Feeling Ukraine. Books to help foreigners better understand the Ukrainian context

More than a year has passed since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Back then, the world doubted whether Ukrainians could withstand the attack. In the minds of many people abroad, Ukraine was merely a country located next to ‘the great and powerful Russia’. However, over the past twelve months, the Ukrainian people have shown they can resist the enemy and bravely defend every meter of their land. 

Perhaps the world made the wrong prediction because it knew almost nothing about Ukraine and the conditions in which the Ukrainian nation was formed. Ukrainian Moment has compiled a selection of books to help foreigners understand the Ukrainian context.

Serhii Plokhy ‘The Gates of Europe. A History of Ukraine’

The Revolution of Dignity and the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian war in 2014 were the impetus for this work. American historian of Ukrainian descent and professor at Harvard University Serhii Plokhy decided to take on the book because he realised that Western society was not familiar with the history of the country that suddenly appeared on the front pages. 

 ‘The Gates of Europe’ covers Ukrainian history from Scythian times to independence. The author does not just chronicle the events but primarily analyses historical processes and how they affected the Ukrainian nation. For a long time, Ukrainians were divided by empires, did not have their state, but were always connected to European society.

Why ‘The Gates of Europe’? Plokhy explains the title of his book as follows: ‘Europe is an important part of Ukrainian history, just as Ukraine is an important part of European history. Located on the western edge of the Eurasian steppe, Ukraine has been the gateway to Europe for centuries. Sometimes, when the gate was closed by war or conflict, Ukraine helped stop foreign invasions from the east and west; when it was open, as it has been most often in Ukrainian history, it served as a bridge between Europe and Asia, facilitating the exchange of people, goods, and ideas.’ 

The book is available on Amazon, BasicBooks, and other platforms.

Source: https://www.basicbooks.com/titles/serhii-plokhy/the-gates-of-europe/9781541675643/

Marci Shore ‘The Ukrainian Night: An Intimate History of Revolution’

Marci Shore is an American historian and professor at Yale University who studies the history of Eastern Europe. Her book ‘Ukrainian Night’ is dedicated to the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity in 2013–2014. 

‘The Maidan impressed me. It was a real impetus for the transformation of human souls. An indicator of human potential and the ability to go beyond it and create something better. It was a testament to the fact that the responsibility of Ukrainians for their lives and the lives of others has reached a completely different level,’ the author said of those events.

Marci Shore notes that ‘Ukrainian Night’ is not a scholarly text but a journalism work. The historian emphasises that writing this book was ‘an attempt to make readers in different parts of the world feel that Ukraine is a real country and Ukrainians are a real people’. 

The book is divided into two parts: the course of the Revolution of Dignity and the beginning of the war in eastern Ukraine. The narrative is based on the stories of activists and the military, who were direct participants in those significant events. 

The book is available for purchase on Amazon.

Source: https://www.amazon.com/Ukrainian-Night-Intimate-History-Revolution/dp/0300218680

Timothy Snyder ‘Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin’

‘Bloodlands’ is a fundamental work by American historian and Yale University professor Timothy Snyder. It describes the crimes of the Soviet and Nazi regimes. The book does not focus only on the history of Ukrainian lands but also tells the story of the difficult fates of the people who found themselves in the dictatorial clutches of Hitler and Stalin.

Source: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bloodlands-Europe-between-Hitler-Stalin/dp/0099551799

Bloodlands’ is a fundamental work by American historian and Yale University professor Timothy Snyder. It describes the crimes of the Soviet and Nazi regimes. The book does not focus only on the history of Ukrainian lands but also tells the story of the difficult fates of the people who found themselves in the dictatorial clutches of Hitler and Stalin.

Bloodlands is a space from central Poland to western Russia, including the territories of Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltic States. Snyder describes the tragedies that befell the Ukrainian people during the twentieth century-the artificial Holodomor of 1932–1933, Bolshevik terror, Stalinist repression, and concentration camps. The historian tells about the horrors of totalitarian regimes through the prism of human destinies. Snyder supports each statement with reference to a source, so the book is also a valuable and objective scientific work. ‘Bloodlands’ is available for purchase on Amazon

Timothy Snyder is an ambassador for the Ukrainian fundraising platform UNITED24. In addition, the historian has created an author’s course, ‘The Making of Modern Ukraine’. The professor’s lectures are available on YaleCourses.

Serhy Yekelchyk ‘Ukraine: What Everyone Needs to Know’

This book was written after the Revolution of Dignity and the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine. Canadian historian of Ukrainian descent Serhy Yekelchyk sought to explain to Western audiences the context in which modern Ukraine was formed. Unfortunately, in the American media, the country was associated with corruption rather than the struggle for freedom and democratic values. 

In his work, the author analyses Ukraine’s relations with the West. Yekelchyk explains why the Ukrainian people have revolted twice in the last two decades. The book tells the story of the origins of the Russian-Ukrainian war: why Russia reacted so aggressively to the Ukrainians’ desire to follow the European path.

In addition, the work was not spared from the political scandal when the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, accused Ukraine of interfering in the 2016 American elections and pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.  The book is available for purchase on Amazon.

Source: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ukraine-What-Everyone-Needs-Know®-ebook/dp/B08T1TBWGT 

Oleksandr Palii ‘A History of Ukraine. A Short Course’

If you want to get acquainted with the history of Ukraine in a short time, this is an ideal option. The publication is well divided into chapters and well illustrated. The book tells the story of the founding of Kyiv, the era of the Ukrainian Cossacks, the war between Ukrainians and Bolshevik Russia, and the achievement of independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Oleksandr Palii dedicates separate chapters to prominent Ukrainian figures such as the writer Taras Shevchenko, the Cossack Ataman Ivan Sirko, and Hetman Dmytro Doroshenko.

‘A History of Ukraine. A Short Course’ is available on the website of the Ukrainian publishing house A-БА-БА-ГA-ЛA-MA-ГA. The book is also available on Amazon.

Source: https://store.ababahalamaha.com.ua/a-history-of-ukraine

We hope that our book recommendations will help you better understand Ukrainians. May your journey through the history of Ukraine be interesting and exciting!

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