Title: The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine
Author: Serhii Plokhy
Rating: 4.5 of 5
I highly recommend this book for anyone trying to understand the current situation in Ukraine. The author covers over 2,000 years of history, from the time of Herodotus (400’s BC) through sometime in mid-2020.
The understanding that I gained from this is that Ukraine’s existence as a completely independent or sovereign nation has been sporadic at best until 1991 (though not through lack of desire or trying). Throughout most of recorded history, ethnic Ukrainians have been under the rule of Vikings, Poland, Lithuania, Habsburgs / Austria-Hungary, the Russian Empire / USSR, and others in various combination at various times…it’s pretty complicated, but the whole “it’s always been part of Russia” or “they’ve always been Russians” line is absurd.
While someone who supports Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would probably reject Plokhy’s interpretation of events out of hand, it seemed relatively evenhanded and well-argued to me. Unfortunately, I think that a total lack of individual citations (at least in the Kindle edition that I read) in favor of a massively detailed bibliography at the end was a poor choice with such a controversial topic. Lack of detailed citations aside, this is an excellent and enlightening overview of Ukrainian history.
On a personal note: postings here will continue to be sporadic as life continues to be crazy. My wife’s health is still very poor, and the doctors now suspect MS, so please keep us in your prayers.