The Gates of Europe

eBook, 352 pages

English language

Published Nov. 30, 2015 by Penguin Books.

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4 stars (1 review)

Located at the western edge of the Eurasian steppe, Ukraine has long been the meeting place of empires – Roman to Ottoman, Habsburg to Russian – and they all left their imprint on the landscape, the language and the people living within these shifting borders. In this authoritative book, Serhii Plokhy traces the history of Ukraine from the arrival of the Vikings in the tenth century to the current Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. Fascinating and multi-layered, The Gates of Europe is the essential guide to understanding not just Ukraine’s past but also its future.

1 edition


4 stars

Two caveats first: one, A History of Ukraine is a bit of a misnomer; “A political history of Ukrainian state-building“ would be closer to the mark. And two, this is not an academic work, but a very erudite long form essay.

This being said, said essay is compelling once you adjust to its scope, and there can be little doubt on its baseline historical quality considering Plokhy’s academic credentials are above reproach. It makes for excellent reading and does a lot to ground and contextualise the current events, which the book does not predict, but very much explains. If you are fuzzy about that whole “Ukraine” thing, or have been wondering if there is anything to current Russian claims (spoiler: no), this is recommended reading, caveats and all.