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Borderland: Understanding the Ukrainian Conflict & Culture

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

With the events unfolding between Ukraine and Russia in February 2022, I hunted through my library to find my 1997 edition of Borderland : A Journey Through The History Of Ukraine by Anna Reid. A new edition of the book, updated in 2015, is available by clicking on the image in this post. This new edition has an update based on events in 2014.

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I have more than a passing interest in #Ukraine. I'm second generation American, a product of two grandparents from Ukraine (and likely Carpatho-Rusyn, but that's another story), one from Belarus, and one from Russia. My son was also adopted from Ukraine in 2003. Photos are from early digital cameras of that era, so not so great (my apologies).

The author is a former Kyiv correspondent for The Economist and the Daily Telegraph, so she writes in an approachable and easily-to-read way (but all things considered, this IS a history/culture book so if that's not your jam, it's not for you). The Amazon description (also in the jacket cover): "Borderland tells the story of Ukraine. A thousand years ago it was the center of the first great Slav civilization, Kievan Rus. In 1240, the Mongols invaded from the east, and for the next seven centureies, Ukraine was split between warring neighbors: Lithuanians, Poles, Russians, Austrians, and Tatars. Again and again, borderland turned into battlefield: during the Cossack risings of the seventeenth century, Russia's wars with Sweden in the eighteenth, the Civil War of 1918-1920, and under Nazi occupation. Ukraine finally won independence in 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Bigger than France and a populous as Britain, it has the potential to become one of the most powerful states in Europe. In this finely written and penetrating book, Anna Reid combines research and her own experiences to chart Ukraine's tragic past. Talking to peasants and politicians, rabbis and racketeers, dissidents and paramilitaries, survivors of Stalin's famine and of Nazi labor camps, she reveals the layers of myth and propaganda that wrap this divided land. From the Polish churches of Lviv to the coal mines of the Russian-speaking Donbass, from the Galician shtetlech to the Tatar shantytowns of Crimea, the book explores Ukraine's struggle to build itself a national identity, and identity that faces up to a bloody past, and embraces all the peoples within its borders."

You know what I'll be reading again this weekend!


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