- Hardcover: 432 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books (October 10, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465098495
- ISBN-13: 978-0465098491
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #338,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Lost Kingdom: The Quest for Empire and the Making of the Russian Nation Hardcover – October 10, 2017
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"Plokhy eloquently relates the historical ebbs and flows of Russian nationalism and imperialism... [his] thorough historical analysis places President Vladimir Putin's 21st-century foreign policy in a firm historical context."―Publishers Weekly, starred review
"A timely work of impeccable research that elucidates the Russian impulse toward regaining lost lands under a powerful myth of origins.... Plokhy continues to show that he is the master of this terrain."―Kirkus Reviews
"In Lost Kingdom, Serhii Plokhy does for Russia what only great historians can do--make the connections between the distant past and vital present feel relevant and alive. He brings Russia's centuries of struggle with nationalism and imperialism into the near focus of Vladimir Putin's ongoing invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. Lost Kingdom carefully and colorfully relates how the fires of history and myth burned from before the first tsars to Peter the Great, through the Bolsheviks, World War II, and the fall of the Soviet Union. With Russia everywhere in the news today, and every pundit pretending to be an expert, Lost Kingdom is essential reading for those wishing to understand Russia beyond the headlines."
―Garry Kasparov, author of Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped
"Lost Kingdom is an erudite exploration of the contradictions of Russian nationalism, whose history shows it to be both inclusive and exclusive, universalistic and identitarian, often in quick succession or even simultaneously. A master historian on top of his game, Serhii Plokhy lays out the challenges this past presents for transforming Russia into a better country for its people and its neighbors."
―Odd Arne Westad, author of The Cold War: A World History
About the Author
Serhii Plokhy is the Mykhailo Hrushevsky Professor of Ukrainian History and director of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University. An award-winning author, Plokhy lives in Arlington, Massachusetts.
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Written for the general reading public, he uses the epic tale as the historic canvas on which to tell this fascinating story. This history is a brilliant exposition of the complex historical twist and turns of Muscovy/Russia, mostly as an empire, since Russia as a Nation is still in the making. Page 320 …“In 1996 Yeltsin appealed to Russian intellectuals, asking for their help in finding a new Russian National idea.”...
In this review there are some observations and needed explanations regarding Prof. Serhii Plokhy’s exceptional book. He is the Mykhaylo Hrushevsky Professor of Ukrainian History at Harvard and the director of the university's Ukrainian Research Institute (HURI) and one of a handful of scholars with a thorough understanding of the dynamics of Eurasian history.
He has written a history not to offend “sine ira et stadium”. He uses words that are euphemistic rather than strongly precise, such as “annexation of Crimea” rather than the more accurate “conquest of Crimea”, which is admirable because he does not kill the conversation before it even starts. The “little green men” are Russian Military ordered by Putin to invade Crimea! After all an invasion is a military offensive in which combatants aggressively enter territory controlled by another, generally with the objective of conquering the territory. Surprisingly he does use the loaded word “collaborator” which is used with a conscience, a good example of this would be to write , Churchill and Roosevelt were Stalin’s collaborators, which although technically correct is heinous in its moral implications!
To maintain flow and necessary brevity, Prof. Plokhy calls all of the Kyivan Empire, <<Rus’>>. For the more curious reader Prof. George Perfeckyj the translator and annotator of the “Galician–Volhynian Chronicle” explains the meaning of Rus’. He writes, from…“The …chronicles and later documents, we can conclude that in the ethnically-geographical sense, the name Rus’ is the old name of Ukraine and Ukrainians.” The term Rus’ is …“in Ukrainian lands from the 12th to the 17th century. This, as it turns out, cannot be said about the Russian lands, since the Kyiv, Suzdal and First Novgorod chronicles testify that in the 12th and 13th centuries the northern principalities did not consider themselves to be Rus’. … “Rus' in the 13th century was made up of the Galicia/Halychyna, Volhyn and Kyiv Principalities …. The unfortunate exception to this rule is the use and interpretation of the term Rus’, almost exclusively translated into modern historical English-language as Russia, i.e. Russian.” …
For Russia, the corner stone of its Empire was always Ukraine. In the middle of the seventeenth century, there is that fatal Muscovite and the Kozak Hetmanate State (Rusyn/Ruthenian) meeting! Khmelnytsky and his Officers accept the ensuing “Treaty of Pereyaslav”, 1654, with the Muscovite Tsar. The originals of the “Treaty of Pereyaslav”, have not survived, so the myth of this fatal “union” of the two brotherly Slavic Nations lives on. Taras Shevchenko, the Bard of Ukraine, castigates Khmelnytsky for the treaty, where in his poem “Plundered Grave” 1843, he writes:
….Had I known, in the cradle
I’d have choked you, in my sleep…
It should be noted that Khmelnytsky and Tsar Alexey I had absolutely different notion of treaties.
Prof. Plokhy writes that just previous to the Pereyaslav Treaty, the Hetmanate negotiated not only with Muscovy and Poland, but and this, the most intriguing negotiation and least written about, was between Khmelnytsky and the Ottoman sultan in 1651, where they formally exchanged embassies. The Turks negotiated with Khmelnytsky as the Prince (Emir) of Ukraine, and wanted the same arrangement as with contemporary Moldova and Wallachia. As Emir, Khmelnytsky would have ruled Ukraine under the suzerainty of the Sublime Porte, the central government of the Ottoman Empire.
The facile argument that the Cossack/Kozak officers would not accept a Muslim Suzerain is speculation. After all, Hetman Doroshenko negotiated with Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire in the summer of 1667 to accept Ukraine under the Sultan’s suzerainty. Mehmed IV promised to send Doroshenko the power symbols – kleynody/insignia - and send a plenipotentiary representative to take an oath. After the Battle of Poltava in 1709, the "Old Sich" the Kozak Fortress/settlement on the Dnipro River was destroyed and another Sich was built at the mouth of the Kam’ianets River and again destroyed in 1711 by Muscovite forces. The Kozaks then fled to the Crimean Khanate (Ottoman Rule) to avoid persecution and founded the Oleshky Sich, 1711-1734 (today the city of Tsuryupinsk). Another example is after the destruction of the Zaporizhian Sich by order of Catherine II in 1775, about 5,000 Zaporizhian Kozaks established beyond the Danube, the Zadunayshka Sich, under the protectorate of the Ottoman Sultan.
As far as I know, no book nor monograph was published on the subject of the Hetmanate-Ottoman negotiations at HURI! Despite the Turkic specialists in HURI, where they have spent extensive time in the Ottoman archives in Istanbul.
Fortunately Larysa Hvozdik Pritsak, wife of Prof. Omeljan Pritsak, first Mykhaylo Hrushevsky Professor of Ukrainian History at Harvard University, the preeminent authority of Turkic Studies was the scholarly adviser on Larysa Hvozdik Pritsak’s book, “ The main international treaties of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 1648-1657 years/ Основні міжнародні договори Богдана Хмельницького 1648-1657 рр”. This is a magnificent scholarly historical work on the foreign policy activity of the Ukrainian hetman of the Zaporizhian Army (Khmelnytsky). The Hetman concluded with the Ottoman Empire, three treaties: 1648, 1650 and 1651. The book was published by the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, printed, Kharkiv "Act”, 2003. This needs to be translated into English by HURI! You can download this extraordinary book on the internet, whoever use the Cyrillic alphabet.
Tsar Peter the First (reign 1682-1725) and Empress Catherine the Second (reign 1762 -1796) were perhaps the most effective autocrats in forming the Russian Empire. In 1721, Tsar Peter the First receives the titles “All-Russian Emperor”, Muscovy becomes Russia, and with Catherine, by destroying the Hetmanate, she laid the corner stone of the Russian Empire.
Prof. Plokhy masterfully grasps the meaning of Catherine for the Russian Empire. Catherine knew that to implement fully the principles of the European Enlightenment would cause the Empire to disintegrate, as we saw happen with Gorbachev and Perestroika.
One of the disasters Catherine brought onto Ukraine was the elimination of the Hetmanate after her destruction the Zaporizhian Sich in 1775. She made the Hetmanate a province, and named it Little Russia. She turned the Ruthenians/Russians into Malorosy (Malo meaning little). These two events transformed Muscovy into an Empire!
The second disasters Catherine brought onto Ukraine was the enslavement the peasants in Ukraine! The liberation war of Bohdan Khmelnytsky of the middle of the XVII century destroyed serfdom (slavery) in most of Ukraine. Catherine II restored slavery in Ukraine in 1783.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire abolished serfdom (slavery) in 1848 (Western Ukraine). In the Russian Empire, including Ukraine, serfdom was abolished in 1861. Slavery in the USA was abolished in 1865, with the 13th amendment to the Constitution.
The sudden transformation of “Little Russians/Malorosy” to Ukrainians needs a brief explanation. According to Yurii Lavrinenko a graduate of Kharkiv University and a formidable scholar, the Politicization of Ukraine and Ukrainians evolved during the Ukrainian Enlightenment. The enlightenment encompassed the periods from the abolition in 1782 of the Hetmanate regiments and administrations, to the arrest of the members of the Brotherhood of Saints Cyril and Methodius in March of 1847. Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861), the bard of Ukraine was a member and was arrested and then exiled. The architect of the Ukrainian Enlightenment was Vasyl’ Karazyn (Russian Transliteration Karazin) the founder in 1805 of the Kharkiv University. He was the organizing genius of this intellectual movement. You can download the extraordinary book about Karazyn in, “diasporiana.org.ua”, under “Василь Каразун, Архітект Відродження, Юрій Лавріненко” (Yurii Lavrinenko) 1975.
Prof. Plokhy in writing about the Soviet Russian Empire introduced Alexander Solzhenitsyn as the leader of the Russian nationalist intelligentsia. He also writes that Vladimir Putin laid flowers on Solzhenitsyn’s grave at the Donskoi Monastery in Moscow. What is going on here? The Russian nationalist intelligentsia shares with Mikhail Andreyevich Suslov the leading Soviet Communist ideologue (USSR) the same Russian Nationalist ideology. When Putin invaded Ukraine (Crime & Donbas), the intelligentsia supported Putin. Over 100 cultural figures signed a letter supporting Russia's return of Crimea. The letter eventually reached 511 signatures.
Prof. Plokhy discusses the disastrous, from the Russian Imperial point of view the collapse of the USSR. The 15 Soviet Republics break away from Russia and in December 1, 1991, more than 90 % of Ukrainians voted for independence. In his history, “The Last Empire”, he gives a wonderful explanation for this occurrence. The most profound and amazing thing about this Independence vote, was the Communist Party's legislative push in gaining Ukrainian independence. The Communist Party did not want to lose political power as they had lost in Russia. This is ironic since my understanding is that most of the Communist legislature in Ukraine were Ukrainophobes.
Near the end of the book Prof. Plokhy continues this epic tale, where he writes … “…The imperial construct of a big Russian Nation is gone, and no restoration project can bring it back to life,”… My question is, how many times has Russia, been on her knees, and every time as a Phoenix rose out of the ashes, more powerful than before! Let us not forget that Russia is still a huge multinational Empire, stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean.
Prof. Plokhy’s innocuous writing nonetheless has offended many knowledgeable people and scholars in North America as well as in Ukraine, on the topic of the Holodomor, Stalin’s Genocide of the Ukrainians as a people!
Ever since I have been reading Prof. Plokhy, he seems to avoid using the universally understood and accepted term, the Holodomor. Prof. Plokhy prefers to use the term “Great Ukrainian Famine” instead of the accepted form “Holodomor”. In the book’s Index, it tells you to see “Great Ukrainian Famine”. It is as if a Historian of Germany today listed the Holocaust as the “Great Attempted Jewish Genocide”.
I believe Prof. Plokhy is not convinced that the Holodomor was Genocide, although he is too circumspect to say so!
Where Prof. Plokhy really stepped into a social maelstrom is on page 241, where he, as well as Anne Applebaum in her book, places the number of Holodomor victims at 4 million.
Askold S. Lozynskyj, former president of the Ukrainian World Congress, wrote about this social maelstrom in the American-Ukrainian weekly, “Svoboda / Свобода , March 2, 2018, on page 7, “Time brought disappointment / Час приніс розчарування”.... I never imagined that Ukrainian (he means among others the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute) scholars would begin to persuade not only Ukrainians, but the scholarly and political world, that in 1932-1933 not 7 million Ukrainians perished in the Holodomor ... but half that number.”… As we can see from Anne Applebaum’s book were she uses “half that number”, she actually uses 3.9 million from the HURI, Mapa, GIS model.
Primarily Prof Plokhy sites 3.9 million deaths in the Holodomor based on the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, which has gone on a limb with a Geographic Information System (GIS), Digital Atlas of the Holodomor (Mapa). Where demographer Oleh Wolowyna and his group give the figure of three point nine (3.9) million famine victims.
This GIS is an unsustainable model. The demographers on this project themselves say …“Another set of limitations we had to face was the absence of reliable data on population losses in Ukraine at the oblast and raion levels.”… There just is not enough data to fill the GIS gaps in the information. The Holodomor itself wiped out whole villages that have disappeared from the face of the earth. Eight (8) years later, there is the Second World War, massive destruction, the Security Service of Ukraine and Russia destroyed their files in 1991 during the Collapse of the USSR. The remaining files still in Moscow have been closed off to researchers
Robert Conquest one of the most authoritative western voices, finally broke the back of the Holodomor deniers with his “The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-famine”, published in 1986. In it he gives seven (7) million victims as the minimum number, which is based on the most conservative figures. The number may well be over ten (10) million!
Dr. James E. Mace of Harvard, researched for Robert Conquest's the famine’s statistics. From 1986-90, Mace served as the executive director of the U.S. Commission on the Ukraine Famine, in Washington, D.C..
Historians to be credible must do a good job of explaining away why they ignore testimonies of perpetrators and witnesses such Duranty, Stalin and Khrushchev’s statements on the Holodomor, who without flinching say 10 million.
Khrushchev was a protégé of Kaganovich; Kaganovich shared the number of Famine victims with Khrushchev. Lazar Kaganovich died in retirement in Moscow in 1991 at the age of 97!
Or are Russia’s indecipherable actions merely the result of wrangling by the many conflicted bureaucracies that manage Russia’s government from different viewpoints. Why, for example, did Russia make a half-hearted, bungled attempt to seize the Eastern Ukraine, while declining to move into Belarus, which was predisposed to voluntarily unite with Russia?
Like many Americans, I am seeking to understand the current position of Russia and how it relates to us.
This book has tended to convince me that Putin’s Russia is much more a cautious, bureaucracy-infested snail than a hungry tiger. It describes the history of Russia's governance in terms of squabbling factions vying to resolve the "nationality problem." Some factions in Russia’s governing bureaucracy believe in scrupulous adherence to the norms of international law, and non-interference in neighboring former Soviet “Republics” like Ukraine, Georgia, and Belarus, that are now independent nations. Other factions favor a reconquest of these territories, especially Ukraine.
Serhii Plokhy explains how these intramural Russia squabbles have resulted in sneaky, half-hearted efforts to recover Russian-settled areas of Eastern Ukraine, but not in sufficient force to succeed. Russia’s policies resemble the under-handed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by the USA in 1961. Rather than pouring in enough forces to insure its success (or of foregoing the invasion altogether), the USA timidly backed a small force of Cuban exiles, and then denied involvement when the landing failed. It was a huge embarrassment for the USA, and succeeded only in strengthening the prestige of Castro’s communist government.
This has been the result of Russia’s half-baked meddling in neighboring countries. According to Plokhy, it has infuriated the people --- even the people of Russian ethnicity --- in the Ukraine and Belarus, plus made Russia appear duplicitous and potentially aggressive to the rest of the world. Russia has neither gained any territory of significance (other than Russian-settled Crimea) while inciting the enmity of its neighbors, and instigating economic sanctions by its trading partners in the European Union and North America.
Plokhy makes it clear that Russians have always been conflicted about whether they are part of an ethnic Russian nation state or a multi-cultural empire, and we in turn have been confused by Russia’s intentions toward the world beyond its borders;
Russia today has enormous difficulty in reconciling the mental maps of Russian ethnicity, culture, and identity with the political map of the Russian Federation.
Do Russia’s present-day political borders coincide with the borders of the Russian nation? The answer depends on the way in which Russian political and intellectual leaders and Russians in general imagine their nation. The question of Russian identity and its geographic extent is of more than academic interest, as it influences issues of war and peace along Europe’s eastern frontiers today and will influence them for generations to come.
Does the Russian nation, understood in ethnic and cultural terms, consist only of ethnic Russians within and outside of the borders of the Russian Federation, or does it also include fellow Eastern Slavs—Ukrainians and Belarusians? This is the key question faced today by the Russian elites and the public at large as they try to reinvent themselves and their nation in the post-Soviet world.
My book is a history of Russian nationalism at its cross section with Russian imperialism.
From the ruins of the Mongol Empire to the reinvention of Russian nationhood after the fall of the USSR, my book follows the efforts of the Russian elites to restore the territorial unity of the “lost kingdom”—the medieval Kyivan state that provided all Eastern Slavs with much of their cultural legacy.
It is in the pursuit of that vision that Russia has lost its way to modern nationhood, and in that sense has become a “lost kingdom” in its own right.
The book is an interesting synopsis of the history of the fusion and fission between Russia and its kindred Slavic neighbors Ukraine and Belarus. Like the English-speaking countries, they are a family of nations that share a similar genetic and cultural template. At times they have merged (or been forcibly merged) into one super-state, and at other times, such as now, have insisted on living in their own houses. The Ukraine, especially, is an ambiguous nation. Its eastern end touches on Russia Proper, while its western end looks toward Western Europe.
My takeaways are that Russia is a sui generis (one-off) nation that is easily understood only by other Russians. Russians are much more intellectual (in the sense of trying to wrap a philosophy, real or contrived, around their actions), bureaucratic, and cautious than Americans. Like other peoples, there is a broad streak of humanity and fairness in the Russian heart, but also cunning, and the peasants’ instinct to appropriate the neighbor’s chicken if it wanders into his yard.
The books reminds us that Putin, like most others in the Russian government, are highly educated people, not barbarians. Russians leaders are educated about the USA and Europe, probably far exceeding our leaders’ education about Russia.
Disclosure: I approached this book having no direct connection to Russia. I’ve met exactly two Russians in my life, one for a 30-minute job interview and one for five minutes of conversation at a party. However, I have studied Russia extensively (see my Amazon review list). I’ve read dozens of books about Russia during WWII, including British journalist Alexander Werth’s diary of living in the Soviet Union (Russia, Ukraine, and the Baltics) during its near-death experience at the hands of Hitler’s panzer armies. I’ve studied the U.S. Air Force’s textbook on the Soviet Union during the Cold War of the 1950’s.
So what DOES Russia really want? My sense, confirmed after reading this book, is that we may be overestimating Russia’s malevolence and its lust for territorial aggrandizement. We have become alarmed at Russia’s annexation of Crimea --- which was a part of Russia for hundreds of years before its transfer to Ukraine as an honorary award in 1954 when Russia and Ukraine were joined in the Soviet Union. But Crimea's annexation does not necessarily mean that Russia has designs on its other neighbors.
Perhaps Russia merely wants to be acknowledged as the important country that its geography and population make it, and to be treated at least as well by the USA and Europe as we treat nations of comparable importance like Brazil and India. Let’s not assume the worst about Russia, or that there is no room to improve relations. Of course, it is also up to the Russians to show respect and goodwill to their neighbors, especially Ukraine, and to offer up an ironclad renunciation of further territorial ambitions.