A History of Ukraine

In This Review

A History of Ukraine

By Paul Robert Magocsi
University Of Toronto Press, 1996
784 pp. $75.00
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This is a magisterial history, not because of its bulk but because it deals clearly and well with a vast number of fundamental themes over a thousand-year period. Magocsi has wisely chosen to write this comprehensive history not of the Ukrainian ethnocultural or linguistic people, but of the Ukrainian land and all the peoples who have fought over, thrived in, and suffered upon it, from the ancient Scythians and the brutalized 500-year peace they guaranteed through the Lithuanian-Polish period of the mid-fourteenth to the mid-seventeenth centuries, through the 263 years under the Romanovs, to the present day.

Patiently but firmly, Magocsi rejects the Russian historical tradition, which treats the Ukrainian experience as but a rib in the more encompassing history of Russia, and so, too, its Polish counterpart, which over the ages regarded the western half of modern Ukraine as merely the uncivilized but rightful borderland of the Polish empire. Instead he builds from the premise that Ukraine and its denizens, whether the ancient Rus of Kiev, the post-medieval Zaporozhian Cossacks, or the adherents of national movements of the nineteenth century, have a separate and distinguishable history, often infused with values quite different from those of the Russians.