Ukraine is currently embroiled in a tense battle with Russia to preserve its economic and political independence. But today's conflict is only the latest in a long history of battles over Ukraine's existence as a sovereign nation. As award-winning historian Serhii Plokhy argues in The Gates of Europe, we must examine Ukraine's past in order to understand its fraught present and likely future. Situated between Europe, Russia, and the Asian East, Ukraine was shaped by the empires that have used it as a strategic gateway between East and West - from the Romans and Ottomans to the Third Reich and the Soviet Union, all have engaged in global fights for supremacy on Ukrainian soil. Each invading army left a lasting mark on the landscape and on the population, making modern Ukraine an amalgam of competing cultures. Authoritative and vividly written, The Gates of Europe will be the definitive history of Ukraine for years to come.
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Superb book; poorly read
This is THE essential book for anyone who wants to understand Ukraine and learn why Putin is so hot and bothered by it.
Too many interesting characters to list
Almost anybody else. Book is great; Lister's reading is terrible. He hasn't bothered to learn how to pronounce Ukrainian names and places and mangles them. When he quotes someone he goes into a strange, strangled voice.
The Gates of Europe is a perfect tagline
Professor Plokhy is an honest blunt historian and he goes into events some Ukrainian writers have downplayed, like the pogroms against the Jews. He gives clear explanations of complex events. He doesn't whitewash the Ukrainians and shows their bad fortune was often due to an inability to cooperate, to shrewdly plan, to a willingness to be deluded. This is the best book on Ukrainian history I have read.
- Bohdan Hodiak
A Timely History
In aerodynamics we analyze fluid flow (fluid HISTORY) in two fundamentally different ways: by considering the trajectories of individual particles and tracing wherever they go (Lagrangian), or by fixing our attention on a fixed region of space and watching how it changes over time (Eulerian). Here in "The Gates of Europe" we have our history by fixing our attention on a region of space - the Ukraine. This "Eulerian" consideration of history allows us to develop a cohesive story from very early to very recent times. It is a nice counterpoint to other, more "Lagrangian", histories of the region which consider the movements of individual groups (Goths, Steppe Nomads, Slavs, Jews, Cossacks, etc) in more detail, but which lack a cohesive thread with modernity as each group moves and splinters over wide expanses of territory.
That's a cute way of describing the first three sections of this book, which deal with the region and peoples of the Ukraine in its pre-nation form. There is serious and deep scholarship here. From section four on, we launch into all the history necessary to understand the current struggles of Ukraine to bond more closely with Europe and shake Moscow's creepy embrace. In this sense, this is a must-read for anyone interested in today's politics of the region.
And yes, in agreement with other reviews, the narration is slightly grating. Part of this is the word soup of Eastern European names, particularly in the beginning sections. Slowing the narration to 0.90x speed helps tons. So don't let this stop you from diving into this well-done Eulerian analysis of the Ukraine.