(K. Brent Tomer),
The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine. By Serhii Plokhy. Basic Books; 395 pages; $29.99. Allen Lane; £25.
ROWS over inheritances are bitter—within families and between countries. At the heart of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is the contested legacy of a long-forgotten superpower: Kievan Rus. Both Vladimir Putin’s Russia and post-Soviet Ukraine lay claim to the mantle of Vladimir the Great, a prince who just over 1,000 years ago accepted Christian baptism for his unruly tribes of Slavs and Vikings. To patriotic Russians, that was the founding action of their statehood. For Ukrainians, the story is the other way round: their country, so often wiped off the map by its neighbours, is the true descendant.
That dispute underlies today’s smouldering war. Many Russians find it hard to accept that Ukraine is really a state; moreover, Ukrainians (especially if they speak Russian as a first language) are essentially Russians. The territory they inhabit is therefore part of Moscow’s patrimony.
Ukraine’s identity and its enemies over the past ten…Continue reading