#StandWithUkraine. 30 books to understand Ukrainians

#StandWithUkraine. 30 books to understand Ukrainians

What do you know about Ukrainians? For the last ten years, Ukraine has been published on the covers of world newspapers with the headlines "Revolution of Dignity" and "War". These events proved that freedom is the key value of the Ukrainian people. Why do Ukrainians continue to fight for their values, despite the aggression of one of the largest countries in the world?

We have compiled a list of fiction and non-fiction books that will help you better understand Ukrainian history and mentality. All books are available in English.


1. Anne Applebaum, Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine (Anchor)

A revelatory history of one of Stalin's greatest crimes, the consequences of which still resonate today. In 1929 Stalin launched his policy of agricultural collectivization, which forced millions of peasants off their land and onto collective farms. The result was a catastrophic famine, the most lethal in European history. Applebaum’s compulsively readable narrative recalls one of the worst crimes of the twentieth century, and shows how it may foreshadow a new threat to the political order in the twenty-first.

2. Ola Hnatiuk, Courage and Fear (Kolegium Europy Wschodniej, Academic Studies Press, and Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute)

It’s a study of a multicultural city in times when all norms collapse. Ola Hnatiuk presents a meticulously documented portrait of Lviv’s ethnically diverse intelligentsia during World War. The author employs diverse sources in several languages to tell the story of Lviv from a multi-ethnic perspective and to challenge the national narratives dominant in Central and Eastern Europe.

3. Tamara Hundorova, The Post-Chornobyl Library. Ukrainian Postmodernism of the 1990s (Academic Studies Press)

The Post-Chornobyl Library in Tamara Hundorova’s book becomes a metaphor of a new Ukrainian literature of the 1990s, which emerges out of the Chornobyl nuclear trauma of the 26th of April 1986. Ukrainian postmodernism turns into a writing of trauma and reflects the collisions of the post-Soviet time as well as the processes of decolonization of the national culture.

4. Tim Judah, In War Time: Stories from Ukraine (Tim Duggan Books)

It’s boots-on-the-ground dispatch from the front lines of the conflict in Ukraine. Judah talks to everyone from politicians to poets, pensioners, and historians. Listening to their clashing explanations, he interweaves their stories to create a sweeping, tragic portrait of a country fighting a war of independence from Russia—twenty-five years after the collapse of the USSR.

5. Oksana Kis, Survival as Victory: Ukrainian Women in the Gulag (Harvard Series in Ukrainian Studies)

Of the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian women who were sentenced to the Gulag in the 1940s and 1950s, only half survived. In Survival as Victory, Oksana Kis has produced the first anthropological study of daily life in the Soviet forced labor camps as experienced by Ukrainian women prisoners.

6. Alisa Lozhkina, Permanent Revolution: Art in Ukraine, the 20th to the early 21 c. (ArtHuss)

This book is an attempt to draw the history of the development of visual art practices in Ukraine, from the birth of modernism to the present day, into a cohesive narrative. Written by a leading Ukrainian curator and art critic, particular emphasis is given to the period since independence.

7. Paul Robert Magocsi, Historical Atlas of Central Europe: Third Revised and Expanded Edition (University of Toronto Press)

Central Europe remains a region of ongoing change and continuing significance in the contemporary world. This third, fully revised edition of the Historical Atlas of Central Europe takes into consideration recent changes in the region. The Historical Atlas of Central Europe is an invaluable resource for scholars, students, journalists, and general readers who wish to have a fuller understanding of this critical area, with its many peoples, languages, and continued political upheaval.

8. Paul Robert Magocsi, Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern Jews and Ukrainians: A Millenium of Co-Existence (University of Toronto Press)

This book sheds new light on highly controversial moments of Ukrainian-Jewish relations and argues that the historical experience in Ukraine not only divided ethnic Ukrainians and Jews, but also brought them together.

9. Serhii Plokhy, The Gates of Europe (Basic Books)

Serhii Plokhy explains that today’s crisis in Ukraine is a case of history repeating itself: the Ukrainian conflict is only the latest in a long history of turmoil over Ukraine’s sovereignty. In The Gates of Europe, Plokhy examines Ukraine’s search for its identity through the lives of major Ukrainian historical figures, from its heroes to its conquerors.

10. Andrii Portnov, Poland and Ukraine. Entangled Histories, Asymmetric Memories. (Berlin: Forum Transregionale Studien, 2020)

This essay addresses the routes and disruptions of some basic historical stereotypes in Polish-Ukrainian relations. The author analyzes the legacy of the early modern Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Cossack mythology, the Ukrainian-Polish war over Lviv/Lwów in 1918, the ethnic cleansing of Volhynian Poles in 1943, the activities of Jerzy Giedroyc’s "Kultura" and post-Soviet memory wars and reconciliation projects.

11. Philippe Sands, East West Street. On the Origins of "Genocide" and "Crime against Humanity" (Vintage)

The book explores the creation and development of world-changing legal concepts that came about as a result of the unprecedented atrocities of Hitler’s Third Reich. East West Street looks at the personal and intellectual evolution of the two men who simultaneously originated the ideas of "genocide" and "crimes against humanity," both of whom, not knowing the other, studied at the same university with the same professors in Lviv.

12. Gwendolyn Sasse, The Crimea Question: Identity, Transition, and Conflict (Harvard Series in Ukrainian Studies)

Crimea had been the subject of domestic and international conflict. Gwendolyn Sasse provides a rich description of the elements and events of this conflict. This book explores the factors that led to the largely peaceful transition and places the situation in the larger context of conflict-prevention studies.

13. Marci Shore, The Ukrainian Night: An Intimate History of Revolution (Yale University Press, 2017)

In this lyrical and intimate book, Marci Shore evokes the human face of the Maidan. Grounded in the true stories of activists and soldiers, parents and children, Shore’s book blends a narrative of suspenseful choices with a historian’s reflections on what revolution is and what it means.

14. Timothy Snyder, Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning (Tim Duggan Books)

In this epic history of extermination and survival, Timothy Snyder presents a new explanation of the great atrocity of the twentieth century, and reveals the risks that we face in the twenty-first. Based on new sources from Eastern Europe and forgotten testimonies from Jewish survivors, Black Earth recounts the mass murder of the Jews as an event that is still close to us, more comprehensible than we would like to think, and thus all the more terrifying.

15. Timothy Snyder, The Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin (Basic Books)

Americans call the Second World War "The Good War." But before it even began, America's wartime ally Josef Stalin had killed millions of his own citizens—and kept killing them during and after the war. At war's end, both the German and the Soviet killing sites fell behind the iron curtain, leaving the history of mass killing in darkness. Bloodlands is a new kind of European history, presenting the mass murders committed by the Nazi and Stalinist regimes.

16. Serhy Yekelchyk, The Conflict in Ukraine: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press)

The book explores Ukraine's contemporary conflict and complicated history of ethnic identity, and it does do so by weaving questions of the country's fraught relations with its former imperial master, Russia, throughout the narrative. It’s essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the forces that have shaped contemporary politics in this increasingly important part of Europe.

17. Ukraine in Histories and Stories: Essays by Ukrainian Intellectuals (Columbia University Press)

This collection of texts by contemporary Ukrainian writers, historians, philosophers, political analysts, and opinion leaders combines reflections on Ukraine’s history and analyses of the present as well as conceptual ideas and life stories. The authors present a multi-faceted image of Ukrainian memory and reality: from the Holodomor to Maidan, from Russian aggression to cultural diversity, from the depth of the past to the complexity of the present.


18. Stanislav Aseyev, In Isolation: Dispatches from Occupied Donbas (Harvard Library of Ukrainian Literature)

In the collection of dispatches from occupied Donbas, writer and journalist Stanislav Aseyev details the internal and external changes observed in eastern Ukraine. The author's testimony ends with his arrest for publishing his dispatches, and his imprisonment and torture in a modern-day concentration camp on the outskirts of Donetsk.

19. Artem Chekh, Absolute Zero (Glagoslav Publications)

The book is a first person account of a soldier’s journey, and is based on Artem Chekh’s diary that he wrote while and after his service in the war in Donbas. Chekh is not showing the reader any heroic combat, focusing instead on the quiet, mundane, and harsh soldier’s life.

20. Contemporary Ukrainian Poetry Series (Lost Horse Press)

In this collection you can find poems by Iryna Starovoyt, Yuri Andrukhovych, Yuri Izdryk, Iryna Shuvalova, Serhiy Zhadan, Mykola Vorobiov, Lyuba Yakimchuk and Natalka Bilotserkivets.

21. Lily Hide, Dream Land (Walker Books)

It’s a novel on Crimean Tatars Home coming from deportation. Lily Hide tells a story about the Crimean Tatars’ struggle to reclaim the land from which they were exiled in the Second World War.

It was meant to be like coming home... All her life, Safi’s parents have dreamed of returning to Grandpa’s native village in Crimea. But exchanging their sunny Uzbekistan house for a squalid camp is more like a nightmare. Will the return to a country where no one welcomes them tear Safi’s family apart, or can this strange land ever become home?

22. Markiyan Kamysh, Stalking the Atomic City Life among the Decadent and the Deprived of Chornobyl (forthcoming)

A rare portrait of the dystopian reality that is Chornobyl today, and the importance of the site as a symbol of Russian imperialism and of the Ukrainian people's quest for freedom from oppression. Markiyan Kamysh works as a "stalker," guiding people who dare to venture into the disaster area for thrills. The author tells us about thieves who hide in the abandoned buildings, the policemen who chase them, and the romantic utopians who have built families here, even as deadly toxic waste lingers in the buildings, playgrounds, and streams.

23. Mykola Khvylovy, The Cultural Renaissance in Ukraine: Polemical Pamphlets 1925-26 (Canadian Inst of Ukrainian Study Pr)

In 1923 the Soviet Ukrainian government proclaimed a policy of Ukrainization. It was followed a wide-ranging debate took place that raised issues of vital importance for Ukrainian culture. Mykola Khvylovy argued in his pamphlets that Ukrainian literature should take an independent path, abandoning its former reliance on Russian models and seeking inspiration from European sources. His outspoken advocacy of this course soon brought him into conflict with Stalin's regime and drove him to suicide in 1933.

24. Myrna Kostash, All Baba’s Children (NeWest Press)

The story of one woman’s personal discovery of her Canadian-Ukrainian cultural origins and the impact of that invigorating discovery on her life. A must-read for those interested in the history of all the peoples who helped shape and enrich Canada with their unique cultures.

25. Askold Melnyczuk, What is Told (PFP Publishing)

It’s a masterful novel that sprints across generations, centuries and continents. In a spirited narrative that travels from old Ukraine to New Jersey, Askold Melnyczuk follows his character through the betrayals of war and the promises of marriage. Askold Melnyczuk reinvents, with humor and compassion, the story of a people long hidden behind the Iron Curtain. His novel is a reminder that history is not something that happens only to others.

26. Volodymyr Rafeyenko, Mondegreen: Songs about Death and Love. A Novel. (Harvard Library of Ukrainian Literature)

‘Mondegreen’ explores the ways that memory and language construct our identity, and how we hold on to it no matter what. The novel tells the story of Haba Habinsky, a refugee from Ukraine’s Donbas region, who has escaped to the capital city of Kyiv at the onset of the Ukrainian-Russian war.

27. Words for War: New Poems from Ukraine (Academic Studies Press)

The armed conflict in the east of Ukraine brought a trend in contemporary Ukrainian poetry: the poetry of war. The poems collected in this volume engage with the events and experiences of war, reflecting on the themes of alienation, loss; as well as justice, heroism, generosity, and forgiveness. Wrote by young and old, female and male, poems raise questions about art, politics, citizenship, and moral responsibility.

28. Oksana Zabuzhko, Selected Poems + One Hundred Years of Solitude, or the Importance of a Story (Arrowsmith Press)

Oksana Zabuzhko is a Ukrainian novelist, poet, essayist. By turns urgent and ironic, Zabuzhko poetry stands alongside the finest and most important work to emerge from Europe in the last half-century.

29. Serhiy Zhadan, The Orphanage: A Novel (Yale University Press)

The Orphanage is a searing novel that excavates the human collateral damage wrought by the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine. Written with a raw intensity, this is a deeply personal account of violence that will be remembered as the definitive novel of the war in Ukraine.

30. Serhiy Zhadan, What We Live For, What We Die For: Selected Poems (Yale University Press)

Ukrainian writer Serhiy Zhadan is an original voice from eastern Ukraine and witness to the turbulent social and political travails of his nation. This collection of his poems feature gutsy portraits of life on war-torn and poverty-ravaged streets.


This list was edited by Diana Delyurman, Iryna Rodina and Myroslava Mokhnatska.

march 5, 2022
Tags: #War
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