December 24, 2015

Ukraine: a strategic gateway between East and West


Harvard University’s Serhii Plokhy, who is director of the Ukrainian Research Institute, has released yet another noteworthy book on Ukraine’s history. His latest, “The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine,” is based on the premise that we need to take a look at Ukraine’s past in order to understand its present and foresee its future.

This work examines Ukraine as a gateway between East and West, situated as it is between Central Europe, Russia and the Middle East.

It takes readers from, as the first chapter is called, “The Edge of the World,” in which Prof. Plokhy notes that “the first historian of Ukraine was Herodotus, the father of history himself,” to the advent of the Slavs and the arrival of the Vikings on the Dnipro River. It then moves on to the princely era, the Hetmanate, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Ukrainian revolution of 1917-1921, the period of Soviet domination, World War II and the renewal of Ukraine’s independence in 1991. Of course, the book also takes readers through the Orange Revolution and the Revolution of Dignity, which began as the Euro-Maidan.

The author’s epilogue brings readers to the present day, with Russia’s annexation of Crimea, its aggression in the Donbas region and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to create a Novorossiya on Ukrainian territory, all the while insisting that Ukrainians and Russians are one and the same.

As noted by former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, “The Gates of Europe” offers “a short yet comprehensive history of Ukraine that contextualizes Mr. [Vladimir] Putin’s current policies as aggression against the wishes of the Ukrainian people, as well as the order established at the end of the Cold War.”

Dr. Plokhy, the Mykhailo Hrushevsky Professor of Ukrainian History, was honored on November 14 with the Omelan and Tatiana Antonovych Foundation award for his work as a historian and author of history books that insightfully analyze Ukraine’s past and present and shed light on what may be in store for its future.

Prof. Plokhy’s previous works include “The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union” (2014), which won the prestigious Lionel Gelber Prize in 2015 for the world’s best non-fiction book in English on global issues.

“The Gates of Europe” is available from and, as well as at bookstores. An e-book version is also available.