- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press (October 11, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780300083552
- ISBN-13: 978-0300083552
- ASIN: 0300083556
- Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 16 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,769,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation
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From Publishers Weekly
Since the 1990s, journalists, academics, politicians and the public have groped for some sense of the history, culture and politics of emerging, post-communist independent statesACroatia, Macedonia, Slovakia, Belarus, Slovenia and the like. In 1991 Ukraine joined the ranks of these new states and emerged as a pivotal player in the new alignment of Eurasian politics. Wilson, a lecturer in Ukrainian studies at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies of University College in London, provides a comprehensive overview (more scholarly than popular) of Ukraine's history, focusing on questions of national identity and describing Ukraine as a recent invention as a nation. For Ukraine, he suggests, national identity revolves around the complex and fluctuating relation between Ukraine and Russia, from the contested views of medieval Kievan Rus and its national origins (Ukrainian or Russian or both?), to the troubles faced by a modern Ukraine with a significant Russian and Russian-speaking population. Wilson presents Ukraine as a cultural construct, a creation of both Ukrainian and Russian imagination and politics; as a result, the book will displease those who dismiss poststructuralist views of national identity. Still, thorough, rigorous and informative, Wilson's survey promises to sharpen Westerners' perceptions of the surviving East-West divide along the European and Russian border. Because it is "a vital 'swing' state" in Eastern Europe, Ukraine's past and future, Wilson convincingly argues, should very much concern us. Illus. not seen by PW. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
This marvelous work examines Ukrainian history and politics in light of the literature of the country's nationalism. Legends of a heroic past buttress feelings of kinship within national groups, and nationalists, consequently, look to antiquity to rally popular support. Accordingly, Wilson (Ukrainian studies, University Coll., London) surveys the myth of national origin conveyed by Ukraine's supposed biblical origins and the lays (ballads) of ancient Russia. Memories of past grievances, such as subjugation to foreign powers, typically bolster national sentiments. Though Russia dominated the country until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukrainians take pride in their ancient culture, and the widespread use of the Russian language is a daily reminder to the Ukrainians of their traumatic past. Wilson rounds out the study by assessing the country's economic prospects and sketching a future course for Ukrainian geopolitics. As always, the past informs the politics of today. A perfect introduction to a fascinating culture; strongly recommended for all libraries.DJames R. Holmes, Ph.D. candidate, Fletcher Sch. of Law & Diplomacy, Tufts Univ., Medford, MA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Russians generally perceive Ukrainians to be a part of their nation, explaining the great sense of loss when, in 1991, Ukraine became independent. Ukrainians consistently make the case that they have a distinct heritage and culture.
Both sides have a significant incentive to invent or shade history to support their respective positions.
Wilson skillfully debunks that retrospective myth-making and concludes that the truth, as always, lies somewhere in the middle. Over the past several hundred years, there has been significant cross-pollination, generally benefiting both nations.
For a more detailed and traditional history, try "Ukraine: A History" by Orest Subtelny. Paul Robert Magocsi's "A History of Ukraine" is also a competent study. But be warned: they're both 800 pages long.
The current politics is really nicely covered - I had the opportunity to watch the Orange revolution first hand - and its interesting to see the pangs of democracy's birth - and wondering where it will go.
Wilson's knowledge is immense, the result of much scholarship, interviews and many visits. His is an objective view that aims to be fair, which means that many members of the Ukrainian political right and left will be displeased with parts of this book.
I found that it filled many gaps in my knowledge and underlined Ukraine's precarious stuation. It is now ruled by a ... elite (read old communist commisars) an elite that has no loyalty to the Ukrainian people. It has tried to plunder the country's resources as quickly as possible. This elite is not interested in the rule of law or fair taxation. ...
So the country has venal oligarchs on the right, supporting Kuchma, and the communist party on the left. It is still powerful in Ukraine's parliament and is oppsed to any real economic reform.
Ukraine needs a miracle or else it will again be swallowed up by Russia, which as Profesor Wilson points out, will not be good for the world. Not onl;y will the attempt mean a civil war but if Russia succeeds it will once again try for empire.
A final note: this is not an entertainment, a fun read, like many books about countries. You have to be seriously interested in understanding modern Ukraine. Look at it more as a textbook. I found it invaluable, especially this new edition which brings it up to 2002.
Although its borders have changed as often as its political fate, Wilson does an admirable job of inclusion. He writes about Western Ukraine, the Crimea and the Donbas (eastern Ukraine) as well as the Ukraine of Kyiv. Often this makes the book difficult to read because so many different regions and their unique perspectives must be taken into consideration. Yet this is what ultimately makes the book so rewarding.
Although Wilson makes use of copious footnoting, most of his references are to Ukrainian language sources that will be inaccessible to his readers. He does an admirable job of introducing us to the major players in the shaping of this new nation; yet seeking out more on any particular aspect of the story may be difficult. Wilson does provide a fine Bibliographical Essay at the end of the book to further sources in English or other Western languages that will satisfy the interested reader seeking further information.
The book has many fine black-and-white maps that illustrate the points in the text. Also included are two sections of black-and-white and color plates that bring life to many of the ideas presented. At the beginning of the book is a Chronology with two separate time lines: one for Politics and History and the second for Culture. This helps to put the wealth of information presented into a structured framework.
The author focuses on economic, political and religious power and thought and the literary and artistic expression of these in fine arts and literature. His approach is chronological, working from ancient myths and their modern interpretations, through the history of the region, right on up to the present day and the 1998 elections. It would be marvelous if a new edition would come out that includes the results of the year 2000 elections.