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Borderland: A Journey through the History of Ukraine Paperback – June 2, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Anna Reid was the Kiev correspondent for the Economist and the Daily Telegraph and has written for the Washington Post, Financial Times, and the Spectator.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; New edition edition (June 2, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813337925
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813337920
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #216,342 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

93 of 98 people found the following review helpful By O. Lechnowsky on September 19, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A book both sweet and sour. Sweet in that it is a well written book on an oft neglected yet fascinating subject. As is often the case, a foreign land seen through the eyes of a visitor, makes for an interesting, revealing, and insightful read. Sour in that the author's point of view is often jaded, cynical, and superficial.
The book is an attempt at writing about complex geopolitical history in an approachable, easy, anectdotal way, and insofar as the book is enjoyable and engaging it is successful, but there are problems with this approach.
While professing a love of Ukraine and Ukrainians, Ukrainian heroes are given short shrift - branded as reactionary nationalists or self-serving opportunists and endowed with obligatory character flaws. Meanwhile, the shadows of Russian historiography loom large over the book, apparent in the coloring of the author's viewpoints - though to her credit, she is bright enough to see through some of the more blatant propaganda which many other authors and academics have blindly accepted. Her innate skepticism comes to her rescue, though often inconsistently.
In truth, it is not completely her fault, as the Russian version of Ukrainian history is the most widespread (the victors get to write the history). That said, one would think that a book devoted to Ukraine from a post empire, post soviet outlook would want to present the facts in a less biased, more informed manner, perhaps giving the Ukrainian version of history some much needed ink to balance the several hundred years of virtual Russian monopoly on Ukrainian history.
Whether intentional or not, and contrary to the author's stated feelings, the book casts Ukraine and Ukrainians in a largely unflattering light - corrupt, inept, devious, inferior, simple, anti-semitic.....
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59 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Ray Farmer on June 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
In this book, the author effectively presents the major points that have shaped the country that Ukraine is today, and presents it in an engaging style that is not only readable but that also leaves a lasting impression.
My wife is originally from Kharkov (in eastern Ukraine), and as a result, I have had the opportunity to visit the country a number of times. I felt that Reid accurately highlighted the cultural and economic differences that exist between the eastern and western parts of Ukraine, and which is a major influence in current Ukrainian politics. In the eastern half (or roughly east of the Dnieper river), Russian is primarily spoken and there is generally little animosity towards Russia. In the western half, however, Ukrainian is the language and speaking Russian can get you killed. Additionally, eastern Ukraine is more heavily industrialized than the agricultural west.
Reid also commented on how Ukrainians can switch between using Russian and Ukrainian in different social contexts and how these languages can be combined in everyday talk. My wife once told me that it would be a mark of honor on a person to be able to speak "true" Ukrainian, as opposed to limited Ukrainian with Russian words to fill in the gaps. Although Ukrainian is now the official language for the whole country, this law was made only recently and it remains to be seen how it will affect people's habits.
In the last chapter, Reid provides an interesting discussion of contemporary problems facing independent Ukraine, which primarily involve trying to stand tall in the face of neighboring Russia and make a name for themselves. Although the book was originally published in 1997, her commentary in this regard is still relevant today.
I have only two complaints with this book.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Tim F. Martin on June 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
"Flat, fertile, and fatally tempting to invaders," Ukraina as literally translated means "on the edge" or "borderland," wrote author Anna Reid in the beginning of her excellent travel, political, and historical essay on Ukraine. An independent state for the first time with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine has been on the border of various empires for centuries, at various times being split between Russia and Poland (from the mid 1600s to the late 1700s), Russia and Austria (throughout the nineteenth century), and Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Romania (between the two world wars). The fact that Ukraine is literally a borderland has resulted in two main things she writes; a legacy of wars, purges, and other violence, and a "tenuous, equivocal sense of national identity."

Reid takes the reader on a tour of Ukrainian history beginning with the medieval Kievan Rus kingdom, a civilization that gave rise to the later Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarussian peoples and languages (though it is still debated what the exact relationship between these groups are), civilizations that really started to widen in differences when the northern Rus fell under the sway of the Mongols and the southern Rus (the future Ukrainians) became dominated by the Lithuanians. From then on Ukraine's history was often a bloody one; between 1914 and 1921 1.
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