After Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014, he observed, “It seems to me that the Russian and Ukrainian peoples are practically one people.” Are they? For more than 500 years, Russian leaders have laid claim to the lands of an ancient realm called Kyivan Rus’ – today’s Ukraine and Belarus – on the basis of ancient right and shared identity. Historian Serhii Plokhy, director of Harvard’s Ukrainian Research Institute, probes the complex history of this region – dissecting Russia’s centuries-long manipulation of Ukrainian nationality and selfhood. This sweeping, erudite study provides crucial context to pivotal conflicts of the 21st century; however, Plokhy doesn’t offer a comprehensive history of the region: He passes over the Great Famine of 1933, for example, in half a sentence. For a more comprehensive outline of the region’s history, pair this text with Orest Subtelny’s Ukraine: A History or Plokhy’s own Gates of Europe. getAbstract recommends Plokhy’s engaging, expert account to anyone interested in understanding the present and future stakes of Russia’s concept of nationhood.
In this summary, you will learn
- Why Russian leaders feel connected to ancient Kyivan Rus’,
- How national identity emerged in Russia and Ukraine, and
- Why Russia must now look within its own political borders to develop its concept of nationhood.
About the Author
Serhii Plokhy is the Mykhailo Hrushevsky Professor of Ukrainian History and director of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University. Plokhy’s numerous books on Russian and Ukrainian history include the award-winning The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union.