For the uninitiated, it won’t give much away to know that about fifteen seconds of an early episode of the Cold War spy drama The Americans is set in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk. The city is currently besieged by pro-Russian mobs.
The stakes were upped today as unrest continued to sweep through southern and eastern Ukraine with pro-Russian groups in the region calling for independence from the government in Kiev. Donetsk has become a focal point of the turmoil.
In Donetsk, a city 250 kilometers (155 miles) further south, protesters dug in for their third day at the 11-story regional administration headquarters and began to declare their own parallel government.
Yesterday, a contributor for the Washington Post speculated that the eastern Ukrainian city could become “the next Crimea,” despite the parity of ethnic Russian and Ukrainians in the city, which is the country's fifth-largest and an economic hub.
Of course, this all looks a little Crimea 2.0. And that's especially worrying, as there have been a number of other reports of pro-Russian protests in other Ukrainian cities like Kharkiv and Luhansk. If Donetsk is following a pattern established by Crimea, it seems these regions might, too.
Which brings us back to its surreal mention in The Americans. Donetsk appears in the penultimate scene of the third episode of the FX show’s first season which, if you haven’t watched yet, you should get on. In the scene—totally minor spoiler ahead—the infant son of Rob, a KGB spy who has met a premature death in America, is being returned to Donetsk to be raised by the grandparents. As the weeping infant is handed over, the deceased agent is declared a hero by a Soviet apparatchik.
The scene is introduced by the image at the top, which viewed in the context of recent events, is a little jarring. The episode aired February of last year, back when the pro-Russian Ukrainian President Yanukovych was in charge and months before a series of protests would bring down his government.
Seeing the city depicted as the home of a KGB spy taking orders from Moscow is fitting given that that the unrest currently sweeping eastern and southern Ukraine is being fomented by the powers that be in Moscow. We’ll see how Donetsk is portrayed 30 years from now when Vox Media makes a television series about this chapter in history.