More Suggested Reading About Ukraine | Booklist

Librarian Irina Kurylec (Ukrainian Library at the Ukrainian Educational and Cultural Center in Jenkintown, PA) suggests titles in history, political science, graphic novels, poetry, and literature for U.S. library patrons looking to read about the history of Ukraine and recent events in the country.

Librarian Irina Kurylec (Ukrainian Library at the Ukrainian Educational and Cultural Center in Jenkintown, PA) suggests titles in history, political science, graphic novels, poetry, and literature for U.S. library patrons looking to read about the history of Ukraine and recent events in the country.


Applebaum, Anne. Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944–1956. Doubleday. 2012. 608p. ISBN 9780385515696. $35. HIST

At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union to its surprise and delight found itself in control of a huge swath of territory in Eastern Europe. Stalin and his secret police set out to convert a dozen radically different countries to Communism, a completely new political and moral system. In this book, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Applebaum describes how the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe were created and what daily life was like once they were complete. She draws on newly opened East European archives, interviews, and personal accounts translated for the first time to portray in devastating detail the dilemmas faced by millions of individuals trying to adjust to a way of life that challenged their every belief and took away everything they had accumulated. Today the Soviet Bloc is a lost civilization, one whose cruelty, paranoia, bizarre morality, and strange aesthetics Applebaum captures in the electrifying pages of Iron Curtain.

Applebaum, Anne. Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine. Doubleday. 2017. 496p. ISBN 9780385538855. $35; ISBN 9780804170888. pap. $17.95. HIST

In 1929 Stalin launched his policy of agricultural collectivization—in effect a second Russian revolution—which forced millions of peasants off their land and onto collective farms. The result was a catastrophic famine, the most lethal in European history. At least five million people died between 1931 and 1933 in the USSR. But instead of sending relief, the Soviet state made use of the catastrophe to rid itself of a political problem. In Red Famine, Applebaum argues that more than three million of those dead were Ukrainians who perished not because they were accidental victims of a bad policy but because the state deliberately set out to kill them. Applebaum proves what has long been suspected: after a series of rebellions unsettled the province, Stalin set out to destroy the Ukrainian peasantry. The state sealed the republic’s borders and seized all available food. Starvation set in rapidly, and people ate anything: grass, tree bark, dogs, corpses. In some cases, they killed one another for food. Devastating and definitive, Red Famine captures the horror of ordinary people struggling to survive extraordinary evil. Today, Russia, the successor to the Soviet Union, has placed Ukrainian independence in its sights once more. Applebaum’s compulsively readable narrative recalls one of the worst crimes of the 20th century and shows how it may foreshadow a new threat to the political order in the 21st.

D’Anieri, Paul. Ukraine and Russia: From Civilized Divorce to Uncivil War. Cambridge Univ. 2019. 292p. ISBN 9781108713955. pap. $29.99. POL SCI

D’Anieri explores the dynamics within Ukraine, between Ukraine and Russia, and between Russia and the West, that emerged with the collapse of the Soviet Union and eventually led to war in 2014. Proceeding chronologically, this book shows how Ukraine's separation from Russia in 1991, at the time called a “civilized divorce,” led to what many are now calling “a new Cold War.” He argues that the conflict has worsened because of three underlying factors: the security dilemma, the impact of democratization on geopolitics, and the incompatible goals of a post-Cold War Europe. Rather than a peaceful situation that was squandered, D’Anieri argues that these were deep-seated pre-existing disagreements that could not be bridged, with concerning implications for the resolution of the Ukraine conflict. The book also shows how this war fits into broader patterns of contemporary international conflict and should therefore appeal to researchers working on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Russia’s relations with the West, and conflict and geopolitics more generally.

Igort. The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks: Life and Death Under Soviet Rule. S. & S. 2016. 384p. tr. from Italian by Jamie Richards. ISBN 9781451678871. $30. GRAPHIC NOVELS

Written and illustrated by an award-winning artist and translated into English for the first time, Igort’s The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks is a collection of two harrowing works of graphic nonfiction about life under Russian foreign rule. After spending two years in Ukraine and Russia, collecting the stories of survivors and witnesses to Soviet rule, masterful Italian graphic novelist Igort was compelled to illuminate two shadowy moments in recent history: the Ukraine famine and the assassination of a Russian journalist. Now he brings those stories to new life with in-depth reporting and deep compassion.

Kuzio, Taras & Paul D’Anieri. The Sources of Russia’s Great Power Politics: Ukraine and the Challenge to the European Order. E-International Relations. 2018. 166p. ISBN 9781910814390. pap. $20; ISBN 9781910814406. free open-access ebk. POL SCI

The 2014 Russia–Ukraine conflict has transformed relations between Russia and the West into what many are calling a new cold war. The West has slowly come to understand that Russia’s annexations and interventions, interference in elections, cyber warfare, disinformation, assassinations in Europe, and support for anti-EU populists emerge from Vladimir Putin’s belief that Russia is at war with the West. This book shows that the crisis has deep roots in Russia’s inability to come to terms with an independent Ukrainian state, Moscow’s view of the Orange and Euromaidan revolutions as Western conspiracies and, finally, its inability to understand that most Russian-speaking Ukrainians do not want to rejoin Russia. In Moscow’s eyes, Ukraine is central to rebuilding a sphere of influence within the former Soviet space and to re-establishing Russia as a great power. The book shows that the wide range of ‘hybrid’ tactics that Russia has deployed show continuity with the actions of the Soviet-era security services.

Plokhy, Serhii. The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine. Basic. 2015. 432p. ISBN 9780465050918. $29.99; ISBN 9781541675643. pap. $19.99. HIST

As Ukraine is embroiled in an ongoing struggle with Russia to preserve its territorial integrity and political independence, celebrated historian Plokhy explains that today’s crisis is a case of history repeating itself: the Ukrainian conflict is only the latest in a long history of turmoil over Ukraine’s sovereignty. Situated between Central Europe, Russia, and the Middle East, Ukraine has been shaped by empires that exploited the nation as a strategic gateway between East and West—from the Romans and Ottomans to the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. In The Gates of Europe, Plokhy examines Ukraine’s search for its identity through the lives of major Ukrainian historical figures, from its heroes to its conquerors. This revised edition includes new material that brings this definitive history up to the present. As Ukraine once again finds itself at the center of global attention, Plokhy brings its history to vivid life as he connects the nation’s past with its present and future.

Plokhy, Serhii. Lost Kingdom: The Quest for Empire and the Making of the Russian Nation. Basic. 2017. 432p. ISBN 9780465098491. $32. HIST

In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimea and attempted to seize a portion of Ukraine — only the latest iteration of a centuries-long effort to expand Russian boundaries and create a pan-Russian nation. In Lost Kingdom, award-winning historian Plokhy argues that we can only understand the confluence of Russian imperialism and nationalism today by delving into the nation’s history. Spanning over 500 years, from the end of the Mongol rule to the present day, Plokhy shows how leaders from Ivan the Terrible to Joseph Stalin to Vladimir Putin exploited existing forms of identity, warfare, and territorial expansion to achieve imperial supremacy. An authoritative and masterful account of Russian nationalism, Lost Kingdom chronicles the story behind Russia’s belligerent empire-building quest.

Pomerantsev, Peter. Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia. Public Affairs. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9781610394550. pap. $17.99. POL SCI

A journey into the glittering, surreal heart of 21st-century Russia, where even dictatorship is a reality show. Professional killers with the souls of artists, would-be theater directors turned Kremlin puppet-masters, suicidal supermodels, Hell's Angels who hallucinate themselves as holy warriors, and oligarch revolutionaries: welcome to the wild and bizarre heart of twenty-first-century Russia. It is a world erupting with new money and new power, changing so fast it breaks all sense of reality, home to a form of dictatorship—far subtler than twentieth-century strains—that is rapidly rising to challenge the West. When British producer Peter Pomerantsev plunges into the booming Russian TV industry, he gains access to every nook and corrupt cranny of the country. He is brought to smoky rooms for meetings with propaganda experts running the nerve-center of the Russian media machine, and visits Siberian mafia-towns and the salons of the international super-rich in London and the U.S. As the Putin regime becomes more aggressive, Pomerantsev finds himself drawn further into the system. Dazzling yet piercingly insightful, Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible is an unforgettable voyage into a country spinning from decadence into madness.

Rudenko, Yurii. War.RU. DIPA. 2020. 308p. ISBN 9786177606542. $19.95. MILITARY HISTORY

In the words of Lt Col Glen Grant, Royal Artillery, the first foreign adviser with the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense in 2014, “This book is an important contribution to understanding the current Russian war against Ukraine. It will be read both at home and internationally with deep interest. It covers the first year of the war during 2014 and early 2015. It tells day by day the shocking and often gory tale of how the war unfolded. It tells of the invasion of Crimea, the initial Russian attempts to create Novorossiya in the east of country and of the eventual invasion by battalions of Russian troops before the battle of Debaltseve, thus saving the Russian backed militants from defeat. It tells in a matter-of-fact way the battles, and the names of some, but not all, of the Ukrainian heroes. It tells of civilian casualties, of those captured and tortured, and gives numbers of those missing. It tells of the Russian and militant casualties and the Russian daily lies to the world. The author tries hard to put the battles in political and military context for that time.”

Snyder, Timothy. Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. Basic. 2010. 560p. ISBN 9780465002399. $40. HIST

Americans call the Second World War “The Good War.” But before it even began, America’s wartime ally Josef Stalin had killed millions of his own citizens—and kept killing them during and after the war. Before Hitler was finally defeated, he had murdered six million Jews and nearly as many other Europeans. At war’s end, both the German and the Soviet killing sites fell behind the Iron Curtain, leaving the history of mass killing in darkness. Bloodlands is a new kind of European history, presenting the mass murders committed by the Nazi and Stalinist regimes as two aspects of a single history, in the time and place where they occurred: between Germany and Russia, when Hitler and Stalin both held power. Assiduously researched, deeply humane, and utterly definitive, Bloodlands will be required reading for anyone seeking to understand the central tragedy of modern history.

Snyder, Timothy. The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America. Tim Duggan Bks.: Penguin Pr. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9780525574460. $27. POL SCI

With the end of the Cold War, the victory of liberal democracy was thought to be absolute. Observers declared the end of history, confident in a peaceful, globalized future. But we now know this to be premature. Authoritarianism returned in Russia, as Putin developed a political system dedicated solely to the consolidation and exercise of power. In the last six years, it has crept from east to west as nationalism inflames Europe, abetted by Russian propaganda and cyberwarfare. While countries like Poland and Hungary have made hard turns towards authoritarianism, the US and UK electoral upsets of 2016 revealed citizens in revolt against their countries' longstanding policies and values. But this threat also presents an opportunity to better understand the pillars of our political order. In this forceful and unsparing work of contemporary history, Snyder goes beyond the headlines to expose the true nature of the threat to democracy. By showcasing the stark choices before us— equality or oligarchy, individuality or totality, truth and falsehood—Snyder restores our understanding of the basis of our way of life, offering a way forward in a time of terrible uncertainty.

Szporluk, Roman. Russia, Ukraine, and the Breakup of the Soviet Union. Hoover Institution Pr.: Stanford Univ. 2000. 488p. ISBN 9780817995423. pap. $24.95. HIST

This book chronicles the final two decades in the history of the Soviet Union and presents a story often lost in the standard interpretations of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the USSR. Although there were numerous reasons for the collapse of communism, it did not happen—as it may have seemed to some—overnight. Indeed, says Roman Szporluk, the root causes go back even earlier than 1917. To understand why the USSR broke up the way it did, it is necessary to understand the relationship between the two most important nations of the USSR—Russia and Ukraine—during the Soviet period and before, as well as the parallel but interrelated processes of nation formation in both states. Szporluk details a number of often-overlooked factors leading to the USSR's fall: how the processes of Russian identity formation were not completed by the time of the communist takeover in 1917, the unification of Ukraine in 1939–1945, and the Soviet period failing to find a resolution of the question of Russian-Ukrainian relations. The present-day conflict in the Caucasus, he asserts, is a sign that the problems of Russian identity remain.

Ukraine and Europe: Cultural Encounters and Negotiations. Univ. of Toronto. 2017. 480p. ed. by Giovanna Brogi Bercoff, Marko Pavlyshyn & Serhii Plokhy. ISBN 9781487500900. $108. HIST

This work challenges the popular perception of Ukraine as a country torn between Europe and the east. Twenty-two scholars from Europe, North America, and Australia explore the complexities of Ukraine’s relationship with Europe and its role the continent’s historical and cultural development. Encompassing literary studies, history, linguistics, and art history, the essays in this volume illuminate Ukraine’s interethnic, interlingual, intercultural, and international relationships. The volume is divided chronologically into three parts: the early modern era, the 19th and 20th century, and the Soviet/post-Soviet period. Ukraine in Europe offers new and innovative interpretations of historical and cultural moments, while establishing a historical perspective for the pro-European sentiments that have arisen in Ukraine following the Euromaidan protests.

Walker, Shaun. The Long Hangover: Putin’s New Russia and the Ghost of the Past. Oxford Univ. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9780190659240. $29.95. POL SCI

Walker provides new insight into contemporary Russia and its search for a new identity, telling the story through the country's troubled relationship with its Soviet past. Walker not only explains Vladimir Putin's goals and the government's official manipulations of history, but focuses on ordinary Russians and their motivations. He charts how Putin raised victory in World War II to the status of a national founding myth in the search for a unifying force to heal a divided country and shows how dangerous the ramifications have been. The book explores why Russia, unlike Germany, has failed to come to terms with the darkest pages of its past: Stalin's purges, the Gulag, and the war deportations. The narrative roams from the corridors of the Kremlin to the Gulags and the trenches of East Ukraine. It puts the annexation of Crimea and the newly assertive Russia in the context of the delayed fallout of the Soviet collapse.


Andrukhovych, Yuri. My Final Territory: Selected Essays. Univ. of Toronto. 2018. 192p. tr. from Ukrainian by Mark Andryczyk & Michael M. Naydan. ISBN 9781487501716. $46.95. LIT

My Final Territory is a collection of Andrukhovych’s philosophical, autobiographical, political, and literary essays, which demonstrate his enormous talent as an essayist to the English-speaking world. This volume broadens Andrukhovych’s international audience and will create a dialogue with Anglophone readers throughout the world in a number of fields including philosophy, history, journalism, political science, sociology, and anthropology. In their introduction, Michael Naydan and Mark Andryczyk reveal a somewhat lesser-known side of Andrukhovych’s writings that place him alongside such writers as recent Belarusian Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich. Ten of the twelve essays in this volume, including his seminal work “Central-Eastern Revision,” are appearing for the first time in English. My Final Territory showcases Yuri Andrukhovych’s unique voice and provides insight into Ukrainian experience of nationality and identity.

Aseyev, Stanislav. In Isolation: Dispatches from Occupied Donbas. HURI Bks.: Harvard Univ. May 2022. 400p. tr. from Ukrainian by Lidia Wolanskyj. ISBN 9780674268784. $39.95. LIT

Stanislav Aseyev helps understand a highly entangled and complicated background of the current Russo-Ukrainian war. This book—a chronological account of the events that started in November of 2013, on the one hand, and a collection of journalistic reflections that attempt to explain almost surreal and absurd developments, on the other—documents how the Donbas turned into another flashpoint, following Crimea, whose emergence is directly connected to the Russian Federation and provides commentaries on Russia’s role in sustaining the current war. In Isolation is written from within the zone of conflict; it emerges from the very epicenter of the war that signals not only interstate rifts but also splits that tear apart families and cause uneasiness in long-term friendships.

Rafeyenko, Volodymyr. Mondegreen: Songs about Death and Love. HURI Bks.: Harvard Univ. May 2022. 250p. tr. from Ukrainian by Mark Andryczyk. ISBN 9780674275577. $39.95. LIT

A mondegreen is something that is heard improperly by someone who then clings to that misinterpretation as fact. Fittingly, Volodymyr Rafeyenko’s novel explores the ways that memory and language construct our identity, and how we hold on to it no matter what. The novel tells the story of Haba Habinsky, a refugee from Ukraine’s Donbas region, who has escaped to the capital city of Kyiv at the onset of the Ukrainian-Russian war. His physical dislocation—and his subsequent adoption of the Ukrainian language—place the protagonist in a state of disorientation during which he is forced to challenge his convictions. Written in beautiful, experimental style, the novel shows how people—and cities—are capable of radical transformation and how this, in turn, affects their interpersonal relations and cultural identification. Taking on crucial topics stirred by Russian aggression that began in 2014, the novel stands out for the innovative and probing manner in which it dissects them, while providing a fresh Donbas perspective on Ukrainian identity.

Ukraine in Histories and Stories: Essays by Ukrainian Intellectuals. Ibidem Pr. (Ukrainian Voices, vol. 4). 2020. 304p. ed. by Volodymyr Yermolenko. ISBN 9783838214566. pap. $25. LIT

The book is a collection of texts by contemporary Ukrainian intellectuals: writers, historians, philosophers, political analysts, opinion leaders. The texts have been written for an international audience. The collection combines reflections on Ukraine's history (or histories), and analysis of the present, conceptual ideas, and life stories. The book presents a multi-faceted image of Ukrainian memory and reality: from the Holodomor to Maidan, from Russian aggression to cultural diversity, from the depth of the past to the complexity of the present.

The White Chalk of Days: The Contemporary Ukrainian Literature Series Anthology. Academic Studies Pr. 2017. 336p. ed. by Mark Andryczyk. ISBN 9781618116611. $37. LIT

Words for War: New Poems from Ukraine. Academic Studies Pr. 2017. 242p. ed. by Oksana Maksymchuk & Max Rosochinsky. ISBN 9781618116666. $37. LIT

A two-volume anthology in Academic Studies Press’s “Ukrainian Studies” series. The first volume, The White Chalk of Days, showcases a finely curated selection of Ukrainian poetry, fiction, and essays, which were originally selected to be part of the Contemporary Ukrainian Literature Series sponsored by the Harriman Institute (Columbia University) and the Kennan Institute (the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars). These works are products of the freedom unleashed by the Soviet Union’s disintegration. At the same time, many of these texts explore Ukraine’s post-colonial condition and the Soviet shadow’s continuing impact on efforts to define the Ukrainian identity in the twenty-first century. The second volume, Words for War, brings together for the first time in any language a collection of Ukrainian poetry about the war in the Donbas region of Ukraine. These poems explore the war from a variety of perspectives and voices—from the front, the home, the hospital; from women and men; from Russian and Ukrainian speakers. Maps, drawings, and newspaper clippings will help contextualize the poems and help represent one of the first literary mosaics of the current Ukraine-Russia war.

Yakimchuk, Lyuba. Apricots of Donbas. Lost Horse Pr. 2021. 166p. tr. from Ukrainian by Oksana Maksymchuk, Max Rosochinsky & Svetlana Lavochkina. ISBN 9781736432310. pap. $24. POETRY

Apricots of Donbas is a bilingual collection by award-winning contemporary Ukrainian poet Lyuba Yakimchuk. Born and raised in a small coal-mining town in Ukraine's industrial east, Yakimchuk lost her family home in 2014 when the region was occupied by Russian-backed militants and her parents and sister were forced to flee as refugees.

Zhadan, Serhiy. The Orphanage. Yale Univ. 2021. 336p. tr. from Ukranian by Reilly Costigan-Humes & Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler. ISBN 9780300243017. pap. $18. F

From literary star Zhadan comes a devastating story of the struggles of civilians caught up in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. When hostile soldiers invade a neighboring city, Pasha, a 35-year-old Ukrainian language teacher, sets out for the orphanage where his nephew Sasha lives, now in occupied territory. Venturing into combat zones, traversing shifting borders, and forging uneasy alliances along the way, Pasha realizes where his true loyalties lie in an increasingly desperate fight to rescue Sasha and bring him home. The Orphanage is a deeply personal account of violence that will be remembered as the definitive novel of the war in Ukraine.

Zhadan, Serhiy. What We Live For, What We Die For: Selected Poems. Yale Univ. 2019. 160p. tr. from Ukrainian by Virlana Tkacz & Wanda Phipps. ISBN 9780300223361. pap. $18. POETRY

In the words of Kristina Lucenko, “Undergirding Zhadan’s poetry is a humanitarian desire to improve the physical, cultural, and spiritual conditions in which Ukrainian people live, today and tomorrow…. Zhadan’s poems reveal the heart and soul of places forgotten, hidden, and unseen, so that we may also witness and understand and remember.”

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