A straightforward, useful work that looks frankly at Ukraine’s ongoing “price of freedom” against the rapacious,...




A sympathetic survey of the history of Ukraine along the East-West divide, from ancient divisions to present turmoil.

That the Ukrainian national anthem begins with the words “Ukraine has not yet perished” is a telling depiction of the country’s riven history, as patiently, chronologically delineated by Plokhy (Ukrainian History/Harvard Univ.; The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union, 2014, etc.). The author balances a sense of the diversity and richness of the Ukrainian heritage—the remarkable comingling of early nomads and barbaric invaders through the lands north of the Black Sea—with the later appropriation by Russia. The early migrants who stayed were the Slavs, whose tribes settled along the rivers Dnieper, Dniester, and others and formed the predecessors of today’s Ukrainians, Russians, and Belarusians. The Vikings named the land Rus’, giving way to a new relationship with its southern neighbor, the Byzantium capital, Constantinople, and beginning the long process of embracing Christianization. Political consolidation from the 10th to the mid-13th centuries was shattered by the Mongolian invasion in 1240, which underscored for the first time the tension between choosing the East (Byzantium) or the West (the pope). With the rise of princely kingdoms, Plokhy emphasizes the significance of the Cossack raids in the 16th century, leading to an alliance with Muscovy princes in 1654, a watershed moment that would henceforth see the division of Ukraine along the Dnieper between Muscovy and Poland. The rise of Ukrainian nationalism grew in the 19th century, and the author explores the industrial age and its concomitant revolutions, pogroms, dictators, and world wars. The Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in 1986 underscored discontent with Moscow. This awakening of national sentiment would snowball over the years until independence was officially established on Dec. 1, 1991. Plokhy also includes a helpful historical timeline from 45,000 B.C.E. and a “Who’s Who in Ukrainian History.”

A straightforward, useful work that looks frankly at Ukraine’s ongoing “price of freedom” against the rapacious, destabilizing force of Russia.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-465-05091-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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