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BATTLEGROUND UKRAINE

FROM INDEPENDENCE TO THE WAR WITH RUSSIA

Karatnycky combines eyewitness accounts with historical analysis, adding depth and insight to the bulletins of war.

An authoritative account of how the Russian invasion, meant to bury Ukrainian culture, has had exactly the opposite effect.

Ukraine’s battle against Russia has become a defining event of our time, testing the limits of Western will and demonstrating how an emerging democracy can fight against a larger, belligerent power. Karatnycky, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and the CEO of the nonprofit Freedom House, is not an impartial commentator, and he clearly lays out his deep, longstanding personal and professional ties to the country. The author examines the development of cultural trends since 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed and Ukraine declared independence. He frames the story by examining the presidential administrations since that time, which have veered between democratic populists like Viktor Yushchenko and corrupt oligarchs such as Leonid Kuchma. Power ebbed and flowed in various ways, from public demonstrations to government thuggery, which meant that no stable model of government emerged. Behind the scenes, writes Karatnycky, a sense of national identity was recovering, drawing on Ukraine’s rich history and cultural distinctiveness. The author devotes two chapters to Volodymyr Zelensky, first examining his early stumbles and overdependence on social media. Amazingly, after the invasion, Zelensky rose to the challenge, becoming a resolute national figure and displaying hands-on courage. Between Zelensky’s leadership and the requirements of war, the Ukrainian identity solidified, becoming the most potent weapon of the conflict. Karatnycky believes that Ukraine will eventually prevail, but it needs continued support, including advanced weaponry and the transfer of $300 billion in Russian assets held in Western banks as reparations. He might be overly optimistic about this idea, but his book is an important addition to the literature, featuring an innovative approach that provides a useful background.

Karatnycky combines eyewitness accounts with historical analysis, adding depth and insight to the bulletins of war.

Pub Date: June 4, 2024

ISBN: 9780300269468

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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GENGHIS KHAN AND THE MAKING OF THE MODERN WORLD

A horde-pleaser, well-written and full of surprises.

“The Mongols swept across the globe as conquerors,” writes the appreciative pop anthropologist-historian Weatherford (The History of Money, 1997, etc.), “but also as civilization’s unrivaled cultural carriers.”

No business-secrets fluffery here, though Weatherford does credit Genghis Khan and company for seeking “not merely to conquer the world but to impose a global order based on free trade, a single international law, and a universal alphabet with which to write all the languages of the world.” Not that the world was necessarily appreciative: the Mongols were renowned for, well, intemperance in war and peace, even if Weatherford does go rather lightly on the atrocities-and-butchery front. Instead, he accentuates the positive changes the Mongols, led by a visionary Genghis Khan, brought to the vast territories they conquered, if ever so briefly: the use of carpets, noodles, tea, playing cards, lemons, carrots, fabrics, and even a few words, including the cheer hurray. (Oh, yes, and flame throwers, too.) Why, then, has history remembered Genghis and his comrades so ungenerously? Whereas Geoffrey Chaucer considered him “so excellent a lord in all things,” Genghis is a byword for all that is savage and terrible; the word “Mongol” figures, thanks to the pseudoscientific racism of the 19th century, as the root of “mongoloid,” a condition attributed to genetic throwbacks to seed sown by Mongol invaders during their decades of ravaging Europe. (Bad science, that, but Dr. Down’s son himself argued that imbeciles “derived from an earlier form of the Mongol stock and should be considered more ‘pre-human, rather than human.’ ”) Weatherford’s lively analysis restores the Mongols’ reputation, and it takes some wonderful learned detours—into, for instance, the history of the so-called Secret History of the Mongols, which the Nazis raced to translate in the hope that it would help them conquer Russia, as only the Mongols had succeeded in doing.

A horde-pleaser, well-written and full of surprises.

Pub Date: March 2, 2004

ISBN: 0-609-61062-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2003

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A HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN TWELVE SHIPWRECKS

Gibbins combines historical knowledge with a sense of adventure, making this book a highly enjoyable package.

A popular novelist turns his hand to historical writing, focusing on what shipwrecks can tell us.

There’s something inherently romantic about shipwrecks: the mystery, the drama of disaster, the prospect of lost treasure. Gibbins, who’s found acclaim as an author of historical fiction, has long been fascinated with them, and his expertise in both archaeology and diving provides a tone of solid authority to his latest book. The author has personally dived on more than half the wrecks discussed in the book; for the other cases, he draws on historical records and accounts. “Wrecks offer special access to history at all…levels,” he writes. “Unlike many archaeological sites, a wreck represents a single event in which most of the objects were in use at that time and can often be closely dated. What might seem hazy in other evidence can be sharply defined, pointing the way to fresh insights.” Gibbins covers a wide variety of cases, including wrecks dating from classical times; a ship torpedoed during World War II; a Viking longship; a ship of Arab origin that foundered in Indonesian waters in the ninth century; the Mary Rose, the flagship of the navy of Henry VIII; and an Arctic exploring vessel, the Terror (for more on that ship, read Paul Watson’s Ice Ghost). Underwater excavation often produces valuable artifacts, but Gibbins is equally interested in the material that reveals the society of the time. He does an excellent job of placing each wreck within a broader context, as well as examining the human elements of the story. The result is a book that will appeal to readers with an interest in maritime history and who would enjoy a different, and enlightening, perspective.

Gibbins combines historical knowledge with a sense of adventure, making this book a highly enjoyable package.

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9781250325372

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2024

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