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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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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