In This Review

The Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation
The Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation
By Andrew Wilson
366 pp, Yale University Press, 2000

Wilson treads a middle path between two schools: those historians determined to prove not only that Ukraine is ancient but that it has primary claim to Kievan Rus, and those who would deny Ukraine anything other than an inferior, derivative history in Russia's shadow. The roots of the "Ukrainian idea" are old indeed, he argues, but its content and evolution derive as much from being a part of the shared experience of empire (Lithuanian, Polish, and particularly Russian) as from a free-standing historical identity. He weaves his story from an ambitious blending of political, religious, and cultural history, much of it drawn from Ukrainian-language sources. He handles the many historical controversies evenhandedly and finishes by reflecting on the Russian factor in Ukraine's long, slow process of invention. And he argues for the importance of Ukraine's safe passage to secure nationhood -- a process he clearly does not think is being helped by its current political elite.