a cover – some sort of theoretical protection against shrapnel or bullets, anyway. Bummed with humanitarian aid, my general semi-military, worn and washed out look… I thought about it, but asked:

– Dmitry Anatolyevich, do you drive far on winter tires?

– To Donetsk. I just don’t know when I’ll be back.

– Have a good trip, come back alone with a win. And earlier.

The border passed with a whistle, something happened there too, changed. The only person bothered by customs was a man who drove an old Niva into the DPR, but was preparing for military hardship. For the front. They tortured him for 15 minutes, but let him through.


Already in Donetsk, at one o’clock in the morning, I realized that there was no water at home (I lost the habit in Russia in two weeks), and there was no water – neither technical nor drinking. There is also no food. Went to a gas station with a shop open during curfew. The shop, of course, was closed, and the legendary military commander Yevgeny Poddubny wandered around it.

– Everything is bad! I said to Poddubny.

– And it will be even worse! – remarked Eugene optimistically and encouragingly.

They laughed, gritted their teeth.

They have smoked my Moscow, the time for the tobacco factory in Debaltsevo has not yet come. A shop has opened here. Zhenya, saying, “Look how I can!”, paid for cigarettes and coffee with a Russian bank card. It was an eloquent gesture.

Operation “Referendum”

From midnight it rained over the Donbass, turning all fields and country roads into a sticky jam. Visibility is nil. The artillery is silent. The comrade of Donetsk, who voted almost in the first seconds of the referendum, noted with satisfaction:

– What beautiful weather! It is not possible to adapt Ukrainian artillery, neither Turkish drones nor American satellites. God is on our side today.

But he refused the offer to drink coffee in the center:

– I was in the covered market when it was covered with artillery two days ago, so after that I try not to leave the house … Somehow it broke me mentally.

They come in minibuses, set up a column – inform about the start of the vote, take ballots. Those who did not have time to vote will come to the permanent polling stations in schools, recreation centers and other institutions on the last day.

A picture: Dmitry STESHIN

The comrade says he still remembers that spring day in 2014, when thousands of people with Russian flags in the center of Donetsk chanted just one word: “Referendum!”. No one even suspected then that years of bloody trials lay ahead and that the referendum itself would look not like a long-awaited vacation, but like a thoughtful military operation. There is no doubt that polling stations would be Ukraine’s main targets. Bandera out. They expected to cover a few polling stations with guns the moment people gathered there, there would be panic, the rest would just be afraid to vote. The referendum will fail.

This was unacceptable for Russia and Donbass. The event is serious – the entire region returns home. That’s why they did that. In the past, election commissions went house by house, apartment by apartment. They come in minibuses, set up a column – inform about the start of the vote, take ballots. Those who did not have time to vote will come to the polling stations in schools and recreation centers on the last day. But there will be no more crowds to target.

return point

Director of School No. 70 in the long-suffering region of Kiev, shows me the way:

– And right at the entrance is a mine clearance truck, behind it is the door, knock. I will be glad to see you, we all read Komsomolskaya Pravda.

In a neighboring school, a hundred meters from the gymnasium, a mural painted in summer depicting a ‘grandmother with a red flag’ has already been picked out by fragments.

A picture: Dmitry STESHIN

I am surprised:

– Really mined?

Victoria Litvina reassures me:

– No, we just came by to check the building, just in case.

There is something to check here. In a neighboring school, a hundred meters from the gymnasium, a mural painted in summer depicting a ‘grandmother with a red flag’ has already been picked out by fragments. And yet this part of the Kiev region became densely covered with petals. They give me an escort so I can catch up with the Election Commission going through the apartments and not step on anything.

On this gray wet day, the underside of the Kievsky district looks deafening. There are almost no entire windows, everywhere you look the walls are carved with fragments – the traces are old, the traces are new. 8 years of shelling… We find the entrance with the commission unmistakable – at the entrance stands a young police officer with a helmet, armor and with a machine gun on his chest. It can be seen that the “favourite” and combat machine gun is camouflaged, with an abnormal view of the collimator. The first thing I hear in the gloomy entrance of the house is laughter.

Natalya Manylova, art and technology teacher explains:

– We advise you not to place a cross, but a bird. We call it the “peace dove”.

A middle-aged man shows a bird with the words: “Yes, the cross is not necessary in this case.” I ask a stupid question:

– What did you vote for?

– For return home, not to Ukraine, to Russia. I don’t want to be with Ukraine, there are fascists there. And the people are intimidated, and the government is scum.

A gunman called “Basmach” comes to our votes, he has been fighting since 2014. He lowers the ballot paper into the ballot box with the words “For Russia!”. The women of the committee thank him: “Thank you for fighting for us!”

I had a short conversation with Natalya Manuilova. According to her, people meet the committee with joy, some even cry. Of course there are people who do not want a referendum. These are not many:

– They are felt, everything is clear on the facial expression, but they do not confess, they say, they say, we will come to the polling station later. But for the majority, this is the hope of a peaceful life. Our area is of course not the most problematic, it could be worse …

Here I internally disagree with Natalia. It’s hard to imagine anything worse and more dangerous than the Kiev region, and, confirming my thoughts, artillery begins to rumble outside the window. Natalya’s face didn’t move a muscle:

– These are our “exits”.

Suddenly the thought flashes through my mind: I am a citizen of the DPR! (And this is an extremely rare case, because it is more difficult to get a Donetsk passport than a Russian passport. But for the past 8 years I have lived here, probably no less than in Moscow, that’s why I got into the was – I get it). I ask:

– Can I vote in your neighborhood?

Natalia laughs:

– You can, I’ll just be happy, I’m your reader! According to a separate list for those living outside the place of registration.

I grab a DPR passport, fill out a form, place a “peace dove”, push through a piece of paper and even run my hand over the lid of the ballot box. The metal cover clicks and closes the slot. I believe, like all my compatriots from Donbass, that my vote will change something.

I believe, like all my compatriots from Donbass, that my vote will change something.

A picture: Dmitry STESHIN

As I write these lines, the sky over Donetsk has cleared up a bit and… it has begun. Initially, the air defenses began to work, knocking down some targets. And then came the artillery: Kiev, Voroshilovsky, my Kalininsky district. Everything is as usual. In operational telegram channels specially created for these purposes, the mayor of Donetsk addressed the townspeople and asked them to be extremely careful. But whatever artillery brings the enemy to Donetsk, he will not be able to defeat three smiling teachers with a glass ballot box. That is the paradoxical fact, inaccessible to neo-Banderists. This means that they will have to explain this in extra lessons, since they have not understood it for 8 years.


Referendums in the DPR, LPR, Kherson and Zaporozhye regions on the issue of accession to Russia on September 23-27, 2022: online broadcast

Referendums in the DPR, LPR, Kherson and Zaporozhye regions on the issue of accession to Russia will be held within five days (details)

Peter Kavinsky

Peter Kavinsky is the Executive Editor at

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