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Bill Thayer

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Public service message, 24 Feb 22: A Ukrainian historical researcher who has contributed to this site has advised me that The Ukrainian Red Cross Society is accepting donations from abroad in relief of civilian populations in Ukraine and persons displaced due to the Russian war against that country, and has set up a page for those wishing to donate. (And yes, I've donated a bit myself, about $350 thru Oct 2023.)

History of Ukraine

We have been told recently that Ukraine is not a place, that Ukrainians are only rebellious peasants, that their language doesn't really exist, being some form of bastardized Russian (as officially stated by Russia in the baldest terms in 1863, for example) and that the country is a sort of gift of Russia, with no history of its own: a propagandistic falsification going back some three hundred years — but no less false for that — that would merely be a laughable absurdity in the face of the plainest evidence: were it not that such views have concrete effects, and as I write (2022) we can see these results in the flagrant, unprovoked invasion of a sovereign country, painful to Ukraine, and shameful to any Russian who would make those views their own.

So, doing my small part for historical truth, in which we might honorably disagree in many ways and in important ways, but not in our basic obligation to abstain from spreading wholesale lies, I am now committed to presenting materials that give a rounded view of the history of Ukraine and her people. These texts are in English, unless otherwise indicated; I list them in more or less chronological order by subject.

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Ukrainian historian Dmytro Doroshenko, one of Ukraine's two best-known historians, wrote a multi-volume summary of Ukrainian history — but in Ukrainian. It was abridged and translated for the English-speaking reader­ship, as History of the Ukraine.

[ 37 webpages
— 672 pages of print, 12 maps ]

[image ALT: An outline map of Ukraine. The image serves as the icon on this site for the book 'The Story of the Ukraine' by Clarence Manning.]

American historian Clarence Manning's The Story of the Ukraine (1947) traces Ukrainian history from its medieval roots thru the region's invasion by Tatars and Russians, to the saga of the Kozaks, its subjugation by imperial Russia, and Ukraine's difficult reawakening in the twentieth century.

[ 28 webpages
— 306 pages of print, 4 photos, 1 map ]

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Dmytro Doroshenko's Survey of Ukrainian Historiography (1957) is a massive bibliographical catalogue raisonné of thousands of historical works by Ukrainians and related writers on Ukrainian history, from the earliest Kievan Chronicle of the 9th century thru writers of the 20th century. Presented in chronological slices each consisting of an introductory essay followed by the bibliography proper, the book retraces what Ukrainians themselves have thought and written about their own history; and serves as a comprehensive sourcebook of Ukrainian history. All of Doroshenko's original work is onsite; I'll be putting up Ohloblyn's supplement as well.

[ for now: 25 webpages
— 294 pages of print, 1 photo ]

[image ALT: A horizontal squiggle ending in a blob towards the upper right corner of the image — a schematic indication of a river flowing into the Black Sea. Beneath, in uncial script, the words 'hic capud europae'. The image is a detail from an 11c map of the world, and serves as the icon on this site for the book 'Ukraine in Foreign Comments and Descriptions' by Volodymyr Sichynsky.]

As the first outpost of the Greek and Roman world, then of Europe at the edge of Asia, Ukraine has long been a place of cultural, commercial, and military interest; and for over a thousand years has seen travelers — Greek, Syrian, Italian, French, German, English, Russian, and other foreigners — record their impressions. Ukrainian historian Volodymyr Sichynsky gives us a wide sample of them in Ukraine in Foreign Comments and Descriptions.

[ 12 webpages
— 224 pages of print, 1 photograph, 11 engravings, 18 maps ]

[image ALT: A middle-aged man with a long drooping moustache and a rich ceremonial costume, standing and speaking; to his left, the viewer's right, a much more plainly dressed man holds open a large parchment scroll, which curls down as he unrolls it. The image is a detail from a 20c painting imagining the scene of the proclamation of a Ukrainian-Muscovite agreement at Pereyaslav in 1654, and serves as the icon on this site for the book 'Treaty of Pereyaslav 1654' by Alexander Ohloblyn.]

Ukraine, an ancient country that from independence had fallen into Polish subjection, freed herself from it in the mid-seventeenth century only to sign an agreement with Muscovy in 1654 that would eventually result in her much more disastrous subjection to Russia, from which she would only emerge in 1991. How and under what conditions this crucial agreement came to pass, and how it was interpreted in Ukraine and in Russia, is detailed by Oleksandr Ohloblyn in Treaty of Pereyaslav 1654.

[ 9 webpages
— 103 pages of print, 2 illustrations ]

[image ALT: A head-and‑shoulders photograph, three-quarters right, of a balding man in late middle age. He wears a rather fierce expression, a walrus moustache, and a somewhat rumpled high-collared coat. He is Ukrainian poet, painter and patriot Taras Shevchenko; this image serves as the icon throughout my site for the book 'Taras Shevchenko Bard of Ukraine' by Dmytro Doroshenko.]

The life of Taras Shevchenko, the Ukrainian poet, painter, and patriot par excellence — in some ways the single most important historical figure if foreigners are to understand Ukraine — is usefully outlined by Ukrainian historian Dmytro Doroshenko, and translated for the English-speaking reader as Taras Shevchenko, Bard of Ukraine.

[ 3 webpages
— 59 pages of print, 1 photograph ]

[image ALT: An outline map of Ukraine. The image serves as the icon on this site for the book 'The Story of the Ukraine' by Clarence Manning.]

In 1953, Clarence Manning published a more narrowly focused book, Ukraine under the Soviets, which covers in detail the genocidal policies of the Russian leader­ship of the Soviet Union in Ukraine: the mass deportations of the Ukrainian people, the war on Ukraine's language and culture, and the rape of her land and economic wealth.

[ 28 webpages
— 219 pages of print, unillustrated ]

[image ALT: An outline map of Ukraine. The image serves as the icon on this site for the book 'Stalinist Rule in the Ukraine' by Hryhory Kostiuk.]

Since Stalin's death in 1953, the Soviet Russian subjugation of Ukraine by means of terror and starvation has gradually become general knowledge thruout the world. Hryhoriy Kostiuk's Stalinist Rule in the Ukraine details the mechanics of how it was done in the decade 1929‑1939.

[ 28 webpages
— 161 pages of print, unillustrated ]

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Somewhat unexpectedly, a U. S. congressional document deserves a place here. A 1954 committee report of the House of Representatives, titled Communist Takeover and Occupation of Ukraine, was in fact written by a group of university scholars and provides a good capsule of Ukrainian history up to the Communist absorption of the country, then focuses on the Russian depredations of the thirty-some years that followed, leaning in part on the testimony of Ukrainian exiles before Congress. Nearly seventy years old, but if you've been following today's news, as relevant as ever: nothing has changed. (Not exactly book-sized as to the number of pages, but in pretty fine print.)

[ 1 webpage
— 36 pages of print, unillustrated ]

Specialized Works

[image ALT: A large building crowned with a dozen onion-cupola towers. The image serves as the icon on this site for the book 'The Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kiev' by Olexa Powstenko.]

The Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kiev was the first and is still today the most comprehensive English-language book on its subject; its author, architect and art historian Olexa Powstenko, was the Scientific Director of the building (expropriated and secularized by the Soviets) during the early years of World War II.

Exceptionally, I will be putting the book onsite progressively, one section at a time.

[ — eventually: 462 pages of print, 336 illustrations ]

[image ALT: The Hebrew phrase 'Sefer Yeven Metzulah', in Hebrew characters. The image serves as the icon on this site for the book 'Abyss of Despair' by Rabbi Nata Hanover.]

Not all the history of a country is ever to her credit: the history of my own country for example, the United States, is notoriously stained by her treatment of Native Americans, Africans, Chinese and Japanese. So it is as well with Ukraine, where in 1648‑1649 tens of thousands of Jews were murdered in pogroms perpetrated in Podilia and Volynia, and parts of modern Poland and Belarus as well, by partisans of Bohdan Khmelnytsky. Abyss of Despair, by Rabbi Nathan Hanover, a native of Ostroh who at the time was a rabbi in Iziaslav, chronicles these pogroms; he was forced to flee his home and his book was published in Venice in 1650.

[ primary source (in part): 22 webpages
— 128 pages of print, 5 engravings, 1 map ]

Onsite link

From time to time, I'll also be adding a few journal articles, encyclopedia entries, etc. Here are the first:

The Doctrine of Wilson and the Building of the Ukrainian National Republic

Moroni, Dizionario di Erudizione Storico-Ecclesiastica, articles: Kaminieck [Kamianets Podilskyi] •  Zytomir [Zhytomyr]

[image ALT: The stylized trident or tryzub of the Ukrainian national flag. This design serves to represent the section of my site on Ukrainian history.]

The icon I use for this subsite is a plain field with the national emblem of Ukraine, the tryzub, in the colors of her flag.

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Site updated: 10 Mar 23