Russia and Ukraine

Entangled Histories, Diverging States

Hardcover, 288 pages

English language

Published 2023 by Polity Press.

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5 stars (1 review)

In February 2022, Russian missiles rained on Ukrainian cities, and tanks rolled towards Kyiv to end Ukrainian independent statehood. President Zelensky declined a Western evacuation offer and Ukrainians rallied to defend their country. What are the roots of this war, which has upended the international legal order and brought back the spectre of nuclear escalation? How did these supposedly “brotherly peoples” become each other’s worst nightmare?

In Russia and Ukraine: Entangled Histories, Diverging States, Maria Popova and Oxana Shevel explain how since 1991 Russia and Ukraine diverged politically, ending up on a collision course. Russia slid back into authoritarianism and imperialism, while Ukraine consolidated a competitive political system and pro-European identity. As Ukraine built a democratic nation-state, Russia refused to accept it and came to see it as an “anti-Russia” project. After political and economic pressure proved ineffective, and even counterproductive, Putin went to war to force Ukraine back into …

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5 stars

I liked this book very much. It shows how Ukraine and Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union chose different paths, and how this led to the current total confrontation. In this book, the Ukrainian society and the Ukrainian political elites are shown as the independent actors making rational decisions, not puppets of the west or the Kremlin. The authors do not ignore the differing historical narratives, neither do they choose to follow one of them. Instead, they show how these narratives are being used politically by the different actors. There is some repetition and the language could have just a little bit of polishing here and there, but on the whole, very close to 5 stars.