Cover Image: Ukraine


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Member Reviews

A really well-written and totally engaging book, I learned quite a bit and enjoyed the writer's style. 5 Stars

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An excellent read! This is a history book at its best, telling a coherent and fascinating tale of a single nation, but set in a broader, global geopolitical, cultural, and social context. As the author himself mentions in the preface, "my ideal is a history without names and dates. I prefer history that attempts to see the processes behind isolated events”. He fully delivers on this promise. There are, of course, SOME names and dates, but only to provide a framework for his erudite theses.

“I do not share the view that only some countries can have liberal democracies and the rest, due to their historical and cultural circumstances, should go their own way. This is just like saying that the people of certain countries somehow prefer to be deprived of their property, condemned to poverty, imprisoned, tortured and executed, have their women and children raped and their men sent to die in foreign wars in foreign lands just because they have their own, so-called ‘traditional values’. For all its imperfections, liberal democracy is still the best safeguard against violence. A nation’s history may make the path longer or more difficult, and liberal democracy won’t always prevail, but I have no doubt that this path is worth following” - he writes. And I can add that it's a history worth reading.

The fact that this book is being published simultaneously in several different languages is a sign of how the international approach to Ukraine has changed after Russia's brutal full-scale invasion in 2022. Perhaps, thanks to the bloody sacrifices of Ukrainians, the West will finally learn a necessary lesson about the true nature of Russian imperialism.

Thanks to the publisher, PublicAffairs, and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book.

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Hrytsak takes a holistic approach, focusing on large subjects with a storytelling technique rather than relying on dry chronology. It starts with the day Russia attacked Ukraine in the current war and describes the innovative and communal way individual Ukrainians successfully fought back the surprise attack from a massive force that should have been more organized. Individual Ukrainians took responsibility for the defense of their country and fought back with whatever weapons they had. Their creativity and dedication set them apart from the monolithic army of the Russians, whose every movement came from above, often from Putin himself, meaning individual soldiers and their commanders were frozen, waiting for orders. This vignette sets the tone for the rest of the book: how is it that neighboring nations can have such starkly different citizens in outlook, response and resourcefulness? Hrytsak’s book answers that question by delving back into the history of Ukraine and its record of protest against unjust rule vs Russia and its history of the populace being held down by despots. Anyone wanting to understand the current war should read this book.

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If you are an avid reader of well written histories, then this is the book for you. But if you are a general reader of books reading "Ukraine" could drive you off the deep end. So many names of people and places that are spelled with 23 consonants and only two vowels (a slight exaggeration on my part) that you cannot begin to pronounce let alone recall them from page-to-page makes Yaroslav Hrytsak's history book difficult to read.

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The last book I read about Ukraine was The Gates of Europe by Serhii Plokhy, and this is a great complent to that book. It covers modern Ukrainian history until the modern day, and does a great job of covering key people and events.

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