In the intricate tapestry of history, Russia and Ukraine share a complex relationship, marked by divergent paths and, currently, a war over historical narratives. Vladimir Putin's denial of Ukraine's sovereignty roots itself in ancient Russian myths and ideologies, a subject delved into in the upcoming book, "The Story of Russia."
Unveiling Kyivan Rus'
Simon Franklin and Jonathan Shepard's "The Emergence of Rus 750-1200" dissect the origins of Russia in Kyivan Rus', a medieval state founded by Vikings. Despite the ongoing debate between Russian and Ukrainian nationalists claiming the Kyivan legacy, the book reveals that tracing the roots of both nations to this distant past is not straightforward. The 12th-century chronicles, akin to fairytales, serve as foundation myths, intertwining Kyiv's establishment with religious ideologies.
Gogol's Ukrainian Tapestry
Nikolai Gogol, though writing in Russian, was Ukrainian by birth. His collection "Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka" catapulted him to fame in 1832, portraying Ukrainian tales in earthy peasant dialects. The stories fueled Russian fascination with the Cossacks, particularly evident in his later work, "Taras Bulba," which narrates the war against Poland, leading to the union of the Cossack Hetmanate with Russia in 1654.
Bulgakov's Glimpse into Civil War
Mikhail Bulgakov's "The White Guard" unfolds in Kyiv during the Russian civil war in 1918. Set against the backdrop of Bolsheviks seizing power in Russia, the novel depicts the Turbin family's struggle as the world collapses amidst the chaos. Published in 1925, it served as a parable for Stalin, portraying the destruction of a class and way of life by Russian might.
Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine
Anne Applebaum's "Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine" delves into the Holodomor, the mass starvation of over four million Ukrainians in 1932-3. Applebaum, drawing on Ukrainian scholars, presents a sympathetic account of Stalin's intention to eliminate active Ukrainians, preventing the resurgence of a nationalist movement.
Babi Yar: A Heart-Wrenching Chronicle
Anatoly Kuznetsov's "Babi Yar: A Document in the Form of a Novel" recounts the tragic events surrounding the Nazi massacre of 33,771 Jews in Kyiv's Babyn Yar ravine in 1941. Originally heavily censored by the Soviet regime due to embedded antisemitism, Kuznetsov's work serves as a poignant testament to historical atrocities.
In exploring these five pivotal works, we unravel the intricacies of Russia and Ukraine's shared history. From the mythical origins in Kyivan Rus' to the devastating impact of Stalin's policies and the harrowing accounts of wartime atrocities, these narratives shape our understanding of the historical bond and conflict between these two nations. Each book adds a layer to the complex narrative, inviting readers to delve into the rich and nuanced history that has defined the relationship between Russia and Ukraine.