The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine
Plokhy (Serhii)
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Penguin Book Description
  1. Located at the western edge of the Eurasian steppe, Ukraine has long been the meeting place of empires - Roman to Ottoman, Habsburg to Russian - and they all left their imprint on the landscape, the language and the people living within these shifting borders. In this authoritative book, Harvard Professor Serhii Plokhy traces the history of Ukraine from the arrival of the Vikings in the tenth century to the current Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. Fascinating and multi-layered, The Gates of Europe is the essential guide to understanding not just Ukraine's past but also its future.
  2. Serhii Plokhy is professor of history at Harvard University and a leading authority on the Cold War and nuclear history. His books include the Baillie Gifford award-winner Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy, Nuclear Folly, The Gates of Europe and The Last Empire.

Amazon Book Reviews
  1. The most distinguished historian of Ukraine writing in English. . . Mr Plokhy shows how Ukrainian language, culture and identity flourished in adversity -- which helps explain why, though they have only recently achieved a state of their own, Ukrainians are fighting heroically to defend it
    → Economist
  2. The world's foremost historian of Ukraine. . . the chronicler of a country on the front lines of a seismic European war
    → Financial Times
  3. A great place to start reading up on the background to the crisis. . . learned and considered, but lightly written and leavened by anecdotes
    → Oliver Bullough, Guardian
  4. Clear and elegant... an indispensable guide to the tragic history of a great European nation
    → David Blair, Sunday Telegraph
  5. A fast-moving history, full of prompts and nuggets... a strong rebuttal of the arrogant assumptions of the Putin court
    → Roger Boyes, The Times
  6. Admirable... In his elegant and careful exposition of Ukraine's past, Mr Plokhy has also provided some signposts to the future
    → Economist
  7. An assured and authoritative survey that spans ancient Greek times to the present day
    → Tony Barber, Financial Times
  8. Plokhy's careful, engaging history is a series of stories about a spectral nation, one that has appeared and disappeared down the ages... If sense ever prevails, Plokhy's fine book should find its way to Vladimir Putin's desk, if only to show the imperialist that Ukraine itself is far from done, and will not be extinguished
    → Ian Bell, Herald Scotland
  9. Readers can find no better place to turn than Plokhy's book... He navigates the subject with grace and aplomb
    → Foreign Affairs
  10. A concise, highly readable history of Ukraine... a lively narrative peopled with a colorful cast of Norse and Mongol marauders, free-booting Cossacks, kings, conquerors and dictators, and conflicted 19th century intellectuals who believed fervently in a Ukrainian cultural identity but were fatally divided as to how that cultural identity could evolve into national entity
    → Washington Times
  11. An exemplary account of Europe's least-known large country... one of the joys of reading it is that what might seem a dense account of distant events involving unfamiliar places and people is leavened by aphorism and anecdote
    → Wall Street Journal
  12. Complex and nuanced, refreshingly revisionist and lucid, this is a compelling and outstanding short history of the blood-soaked land that has so often been the battlefield and breadbasket of Europe
    Simon Sebag Montefiore
  13. This is present-minded history at its most urgent. Anyone wanting to understand why Russia and the West confront each other over the future of Ukraine will want to read Serhii Plokhy's reasoned, measured yet passionate account of Ukraine's historic role at the gates of Europe
    → Michael Ignatieff
  14. For a comprehensive, engaging, and up-to-date history of Ukraine one could do no better than Serhii Plokhy's aptly titled The Gates of Europe. Plokhy's authoritative study will be of great value to scholars, students, policy-makers, and the informed public alike in making sense of the contemporary Ukrainian imbroglio
    → Norman M. Naimark

    Maps – ix
    Introduction – xix
    1. The Edge of the World – 3
    2. The Advent of the Slavs – 13
    3. Vikings on the Dnieper – 23
    4. Byzantium North – 31
    5. The Keys to Kyiv – 41
    6. Pax Mongolica – 49
    1. The Making of Ukraine – 63
    2. The Cossacks – 73
    3. Eastern Reformations – 85
    4. The Great Revolt – 97
    5. The Partitions – 109
    6. The Verdict of Poltava – 119
    1. The New Frontiers – 133
    2. The Books of the Genesis – 147
    3. The Porous Border – 161
    4. On the Move – 175
    5. The Unfinished Revolution – 187
    1. The Birth of a Nation – 201
    2. A Shattered Dream – 215
    3. Communism and Nationalism – 229
    4. Stalin’s Fortress – 245
    5. Hitler’s Lebensraum – 259
    6. The Victors – 277
    1. The Second Soviet Republic – 291
    2. Good Bye, Lenin – 307
    3. The Independence Square – 323
    4. The Price of Freedom – 337
    Epilogue:The Meanings of History – 347
    → Acknowledgments – 355
    → Historical Timeline – 357
    → Who’s Who in Ukrainian History – 367
    → Glossary – 373
    → Further Reading – 375
    → Index – 381

Historical Timeline

    World History: 45,000 BC Humans arrive in southern Europe.

  • 45,000-43,000 BC: Neanderthal mammoth hunters build their dwellings in Ukraine.
  • 4500-3000 BC: Tribes of the Neolithic Cucuteni-Trypilian culture, producers of clay statues and colored pottery, call lands between the Danube and the Dnieper their home.
  • Ca. 3,500 BC: Humans between the Danube and Dnieper Rivers domesticate the horse.

    World History: 3500 BC Sumerians migrate to Mesopotamia.

  • 1300-750 BC: Cimmerian Kingdom, homeland of the fictional Conan the Barbarian, establishes its rule over the Pontic steppes of southern Ukraine.
  • 750-250 BC: Scythian horsemen drive out the Cimmerians.
  • 750-500 BC: Greek trading colonies are established on the northern shore of the Black Sea; Greeks imagine that mythical figures such as Amazon female warriors populate the Ukrainian steppes to the north.

    World History: 753 BC Legendary founding of Rome.

  • 512 BC: Darius the Great of Persia marches through the Pontic steppes in a vain attempt to defeat the Scythian army.
  • Ca. 485-425 BC: Life and times of Herodotus, who described Scythia and classified its population as belonging to various strata, including Royal Scythians and Scythian agriculturalists, the settled population of the forest-steppe borderland.
  • 250 BC-250 AD: Sarmatians take control of the steppes from the Scythians.
  • 1-100: Romans establish their presence in the Greek colonies; Strabo identifies the Don River as the eastern border of Europe, leaving present-day Ukrainian territories on the European side of the Europe-Asia divide.

    World History: ca. 30 Jesus enters Jerusalem.

  • 250-375: Goths defeat the Sarmatians and establish their rule over Ukrainian lands.
  • 375-650: Period of migrations: Huns, Avars, and Bulgars make their way through the Pontic steppes.
  • Ca. 551: Historian Jordanes locates Slavic tribes of Sclaveni and Antes between the Danube and the Dnieper; earlier in the century, the Antes make a name for themselves by attacking the Roman Empire.
  • 650-900: Khazar kaganate collects tribute from Slavic tribes in Ukraine.

    World History: 800 Charlemagne is crowned emperor of the Romans.

  • 838: First mention of Rus’ Vikings in Western sources.
  • 860: First Rus’ attack on Constantinople from the northern shores of the Black Sea.
  • 950: Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus describes trade relations with Rus’ and the Dnieper-Black Sea route used for both trade and war.
  • 971: Emperor John Tzimisces meets with Prince Sviatoslav of Kyiv on the Danube to negotiate a truce between Byzantium and Rus’.
  • 987-989: Prince Volodymyr of Kyiv besieges the Byzantine fortress of Chersonesus in the Crimea, marries Anna, sister of Emperor Basil II of Byzantium, and accepts Christianity for himself and his realm.
  • 1037: Prince Yaroslav the Wise completes the construction of the Sc. Sophia Cathedral, seat of the metropolitans of Rus’ and site of the first Rus’ library.

    World History: 1054 Rome and Constantinople divide the Christian Church.

  • 1054: Death of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, dubbed “father-in-law! of Europe" by historians because of his daughters’ marriages to members of European ruling dynasties, signals I the beginning of the disintegration of Kyivan Rus’.
  • 1113-1125: Prince Volodymyr Monomakh temporarily restores the I unity of Kyivan Rus’ and promotes the writing of the Primary Chronicle, the main narrative source on the history ' of medieval Ukraine.
  • 1187-1189: A Kyivan chronicler first uses the word “Ukraine" to describe the steppe borderland from Pereiaslav in the east to Galicia in the west.

    World History: 1215 Magna Carta is issued by King John of England.

  • 1238-1264: Prince Danylo of Galicia-Volhynia, who received a crown from the pope, establishes control over most Ukrainian territories, playing the Golden Horde in the east against the Polish and Hungarian kingdoms in the west; he founds the city of Lviv.
  • 1240: Kyiv falls to Mongol armies, and Ukraine finds itself within the sphere of influence of the Golden Horde.
  • 1241-1261: Transcarpathia falls under the control of the kings of Hungary.
  • 1299-1325: Metropolitan of Rus’ moves his seat from Kyiv, devas¬tated by the Mongols, to Vladimir on the Kliazma and then to Moscow; a separate metropolitanate is established in Galicia.
  • 1340-1392: Once powerful principality of Galicia-Volhynia divides, with Galicia going to Poland and Volhynia. along with the Dnieper region, to the Lithuanian princes.

    World History: 1347 Black Death ravages Europe.

  • 1359: Lithuanian and Rus’ armies challenge the rule of the khans of the Golden Horde over the Ukrainian steppes in the Battle of Syni Vody; most of the Ukrainian lands become part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
  • 1386: Prince Jogaila of Lithuania marries Queen Jadwiga of Poland, initiating the conversion of the Lithuanian elites to Catholicism and gradual unification of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
  • 1430-1434: Rus’ (Ukrainian and Belarusian) elites of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania rebel against discriminatory policies of the Catholic rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
  • 1449-1478: Crimean Khanate becomes independent of the Golden Horde but falls under the control of the Ottoman Empire. 1492 First mention of Ukrainian Cossacks in historical sources.
  • 1514: Prince Kostiantyn Ostrozky defeats the Muscovite army at the Battle of Orsha in the contest between Lithuania and Muscovy for the former lands of Kyivan Rus’.

    World History: 1517 Martin Luther issues his Ninety-Five Theses.

  • 1569: Union of Lublin between the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania creates the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, in which Poland establishes jurisdiction over Ukraine and Lithuania maintains its rule over Belarus, creating the first administrative border between the two East Slavic lands.
  • 1581: First complete Church Slavonic translation of the Bible is published in Ostrih.
  • 1590-1638: Era of Cossack uprisings establishes the Cossacks as a formidable military force and distinct social order.
  • 1596: Union of Brest brings pan of the Kyiv Orthodox metropolitanate under the jurisdiction of Rome, dividing Uniates (later Greek Catholics) from Orthodox to the present day.
  • 1632-1646: Metropolitan Peter Mohyla of Kyiv establishes the Kyivan College (future Kyiv Mohyla Academy), reforms his church along the lines of the Catholic Reformation, and presides over the drafting of the first Orthodox Confession of Faith.
  • 1639: French engineer and cartographer Guillaume Levasseur de Beauplan produces his first map of Ukraine, reflecting recent colonization of steppe borderlands.

    World History: 1648 Peace of Westphalia establishes a new international order.

  • 1648: Cossack officer Bohdan Khmelnytsky launches an uprising against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth that leads to the expulsion of Polish landowners, massacres of Jews and creation of a Cossack stare known as the Hetmanate.
  • 1654: Cossack officers recognize the suzerainty of the tsars of Moscow, leading to prolonged confrontation between Moscow and Warsaw over control of Ukraine.
  • 1667: Truce of Andrusovo divides Ukraine along the Dnieper between Muscovy and Poland, producing a Cossack uprising against both powers led by Hetman Petro Doroshenko.
  • 1672–1699: Ottomans rule Right-Bank Ukraine.
  • 1674: Monks of the Kyivan Cave Monastery publish the Synopsis, a historical text that presents Kyiv as the center of the Russian monarchy and nation, arguing for religious, dynastic, and ethnonational unity of Eastern Slavs in the face of threats from Poland and the Ottoman Empire.
  • 1685: Kyiv metropolitanate transferred from the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Constantinople to that of the patriarch on Moscow.
  • 1708: Upset by Russian assault on Cossack rights, Hetman Ivan Mazepa leads a revolt against Peter I and sides with the advancing army of Charles Xll of Sweden.
  • 1709: Battle of Poltava brings victory to the Russian army, leading to the abolition of the hetman’s office and further curtailing of Hetmanate autonomy.

    World History: 1721 Peace of Nystad makes Russia a European power.

  • 1727-1734: Temporary restoration of the office of hetman under Danylo Apostol.
  • 1740s: Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, better known as Baal Shem Tov, assembles his students and followers in the Podolian town of Medzhybizh and begins the teaching of Hassidism.
  • 1764-1780: Liquidation of the Hetmanate as part of the centralizing reforms of Catherine II of Russia.
  • 1768: Bar Confederation of the Polish nobility and the Haidamaky peasant uprising are accompanied by massacres of Uniates and Jews in Right-Bank Ukraine.
  • 1775: Liquidation of the Zaporozhian Host on the lower Dnieper following the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774, in which the Russian Empire is victorious.
  • 1783: Russia annexes the Crimea.

    World History: 1789 French Revolution begins.

  • 1772-1795: Partitions of Poland bring Galicia under the control of the Habsburgs and Right-Bank Ukraine and Volhynia under the control of the Russian Empire.
  • 1791: Catherine II creates the Pale of Settlement, prohibiting former Polish and Lithuanian Jewry from moving into the Russian heartland; Ukraine becomes part of the Pale.
  • 1792: Russian Empire wins another war with the Ottomans and consolidates control over southern Ukraine.
  • 1798: Poltava noble Ivan Kotliarevsky publishes Eneida, the first poetical work in modern Ukrainian, ushering in modern Ukrainian literature.
  • 1812: Ukrainian Cossacks fight in the ranks of the Russian imperial army against Napoleon.
  • 1818: First grammar of the Ukrainian language is published.
  • 1819: Rapidly growing city of Odesa becomes a free port, attracting new business and new settlers.
  • 1830: Polish uprising leads to a contest between Polish landowners and Russian government for the loyalty of the Ukrainian peasantry.
  • 1834: Tsar Nicholas I establishes Kyiv University; efforts to turn Kyiv into a bulwark of Russian imperial identity get under way.
  • 1840: Taras Shevchenko, an artist and poet and, in the opinion of many, the father of the Ukrainian nation, publishes Kobzar.
  • 1847: Mykola Kostomarov drafts the first political program of the nascent Ukrainian movement, The Books of the Genesis of the Ukrainian People, where he calls for the creation of a Slavic federation with Ukraine at its center.

    World History: Revolutions of 1848.

  • 1848: The Spring of Nations rocks the Habsburg Empire, causing the mobilization of the Polish and Ukrainian national movements; the Ukrainians unite around the Supreme Ruthenian Council; the imperial authorities decide to emancipate the serfs.
  • 1850s: Oil exploration begins in Galicia, turning the Drohobych region into one of the world’s most productive oil fields.
  • 1854: British, French, and Ottoman forces land in the Crimea to lay siege to Sevastopol and build the first railroad on the territory of Ukraine, leading from Balaklava to Sevastopol Russia loses the Crimean War and its Black Sea fleet.

    World History: 1861 American Civil War begins.

  • 1861: Emancipation of the serfs in the Russian Empire and liberal reforms of Alexander II transform the economic, social, and cultural landscape of Ukraine.
  • 1863: Alarmed by the new Polish insurrection and the possibility of a split within the “all-Russian nationality,” the Russian minister of the interior, Petr Valuev, introduces a ban on Ukrainian-language publications.
  • 1870: Welsh entrepreneur John James Hughes comes to southern Ukraine to establish metal works, initiating development of the Donets industrial basin and inaugurating Russian labor migration to Ukraine.
  • 1876: Ems Ukase, signed by Emperor Alexander II, introduces further restrictions on use of the Ukrainian language: Mvkhailo Drahomanov, a young history professor at Kyiv University, emigrates to Switzerland, where he lays the ideological foundations of Ukrainian liberalism and socialism.
  • 1890s: Land hunger leads to increased emigration of Ukrainian peasantry from Austria-Hungary to the United States and Canada and from Russian-ruled Ukraine to the North Caucasus and the Russian Far East.
  • 1900: Mykola Mikhnovsky, a Kharkiv lawyer, formulates the idea of the political independence of Ukraine; similar ideas are expressed in Galicia.
  • 1905: Revolution in the Russian Empire ends prohibitions on the use of the Ukrainian language and allows creation of legal political parties; revolutionary upheaval leads to the rise of Russian nationalism and anti-Jewish pogroms; Sholem Aleichem leaves Kyiv for New York.

    World History: 1914 World War I begins.

  • 1914: Outbreak of World War I turns Ukraine into a battleground between the Russian Empire, Austria-Hungary, and Germany.
  • 1917: Collapse of the Russian monarchy opens the door to the creation of a Ukrainian stare, a process led by socialists in the Central Rada, Ukraine’s revolutionary parliament.
  • 1918-1920: Ukrainian governments in Russian- and Austrian-ruled parts of Ukraine declare independence but lose the war to their more powerful neighbors, Bolshevik Russia and the newly established Polish Republic.
  • 1920s: National communism in Soviet Ukraine.
  • 1921-1923: Ukrainian territories are divided between Soviet Russia, Poland, Romania, and Czechoslovakia.
  • 1927-1929: Bolshevik authorities introduce large-scale industrialization, collectivization, and cultural revolution, policies intended to bring about the communist transformation of economy and society.

    World History: 1929 Black Friday inaugurates the Great Depression.

  • 1932-1933: Close to 4 million die in Ukraine as a result of the manmade famine known today as the Holodomor.
  • 1934: Members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists assassinate Polish minister of the interior, Bronislaw Pieracki, manifesting both growing dissatisfaction among Ukrainian society with Polish rule and the rising power of radical nationalism.
  • 1937: Stalinist purges, which sent millions to the Gulag and put hundreds of thousands on death row, reach their height.

    World History: 1939 World War II begins.

  • 1939: Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact leads to the Soviet occupation of formerly Polish Volhynia and Galicia and formerly Romanian Bukovyna; Czech-ruled Transcarpathia, where Ukrainian activists declare short-lived independence, goes to Hungary.
  • 1941: Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union results in German and Romanian occupation of Ukraine, turning it into one of the main killing fields of the Holocaust and costing millions of Ukrainians of all ethnic backgrounds their lives.
  • 1943: Soviet return to Ukraine brings back communist rule and launches a prolonged war between Soviet security forces and Ukrainian nationalist guerillas in western Ukraine.
  • 1944: Crimean Tatars are deported from the Crimea to Central Asia after being accused of collaboration with the Germans.
  • 1945: Yalta Conference provides international legitimacy for the new Polish-Ukrainian border, leaving Lviv on the Ukrainian side, and makes possible Ukrainian membership in the United Nations; later in the year, Transcarpathia is annexed to Soviet Ukraine as Moscow bullies Prague into submission.
  • 1946: Forcible liquidation of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, whose leaders are accused of following anti-communist policies of the Vatican and maintaining links with the nationalist underground.

    World History: 1948 Cold War begins.

  • 1953: Stalin’s death ends the rising anti-Semitic campaigns and persecution of Ukrainian cultural figures for alleged nationalist deviations.
  • 1954: Nikita Khrushchev engineers transfer of the Crimea from Russia to Ukraine to facilitate the economic recovery of the peninsula, which depends on the Ukrainian mainland for supplies.
  • 1956: Beginning of de-Stalinization and emergence of the Ukrainian party elite as a junior partner of the Russian leadership in running the Soviet Union.
  • 1964: Ouster of Nikita Khrushchev leads to the end of ideological and cultural concessions by the regime, initiating a partial return to the political norms of late Stalinism.
  • 1970s: Era of stagnation unfolds, characterized by slowing of economic growth and mounting social problems.
  • 1975-1981: Helsinki Final Act encourages Ukrainian dissidents to organize in defense of human rights; KGB arrests and imprisons members of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group.
  • 1985: Mikhail Gorbachev comes to power and launches reforms aimed at improving the Soviet political and economic system.
  • 1986: Chernobyl nuclear disaster raises questions about the responsibility of central authorities for the ecological catastrophe and leads to the formation of the Green Party, the first mass political party in Soviet Ukraine.
  • 1990: First competitive elections to the Ukrainian parliament result in the formation of a parliamentary opposition and declaration of the sovereignty of the republic, still within the USSR.

    World History: 1991 Soviet Union falls.

  • 1991: After a Failed coup in Moscow, Ukraine leads the other Soviet republics out of die union, dealing a deathblow to the USSR in the independence referendum of December 1.
  • 1994: Russian, American, and British assurances with regard to Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity follow Ukraine’s transfer of nuclear warheads inherited from the Soviet Union to Russia.
  • 1996: New constitution guarantees democratic freedoms and divides power between the presidential office and parliament, establishing the parliament as a major actor in Ukrainian politics.
  • 1997: Russia and Ukraine sign an agreement on borders recognizing Ukrainian sovereignty over the Crimea and leasing the Sevastopol naval base to Russia.
  • 2004: Democratic Orange Revolution, fueled by widespread rejection of government corruption and Russian interference in the electoral process, brings to power the pro-reform and pro-Western government of President Viktor Yushchenko.
  • 2008-2009: Ukraine declares desire to join the European Union, applies for the NATO Membership Action Plan, and joins the European Union’s Eastern Partnership Program.
  • 2013: Russia starts a trade war with Ukraine, forcing the government of President Viktor Yanukovych to back down from signing an association agreement with the European Union, which sparks mass protests that become known as the EuroMaidan and Revolution of Dignity.
  • 2014: As the protests on the streets of Kyiv turn violent, the Ukrainian parliament removes President Yanukovych from office, while Russia launches a hybrid war against Ukraine by taking over the Crimean Peninsula and sending its troops and supplies into the Donbas region.
  • 2015: The Russo-Ukrainian conflict produces the acutest crisis in East-West relations since the end of the Cold War.

Book Comment

Penguin; 1st edition (1 Dec. 2016). Paperback.

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