Reading Ukraine: History, Memoir and Literature

Whenever conflicts erupt on the world stage, we can count on our patrons to head to their local library to find out more. When it comes to the current conflict in Ukraine, whether you prefer the objectivity of history and political analysis, the more subjective personal experiences of those involved, or the imaginative capacity of fiction to capture essential truths, you’ll find something of interest in our new list of books centered on Ukrainian history and life. Here are just a few of the diverse titles you’ll find there:

The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine, by Serhii Plokhy. Spanning from the Neanderthals to the Ukrainian Revolution and Russian backlash of 2014, Harvard professor Plokhy presents a nuanced, authoritative history of an embattled region whose conquerors have included Huns, Vikings, Mongols, Swedes, Hapsburgs, Ottoman Turks, Poles, Germans, and Russians, and of the gradual, halting emergence of Ukrainian national identity and solidarity.

Ukraine’s Revolt, Russia’s Revenge, by Christopher M. Smith. Posted in Kyiv during the EuroMaidan Revolution of 2013 and the Kremlin’s backlash against Ukraine’s attempts to free itself from Russian corruption that followed, U.S. diplomat Smith offers an informed, incisive perspective on the beliefs, experiences and tactics informing both sides of the ongoing struggle between democracy and autocracy.

Maybe Esther: A Family Story, by Katja Petrowskaja. Tracing her family tree, a Kiev journalist uncovers among severed roots and broken branches a moving, eventful saga of Jewish history across Eastern Europe under the Tsars, Soviets, and Nazis.

Good Citzens Need Not Fear, by Maria Reva. Hilarious and heartrending, these loosely linked stories capture the unsettling and often surreal life of Ukrainians before and after the fall of the Soviet Union. Reva’s blend of harsh realism and droll fantasy is reminiscent of the trenchant fabulism of Ukraine’s greatest literary giant Nikolai Gogol, as well as the deadpan post-Soviet satire of Andrei Kurkov.

Your Ad Could Go Here, by Oksana Zabuzhko. Daring, provocative tales by a celebrated Ukrainian thinker span the personal and political, from totalitarian paranoia to the heady days of revolution to the pain and trauma of wars past, present and future. A stunning, emotional tour de force.

Visit Reading Ukraine for an extensive list of history, memoir and fiction.

      ~ Posted by David W.

2 thoughts on “Reading Ukraine: History, Memoir and Literature”

  1. There is a significant omission from this blog post and the larger topic guide to which it links. That omission is Gordon M. Hahn’s 2018 book *Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West and the “new Cold War”*. Hahn provides vital historical and political context that enables the reader to critically interrogate the dominant Western narrative on the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. I would also recommend John J. Mearsheimer’s *The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities* which provides a larger politico-cultural perspective on American political and military aggression in the post-Soviet era. You can read my longer comment on Hahn’s book at

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