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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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THE DEVIL'S BEST TRICK

HOW THE FACE OF EVIL DISAPPEARED

A compelling journey into the heart of darkness with an articulate, capable guide.

An investigation of evil and how it manifests in our society.

As an acclaimed journalist, Sullivan, author of Graveyard of the Pacific, Dead Wrong, and other books, thought of himself as a man of reason and intelligence, with a good dose of cynicism. Then, when covering the wars that tore apart Yugoslavia, he confronted too many atrocities to believe that nothing was behind them. The author sensed the presence of evil and began to research the origin of it, which led him to the fundamental figure of malignity. While researching the book, Sullivan brushed against inexplicable, personal incidents—e.g., a weird threat from a well-dressed stranger, an ominous letter in his mailbox, the dream image of a black dog. The author shows how Christianity gave the Devil a personification, a central role, and a name. Sullivan looks at the theologians who wrestled with the conflict between the persistence of evil and the presence of an omnipotent God, finding that none of them reached a satisfying conclusion. He also studies a number of serial killers and murders, as well as accounts of a carefully documented, nightmarish exorcism that lasted four months in Iowa in 1928. Yet somehow, writes Sullivan, the Devil has been able to convince everyone that he does not exist, so is “able to hide in plain sight because of the cover we all give him with our fear, our denial, our rationalization, [and] our deluded sense of enlightenment.” The author believes that the Devil is real, but, he adds, each of us is responsible for our own decisions. This is not an easy book to read, and some parts are profoundly disturbing. Sullivan offers crucial insights, but timid readers should think carefully before entering its dark labyrinth.

A compelling journey into the heart of darkness with an articulate, capable guide.

Pub Date: May 14, 2024

ISBN: 9780802119131

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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