War and Punishment: Putin, Zelensky, and the Path to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

Scribner. Jul. 2023. 432p. ISBN 9781668013724. $30. HIST
Even award-winning Zygar (All the Kremlin’s Men), the founding editor in chief of Russia’s only independent news TV channel, Dozhd, did not foresee the 2022 invasion of Ukraine. He expertly distills decades of Russian, Ukrainian, and Eastern European history and finds some of the roots of the conflict in the constant Russian and West European border shifts. He writes in present tense, which results in an invigorating narrative, as he argues that Russkiy mir (the Russian world) was an 18th-century literary invention, a way to group Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus together despite distinct cultural differences. The 1945 Yalta Conference granting the then–Soviet Union three seats on the United Nations Council reaffirmed this idea, giving future leader Putin hope. Putin’s maniacal pursuit of this fallacy is grounded in past mythology, Zygar writes; in reality, the battle started more than 300 years ago. Readers are shown the myths, legends, and military actions leading to the present conflict, and the imperative for all nations to trade archaic notions of hubris for peace is emphasized. Zygar’s extensive research through October 2022, including personal interviews, is admirable.
VERDICT A stirring, academic, yet accessible narrative and analysis of the current war in Ukraine and previous border conflicts. Best suited for informed or curious readers.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing