Understanding the History of Ukraine: Recommended Reading

By Bogdan Horbal, Curator, Slavic and East European Collections
March 3, 2022
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
book covers

The eyes of the world are on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, leaving many with questions about the circumstances that led to what is now the largest conflict to erupt in Europe since World War II. Behind the horrors of war, there is a shared and complex history between Ukraine and Russia. From this complexity comes varied perspectives and competing perspectives, with different understandings of how history has developed. Taken together with the challenges Ukraine has faced, both internally and externally, ever since its post-Soviet transformation into an independent state, there is a lot to know.

This list of books was created to provide you with the tools to understand the history of Ukraine and the factors that have led to today. Most of the titles selected are more recent works that take into account pivotal moments from the last couple of decades. Perhaps most importantly, it aims to provide a balanced discussion, offering some of the different perspectives interwoven in the country’s complex history. As providers of free access to information at the Library, we hope the books in this list empower you to form an educated understanding of Ukraine and the role that it plays in a broader region.

Bogdan Horbal is The New York Public Library’s curator for Slavic and East European collections. He holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Wrocław in Poland and oversees the development of collections in vernacular languages, provides reference assistance to researchers, and does outreach to the scholarly world.

Available Through Our Circulating Catalog

General Works on Ukraine

Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine by Anna Reid

Also available: e-book

The Frontline: Essays on Ukraine's Past and Present by Serhii Plokhy

The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine by Serhii Plokhy

Also available: e-book

Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine by Anne Applebaum

Also available: e-book, e-audiobook

Ukraine and Europe: Cultural Encounters and Negotiations Edited by Giovanna Brogi Bercoff, Marko Pavlyshyn, and Serhii Plokhy

Also available: e-book

Ukraine: Contested Nationhood in a European Context by Ulrich Schmid

Also available: e-book

The Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation by Andrew Wilson

Also available: e-book

Ukraine: What Everyone Needs to Know® by Serhy Yekelchyk

Post 1991 Developments

In Wartime: Stories from Ukraine by Tim Judah

Also available: e-book

Roots of Russia's War in Ukraine by Elizabeth A. Wood, William E. Pomeranz, E. Wayne Merry, and Maxim Trudolyubov

Ukraine and the Art of Strategy by Lawrence Freedman

Ukraine: A Nation on the Borderland by ​​Karl Schlögel

Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West and the "New Cold War" by Gordon M. Hahn

Also available: e-book

Words for War: New Poems from Ukraine compiled by Oksana Maksymchuk

Also available online.

Available Through Our Research Catalog

Please note: These books are part of our research collections and are available for onsite use only. All NYPL cardholders are welcome to request these items and schedule a time to visit the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building to consult them.

General Works on Ukraine

The Battle for Ukrainian: A Comparative Perspective Edited by Michael S. Flier and Andrea Graziosi

The Cossack Myth: History and Nationhood in the Age of Empires by Serhii Plokhy

Culture, Nation, and Identity: The Ukrainian-Russian Encounter, 1600-1945 Edited by Andreas Kappeler,  Zenon Kohut, Frank Sysyn, and Mark von Hagen

The Frontline: Essays on Ukraine's Past and Present by Serhii Plokhy

The Future of the Past: New Perspectives on Ukrainian History Edited by Serhii Plokhy

A History of Ukraine: The Land and Its Peoples by Paul Robert Magocsi

Making Ukraine Soviet: Literature and Cultural Politics Under Lenin and Stalin by Olena Palko

Revolutionary Ukraine, 1917-2017: History's Flashpoints and Today's Memory Wars by Myroslav Shkandrij

Also available: e-book

Russia and Ukraine: Literature and the Discourse of Empire from Napoleonic to Postcolonial Times by Myroslav Shkandrij

Total Wars and the Making of Modern Ukraine, 1914-1954 by George Liber

Ukraine and Europe: Cultural Encounters and Negotiations Edited by Giovanna Brogi Bercoff, Marko Pavlyshyn, and Serhii Plokhy

Ukraine: Contested Nationhood in a European Context by Ulrich Schmid

Ukraine in Histories and Stories: Essays by Ukrainian Intellectuals Edited by Volodymyr Yermolenko

Ukraine, the Middle East, and the West by Thomas M. Prymak

Post 1991 Developments

Decentralization, Regional Diversity, and Conflict: The Case of Ukraine Edited by Hanna Shelest and Maryna Rabinovych

Also available: e-book

Language of Conflict: Discourses of the Ukrainian Crisis Edited by Natalia Knoblock

Also available: e-book

Normalizing Corruption: Failures of Accountability in Ukraine by Erik S. Herron

Religion During the Russian-Ukrainian Conflict Edited by Elizabeth Clark and Dmytro Vovk

Also available: e-book

Ukraine and the Empire of Capital: From Marketisation to Armed Conflict by Yuliya Yurchenko

Ukraine and Russia: From Civilized Divorce to Uncivil War by Paul D'Anieri

Ukraine in the Crossfire by Chris Kaspar de Ploeg

Ukraine's Euromaidan: Analyses of a Civil Revolution Edited by David R. Marples and Frederick V. Mills

Ukraine's Maidan, Russia's War: A Chronicle and Analysis of the Revolution of Dignity by Mychailo Wynnyckyj

Ukraine's Quest for Identity: Embracing Cultural Hybridity in Literary Imagination, 1991-2011 by Maria G. Rewakowicz

Also available: e-book

Ukrainian Women Writers and the National Imaginary: From the Collapse of the USSR to the Euromaidan by Oleksandra Wallo

Also available: e-book

A War of Songs: Popular Music and Recent Russia-Ukraine Relations by Arve Hansen, Andrei Rogatchevski, Yngvar Steinholt, and David-Emil Wickström

The Library is here to help guide your questions and point you to trustworthy sources of information and support for those who have been impacted in Ukraine. See here for a list of credible organizations you can contribute to that are working to provide aid.

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