Although, as Brown says, this is a "biography of no place and the people who no longer live there," it too shares in the enterprise of Neuburger and Northrop, for it is about the assaulted and effaced identities of ethnic minorities. Her "no place" is left-bank Ukraine, the borderland between shifting Polish-Lithuanian and Russian empires -- the wedge of land made notorious by Chernobyl and its cloud; crushed between World War I's protagonists; won, lost, and won by the Bolsheviks in the civil war that followed; lost and won again in the Soviet-Polish war soon after; ravaged by Stalin's modernization program; depopulated by the first of his paranoid massive deportations; its sizable Jewish population annihilated by Hitler and its German population removed. In a moving, gracefully written account, Brown rescues a historically marginalized place and its now-erased inhabitants (Ukrainian, Russian, German, Jewish). She shows how they too forfended Moscow's (and Kiev's) revolution while they could, and what became of those exiled to Kazakhstan.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.
More Reviews on Eastern Europe and Former Soviet Republics From This Issue