The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus 1569-1999 Kindle Edition
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"[A] pioneering book."—George O. Liber, Harvard Ukrainian Studies
--This text refers to the paperback edition.
About the Author
- Publication Date : January 11, 2003
- File Size : 4550 KB
- Word Wise : Not Enabled
- Print Length : 384 pages
- Publisher : Yale University Press (January 11, 2003)
- ASIN : B00182FL44
- Language: : English
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced Typesetting : Not Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Domestic Shipping: Item can be shipped within U.S.
- International Shipping: This item is not eligible for international shipping. Learn More
- Best Sellers Rank: #702,746 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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What country in Eastern Europe after being partitioned three times in the 18th century by her more powerful neighbors ceased to exist? Poland disappeared from the map of Europe from 1795 until 1918. After being given back a set of borders within which Poles (and others) lived in relative harmony for a mere twenty years, Poland was savagely attacked by both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia in 1939. Poles were sent as slave labor to Germany to work in place of Germans who were foolish enough to begin fighting on two fronts in 1941. The Soviets deported hundreds of thousands of Poles from the eastern half of what had been Poland to die in labor camps in Siberia and Kazakhstan. And those who were left? They enjoyed being treated as a sub-human race by their Nazi occupiers for almost six years. Even as Poles fought to free Warsaw, the Soviet Army watched from across a river as German troops viciously put down the Warsaw uprising before moving in, themselves, and cleaning up the survivors. And our patron saint of the New Deal, FDR, sold out our Polish allies to Stalin in return for nothing but lies from the most vile, untrustworthy, and insane Georgian to ever walk the earth.
Obviously, this book is about more than just Poland's trials and tribulations during its oft-interrupted history. If Belarus is considered by Snyder a "failed state", then maybe this is because it is. If Ukraine is somehow framed in a bad light, then perhaps Snyder understands, better than most, Ukranians' own faults and sins . . . especially during WWII. And if the histories of countries like Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania aren't covered in as much detail as some might wish, then this might be due to the fact that none of these three nations are "Slavic" in origin (unlike Poland, Ukraine, and Belarus).
Don't misunderstand me, this book is not an easy read. Nor is it a book for the faint-hearted: Snyder's tales of OUN and UPA atrocities committed against Poles in Galicia and especially Volhynia are on the same reprehensible level as anything committed by Serbs in the 1990s. But Snyder doesn't sanitize a very cruel and destructive period in Eastern European history merely to spare the reader's feelings. What's more important, he casts light on a little known (at least to many) war that started during and continued through and after WWII: that of Poles and Ukrainians, who continued to fight and "ethnically cleanse" each other even as the German-Russian Eastern Front moved westward beyond their war within a war.
And I haven't even touched on so much of the cultural history that forms the beginning of the book--the beginnings of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of 1569 and its effect on the rise, fall, and (hopefully) continued resurrection of these two nations and peoples.
If you want to know Eastern European history, especially the later history of Poland, the Ukraine, and Lithuania, not to mention much of the hardship their peoples faced as a result of regular Russian/Soviet interference, then this book is as good a place to start as any (if not better). And for those who have read extensively on the subject, Snyder presents a slightly different view that will fill in the gaps in any amateur historian's knowledge. For what it's worth, I heartily recommend it (and I'm not being paid to do so).
He traces the ‘death’ of the idea of the Commonwealth in various parts of the region over time. For the Poles, or rather Poles from ‘Lithuanian’ lands and Galicia, they continued to ascribe to this multi-ethnic understanding far longer than Poles in Krakow and Warsaw, where a more national understanding of Poland took root earlier. In many ways, the ‘Lithuanian’ concept died with Pilsudski in the 1930s and Poland became an ethnic nation, with clear impact on Polish-Ukrainian relations in the 1930s-1940s.
It is this death of the ‘Lithuanian’ or ‘Commonwealth’ idea that forms the heart of this book, and its most important argument. How this worked itself out in Belarusian lands, in independent and Soviet Lithuania, and in Ukraine is quite varied, raising many questions about the role of national identity formation.
The final chapters, on Poland’s role in the post-Soviet world, was new territory for me. I found myself wondering, here and elsewhere, how others might look at this from a less Poland-centric perspective. The narrative comes to an end on the eve of Poland’s accession to the EU.
Overall, this is a read like none other I know in the history of this region and especially the interrelationship of the parts. So many histories look only at the parts, often with the heavy weight of 19th and 20th century national identities and stories dominating. Snyder here manages to transcend that, at least in part, in a way that enlightens the history of the region.