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Boekbespreking: The Gates of Europe. A History of Ukraine.


Plokhy, Serhii (2016), The Gates of Europe. A History of Ukraine. UK etc., Penguin Books. 395 blz.





Toen ik de titel las in combinatie met de ondertitel, dacht ik: ‘Waarom niet “The Gates of Eurasia”?’ of ‘The Gates of Russia?’ Oekraïne, wat letterlijk betekent ‘grensland’, vormt immers een grens of zo men wil een brug tussen Europa en Rusland. Er zijn dus gates aan beide kanten. Wat me ook niet beviel, waren slogans als ‘The International Beststeller’ en ‘An Indispensable Guide’. Goede boeken hebben dergelijke goedkope reclame niet nodig. Nog wantrouwiger werd ik toen ik op bladzijde v als opdracht las: ‘To the people of Ukraine’. Zou een boek met zo’n titel, zo’n opdracht en zulke reclameslogans, ook al is het geschreven door een gerenommeerd historicus, een objectieve ‘History of Ukraine’ serveren?

Het boek begint van héél ver. De geschiedenis van Oekraïne wordt aangevat vijfduizend jaar voor onze jaarrekening (4) omdat er ergens wat potscherven en fundamenten opgegraven zijn die zouden bewijzen dat Oekraïne eigenlijk al duizenden jaren lag te sluimeren voor het in 1991 eindelijk als een door de maan gewekte mummie uit zijn vermolmde kist kon opstaan.


Gaandeweg viel de lectuur mee. Veel was me uit vorige lectuur bekend. De auteur schetst met kennis van zaken de geschiedenis van het gebied dat we nu min of meer Oekraïne noemen. Vikings, mongolen, kozakken, ze hebben er allemaal hun meestal bloedige sporen achtergelaten. Tijdens het afgelopen millennium is het huidige Oekraïne verdeeld, bezet, opnieuw verdeeld, uitgemoord, zelf aan het moorden gegaan, ingepalmd, op verovering uitgetrokken, kortom: Oekraïne is nooit Oekraïne geweest tot het zichzelf in 1991 uitriep als een eenheid die nooit had bestaan. Vandaag de dag is Oekraïne een caleidoscoop van talen, etnieën en religies, die samengehouden wordt door haat tegenover de Russen – hoewel er evenveel reden is om de Polen, de Litouwers, de Roemenen, de Hongaren, de Turken en de Duitsers te haten – en niet door samenhorigheid. Het zal duizend jaar vergen – als het ooit lukt – om er min of meer een eenheid van te smeden.


Hoe verder ik las, des te meer waardering kreeg ik voor de objectiviteit en historische kennis van de auteur. Hij spaart de roede niet voor zijn geliefde Oekraïne, ook al is hij een geboren en getogen Oekraïner, die als professor aan de US Harvard University over zijn geboorteland doceert. Zonder voorbehoud deelt hij de lezer mee dat de Oekraïners met grote graagte meewerkten aan het stuk voor stuk met een nekschot afmaken van joodse mannen, vrouwen en kinderen. In tal van steden hebben de Oekraïners tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog tienduizenden joden in koelen bloede neergeschoten, al werden ze daartoe niet gedwongen door de Duitse bezetter. De Roemenen, Hongaren en Polen deden voor de Oekraïners niet onder. De SS’ers, die qua wreedheid niet te evenaren waren, stonden niettemin vaak verbijsterd toe te kijken op het nog grotere sadisme van de Oekraïners. Hitler heeft de jodenhaat en de vernietiging van de joden waarachtig niet uitgevonden. Hij kon terugvallen op een gigantische bevolking van gelijkgezinden die in veel gevallen nog gruwelijker methoden toepasten dan de als doucheruimte verhulde gaskamers. Stel je maar eens voor in Babi Yar: 33.761 joden die zich op bevel en van geen kwaad bewust met pak en zak aanbieden en vervolgens naakt uitgekleed één voor één neergeschoten worden en naar beneden storten in het ravijn. Twee dagen aan een stuk. Dan zwijg ik nog van de tienduizenden slachtoffers die eerst een brede en diepe greppel moesten graven, er vervolgens in moesten gaan liggen en dan met een nekschot uitgeschakeld werden, waarop de volgende lading – bovenop een hoop lijken, bedekt met een laagje zand – moest gaan liggen om hetzelfde lot te ondergaan. Dat alles met volle medewerking van de Oekraïners. Een even verschrikkelijk lot wachtte zigeuners, asocialen, homo’s, communisten en Russische krijgsgevangenen. Het is mij, om deze en andere redenen, een raadsel dat mensen nog kinderen op de wereld zetten. Alleen wie zijn geschiedenis niet kent, kan optimist zijn.

Interessant zijn de passages over Gorbatsjov. Wij denken dat hij een superdemocratische vrede- en vrijheidsbrenger was, maar dat beeld wordt in dit boek heel sterk bijgestuurd. Toen hij vaststelde dat zijn optreden alleen maar leidde tot het uiteenvallen van de Sovjet-Unie, was hij niet te beroerd om dictatoriaal op te treden. (317-318) Hoewel hij op de hoogte was van de dodelijke straling na de ramp in Tsjernobyl van 26 april 1986, liet hij de 1-mei optocht in besmet gebied toch plaatsvinden en verbood zijn medewerkers om ook maar één woord te lossen over wat er aan de hand was. Shcherbytky, die kritiek had op Gorbatsjov, werd door hem opzijgezet, en pleegde later zelfmoord. (315)


Terug naar ons boek. Het houdt, zoals gezegd, in weerwil van wat titel, ondertitel en opdracht doen verwachten, een objectieve toon aan. Maar in het 27ste en laatste hoofdstuk ‘The Price of Freedom’, transformeert de auteur compleet van objectief historicus in anti-Russische pleitbezorger van een onafhankelijk Oekraïne. Het verhaal wordt opeens eenzijdig en volgt kritiekloos het narratief van de mainstream media. De inval in Oekraïne is volgens de auteur enkel en alleen de realisatie van Poetins duivelse plan om de geografische grootheid van de oude Sovjet-Unie te herstellen. Waarom hij dan bijvoorbeeld niet ook de Baltische staten binnenvalt, wordt niet verklaard. Er wordt op gewezen dat Rusland Oekraïne omkoopt met miljarden. Dat Amerika precies hetzelfde doet – na Israël en Egypte is Oekraïne de grootste ontvanger van Amerikaanse dollars – wordt wel vermeld in het voorlaatste hoofdstuk, maar uitsluitend voorgesteld als beloning voor de bereidheid van Oekraïne om het nucleair arsenaal (geërfd van Rusland) te verwijderen. De uitslag van de stemming op de Krim over al of niet deel uitmaken van Rusland, wordt verworpen als vervalst (341), maar identieke stemmingen in Oekraïense steden met als uitslag dat de bevolking niet bij Rusland wil horen, worden kritiekloos als betrouwbaar beschouwd. Geen woord over de machinaties van de Amerikaanse geheime diensten, noch over het Europese en Amerikaanse niet-respecteren van de afspraak die gemaakt is in 1989, na de val van De Muur, om de geografische posities te bevriezen. Geen woord over de twee akkoorden van Minsk (2014 en 2015) die door de Oekraïense regering nooit in daden omgezet zijn. Geen woord over het feit dat Zelensky en zijn door en door corrupte voorgangers sinds 2014 vanuit Kiev hun eigen volk bestoken, vermoorden, gevangennemen en folteren.

Nog erger wordt het in de ‘Epilogue’, waarin de auteur alle objectiviteit laat varen en zich ontpopt tot een volbloed Oekraïense nationalist, en zonder voorbehoud pleit voor aansluiting bij Europa en de NATO. Hij haalt op bladzijde 351 zelfs twee onbeduidende Facebook-citaten aan als argument, wat wetenschappelijk gezien beneden het vriespunt mag heten.

De inleiding bij boeken lees ik nooit voor ik aan een boek begin, maar altijd als het uitgelezen is. Ik heb dus als laatste deel de ‘Introduction’ gelezen. Daarin merk ik retrospectief dat de auteur spijtig genoeg niet de bedoeling had om een zo objectief mogelijk relaas neer te schrijven, maar een poging om aan de hand van de geschiedenis te ‘bewijzen’ wat voor een fantastisch volk de Oekraïners zijn en hoezeer ze recht hebben op een eigen land.

Dit boek is geschreven in 2015 en als Penguin Book uitgebracht in 2016. Over de inval van Poetin in 2022 en het huidige conflict staat er vanzelfsprekend geen woord in. Het is spijtig dat de auteur geen geactualiseerde versie heeft bezorgd. Het boek is voorzien van een ‘Historical Timeline’, een bibliografie en een register van namen en termen.


emeritus dr. Prof. Philip Vermoortel





















CITATEN

4: But this detailed description of the Scythians and the lands and people they ruled made him not only the first historian but also the first geographer and ethnographer of Ukraine. [Dit is puur nationalisme. Bovendien anachronistisch want er bestond helemaal geen Oekraïne.]

8: The main products of trade–cereals and dried fish, as well as slaves–came from the parklands or mixed forest steppe areas.

15: They pillaged the land and took numerous slaves […].

16: They [= Slavs] made slaves of their prisoners, but the period of enslavement was limited to a certain term.

19: Archeology tells us that Kyiv, which became the Khazars’ westernmost outpost in the Ukrainian forest region, came to existence some time before the turn of the sixth century.

19: Seven of the twelve tribes listed by the Kyiv chronicle resided in what is now Ukraine […].

25: Most scholars today believe that the word “Rus’” has Scandinavian roots. Byzantine authors, who wrote in Greek, most probably borrowed it from the Slavs, who in turn borrowed it from the Finns, who used the term “Ruotsi” to denote the Swedes – in Swedish, the word meant “men who row.” And row they did.

25: And the trade in which they [= Rus’ Vikings] engaged involved coercion, for they dealt not only in forest products–furs and honey–but also in slaves.

32: The Viking Age had indeed come to an end in Rus’, the land named after the Vikings.

33: Volodymyr’s request for marriage was granted in return for an assurance that the barbarian chieftain (as the ruler of Kyiv was regarded in Constantinople) would accept Christianity. Volodymyr went along. His baptism would start the process of the Christianization of Kyivan Rus’ and open a new chapter in the region’s history. Once the wedding party had moved back to Kyiv, Volodymyr removed the pantheon of pagan gods, including the most powerful of them – Perun, the god of thunder – from a hill above the Dnieper and put the Christian clergymen to work baptizing the population of Kyiv. The Christianization of Rus’ had begun–a long and difficult process that would take centuries to complete.

41: Nineteenth-century scholars came up with the name “Kyvian Rus’.” Today the term denotes the polity [= bestuursvorm, organisatie] with its center in Kyiv that existed between the tenth and mid-thirteenth centuries, when it disintegrated under the onslaught of the Mongols.

42: The Ukrainian bill depicts Yaroslav with a Ukrainian-style moustache in the tradition of Prince Sviatoslav and the Ukrainian Cossacks. On the Russian note, we see a monument to him as the legendary founder of the Russian city of Yaroslavl, first mentioned in a chronicle seventeen years after his death.

43: Their capitals became the centers of what the Rus’ chronicles call the Rus’ Land.

45: Yurii, who had founded Moscow in 1147, represented an old way of thinking.

48: Then there were the slaves–warriors or peasants captured in the course of military campaigns. The enslavement of warriors could be temporary, but that of peasants was permanent.

63: With the Ukrainian territories integrated by the end of the fourteenth century into the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the policies of these two states, as well as relations between them, began to determine the political, economic, and cultural life of Ukraine. Especially important for the future of the Ukrainian lands were a series of agreements between the two states concluded between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries.

63-64: A number of other unions would follow to the one negotiated in Kreva, strengthening ties between the two polities and culminating in the Union of Lublin (1569), which created the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. […] The union of Poland and Lithuainia thus meant the separation of Ukraine and [64] Belarus, and in that regard we can hardly overestimate the importance of the Union of Lublin. It would initiate the formation of the territory of modern Ukraine and its intellectual appropriation by the local elites.

65: In 1476 Grand Prince Ivan III, the first Muscovite ruler to call himself tsar, declared the independence of his realm from the Horde and refused tot pay tribute to the khans. […] In the last decades of the fifteenth century, the newly created Tsardom of Muscovy and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania entered into a prolonged conflict over the heritage of Kyvian Rus’.

74: The Ottomans, who made Istanbul, the former Constantinople, their capital in 1453, took direct control over the southern shores of the Crimea […]. In particular they [= the Ottomans] were interested in slaves. The slave trade had always been important in the region’s economy, but it now became dominant. The Ottoman Empire, whose Islamic laws allowed the enslavement only of non-Muslims […]. [Volgt een uiteenzetting over de zeer uitgebreide slavenhandel.] the Ottoman Empire’s slave-dependent economy

74-75: Estimates of the numbers of Ukrainians and Russians [75] brought to the Crimean slave markets in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries vary from 1,5 million to 3 million. Children and adolescents brought the highest prices. […] Most of the male slaves ended up on Ottoman galleys or working in the fields, while many women worked as domestics. […] Talented young men made careers in the Ottoman administration, but most of them were eunuchs.

75: They [= the Cossacks] fought the Tatars, undertook seagoing expeditions against the Ottomans, and, indeed, freed slaves from time to time.

75: The word itself [= Cossack] is of Turkic origin and, depending on the context, could refer to a guard, a freeman, or a freebooter.

76: He [= Grand Duke Alexander of Lithuania] ordered his borderland (the term he used was “Ukrainian”) officials to investigate […].

81: They [= Cossacks] came to rob, take revenge, and, as Ukrainian folk songs related, liberate long-suffering slaves. In 1616, they attacked Kaffa, the main slave-trading center on the Crimean coast, and liberated all the captives.

85: That church was originally called Uniate, reflecting its purpose of uniting those elements. It is known today as the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, with “Greek” referring to the Byzantine rite, or simply as the Ukrainian Catholic Church–by far the most successful institutional attempt to bridge one of the most ancient schisms of the Christian world.

97: It [= the Great Revolt = 7th Cossack uprising] transformed the political map of the entire region and gave birth to a Cossack state that many regard as the foundation of modern Ukraine. It also launched a long era of Russian involvement in Ukraine and is widely regarded as the starting point in the history of relations between Russia and Ukraine as separate nations.

98: But those who suffered most from the peasant revolt in the summer of 1648 were the Jews of Ukraine.

109: […] the main long-term consequence of the wars was the division of Ukraine along the Dnieper between Muscovy and Poland. […] the former Polish border [= Dnieper]

114: [The terrible torturing of Danylo.]

115: […] in 1667, Muscovite and Polish diplomats signed the Truce of Andrusovo, which divided Cossack Ukraine, with the Left Bank going to Muscovy and the Right Bank to Poland.

117: The Ottomans aroused indignation by turning some Christian churches into mosques and allowing the Crimean Tatars to conduct their slave-hunting raids in the region.

118: Until the end of the eighteenth century, most of Ukraine formerly controlled by Poland would remain divided between Poland and Russia. The division would have profound effects on Ukrainian identity and culture.

148: In 1812, after Napoleon’s invasion of the Russian Empire, Poles under Russian rule rose in support of the French invader, whom they considered a liberator.

149: In Ukraine, as in the rest of Europe, language, folklore, literature, and, last but not least, history became building blocks of a modern national identity.

149: In Germany, Johann Gottfried Herder based his new understanding of the nation on language and culture. In other countries of western and central Europe as well, enthusiasts who would later be called folklorists were collecting tales and songs of the people or inventing them when no “good” samples were to be found.

151: The former Hetmanate provided a key historical myth, a cultural tradition, and a language as building blocks of the modern Ukrainian nation.

151: Not surprisingly, the Cossack lands gave that nation not only its language but also its name, Ukraine.

155: and banned the Jews from the city

159: For the first time, they used the findings of antiquarians, folklorists, linguists, and writers to formulate a political program that would lead to the creation of a national community.

166: Serfdom was indeed abolished in the Russian Empire in 1861 […].

182: [Interessante cijfergegevens over het aantal joden in steden in Oekraïne eind 19de eeuw.]

184: New management replaced small entrepreneurs, many of them Jewish.

188: Nikolai Gogol (Mykola Hohol)

190: Conservative supporters of the monarchy saw Jews as closely associated with revolution. They also blamed Jews for all the troubles that had befallen the local population since the onset of industrialization and rapid urbanization. In many Ukrainian cities, jubilation ended in porgrom. […] The first big wave took place in 1881: after revolutionaries assassinated Emperor Alexander II, the Jews were blamed for the tsars’s death. [Volgt een overzicht van de daarop volgende pogroms.] But the pogroms of the past paled in comparison with those of 1905. In October, hundreds of people died in pogroms in Kyiv, Katerynoslav, and Odesa. Thousands were injured, and tens of thousands of Jewish homes and enterprises were destroyed. [Hierna volgt een overzicht van verdere pogroms.]

191: One of the most active in the events of 1905 was the Jewish Labor Bund, a socialist party representing Jewish workers and artisans.

197: Kyiv became the site of the most scandalous trial in imperial Russian history–the Beilis affair, in which a Jew stood accused of the ritual killing of a Christian boy. The Pochalv monastery in Volhnya became a hotbed of Russian nationalism and anti-Semitism in the years leading up to World War I.

201: Gavrilo Princip, a member of a Serbian nationalist organization, hated the Habsburgs and dreamed of a single free Yugoslav state in the Balkans. The Austro-Hungarian government had other dreams. It wanted to preserve the empire and decided to exploit the assassination of the archduke as a reason to go to war with Serbia and punish is as an instigator of Slavic nationalism within the imperial borders. Russia backed Serbia, and Germany stood behind Austria-Hungary, while Britain and France supported Russia. By early August, virtually all of Europe was at war. The Great War, as it was known at the time, cost the world up to 18 million lives, both military and civilian, and more than 22 million wounded.

202: The war triggered by a nationalist activist did serious damage to empires. The losers included not only Austria-Hungary but also the Ottoman and Russian empires: the first disintegrated completely, while the latter lost their monarchies and some of their territories, surviving in a different form. Among the victors were the numerous national movements that began building their own states on the ruins of the formerly invincible imperial giants. While hardly a victor by any stretch of imagination, Ukraine was among the nations that the war gave a chance to create a state of its own.

203: While the Russians supported the Russophiles, the Austrians started persecuting them as soon as the war began. […] In the course of the war, close to 20,000 people were incarcerated in Thalerhof, which acquired a notoriety as one of the first concentration camps in Europe. Close to 3,000 prisoners died of cold and disease. […] Others were shipped to the prison camp of Theresienstadt (Terezin), a fortress in the present-day Czech Republic, which counted Gavrilo Princip as one of its inmates. He died there of tuberculosis in late April 1918, slightly more than half a year before the end of the war he helped unleash.

207: The coat of arms included two historical symbols, a trident borrowed from the coinage of Prince Volodymyr of Kyiv, and the image of a Cossack: the new state claimed Kyvian Rus’ and the Cossack Hetmanate as its two predecessors. The two colors of the coat of arms, blue and yellow, came from Galicia, where they had been part of its coat of arms for centuries. The colors symbolized the unity of the Ukrainian lands on both sides of the eastern front in the world war.

209: and Ukraine already had a reputation as the breadbasket of Europe

213: The Great War had begun with Austria trying to maintain its hold on its Slavic nationalities and Russia, acting as the pan-Slavic protector of the Balkans, and trying to extend its pan-Russian identity into Austria-Hungary.

220: Piłsudski’s goal was the creation of a Ukrainian buffer state between Poland and Soviet Russia.

221: The Miracle on the Vistula also put an end to Soviet plans to bring their revolution into the heart of Europe.

222: No group fared worse than the Jews, who became subject to attack from all sides, by Reds, Whites, Ukrainian armies, and warlords.

Pogroms were hardly a new phenomenon in Ukraine and the Pale of Settlement [= Het vestigingsgebied of paalgebied was het westelijkste gebied van het Russische Rijk waar het joden was toegestaan zich permanent te vestigen.] in general, but now [1918-1919] armed aggressors ware carrying them out. The casualties of the pogroms grew exponentially, passing the 30,000 mark in Ukraine alone.

226: On November 17 they [= Red Army] entered Yalta. General Wrangel evacuated the remnants of his army [= White Army] to Istanbul. Those who stayed behind–close to 50,000 officers and soldiers–were massacred in the largest mass killing of the war.

229: During the interwar period (1918-1939), the Ukrainians emerged as the largest nation in Europe with an unresolved national question. Ukraine lacked a state of its own, and four European states had divided its territories: Bolshevik Russia, Poland, Romania, and Czechoslovakia.

233: Stalin’s support for Ukrainization was tactical and temporary.

237: Approximately the same number of Jews [= 200,000] left Poland, with most of them (up to 75,000) going to Palestine and the rest to Argentina and the United States. Both worsening economic conditions (most Jews in Galicia and the rest of Poland lived in poverty) and rising anti-Semitism, which resulted in Jewish communities, drove Jewish emigration. In the latter half of the 1930’s, after the death of Józef Piłsudski, the head of state, who tried to curb anti-Semitism, dozens of Jews were killed and hundreds injured in riots and skirmishes throughout Poland. The Polish government tried to “solve” the “Jewish question” by asking the Western powers and their Jewish communities to help the impoverished Jews of Poland or to take Jewish refugees. Western governments were not responsive, to say the least. [Hitler heeft waarachtig niets nieuws uitgevonden.]

253: Altogether, close to 4 million people perished in Ukraine as a result of the famine, more than decimating the country–every eighth person succumbed to hunger between 1932-1934.

254: Was the Great Ukrainian Famine (in Ukrainian, the Holodomor) a premeditated act of genocide against Ukraine and its people? [Antwoord verder in de alinea.]

254: the transformation of the autonomous and often independently minded republic into a mere province of the Soviet Union

259: Ukraine–the centerpiece of Hitler’s vision of Lebensraum

259: The idea of Lebensraum for the Germans was not Hitler’s creation. First formulated before World War I, it envisioned the acquisition of German territory all over the world.

259: The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (1918), which included the recognition of a Ukraine independent of Russia and occupied by German and Austrian troops, provided one model for German eastward expansion.

260: In Mein Kampf, Hitler envisioned an alliance with Britain to defeat France and a pact with Russia to annihilate Poland.

263: Germany and its allies, including Romania and Hungary, fielded some 3.8 million soldiers. [Dat is achthonderdduizend meer dan ik onlangs in een reportage heb horen vertellen.]

265: By the end of the year [1941], when the Red Army was forced to abandon almost all of Ukraine, more than 3.5 million of its officers and soldiers are in enemy hands.

265: Many in Ukraine welcomed the German advance in the summer of 1941, hoping for the end of the terror unleashed by the Soviet occupation authorities in the years leading up to the war. [Precies zoals de flaminganten in Vlaanderen.]

269: Every sixth Jew who died in the Holocaust–altogether close to a million people–came from Ukraine. [Er volgt een relaas over de moordpartij in Babi Yar = Old Woman’s Ravine. Op twee dagen tijd (29 en 30 september 1941) werden 33,761 joden doodgeschoten. Zie ook 271: rond veel andere steden werden tienduizenden joden afgemaakt. De Roemenen en de Hongaren gedroegen zich nog wreder dan de nazi’s.]

271: The Holocaust in Ukraine also differed from the Holocaust in central and western Europe in that those who tried to rescue Jews were subject not only to arrest but also to execution. So were the members of their family.

271: the State of Israel has recognized more than 2,500 citizens of Ukraine as “Righteous Among the Nations” for sheltering Jews during the Holocaust [Dat noemt de auteur ‘veel’ (many), maar eigenlijk is dat twee keer niks of een miljoenenbevolking.]

283: Close to 20,000 Ukrainians served in the course of the war in the 14th Waffen-SS Grenadier Division, known as the Division Galizien.

293: In his memoirs, first published in 1978, Brezhnev writes about difficult times in the cities but says nothing about the villages, which in 1946 and 1947 witnessed the return of famine on a scale comparable to that of 1932 and 1933. Close to a million people died as a result of the new famine […].

296: By the end of the year [1948], Stalin had imprisoned the Jewish wife of his right-hand man, Viacheslav Molotov […].

298: “reunification of Ukraine with Russia” [1954]

299: Of the 2.1 million inhabitants of the Crimea, Russians constituted 71 percent and Ukrainians 22 percent.

309: The partnership between the Russian and Ukrainian elites established by Nikita Krushchev and cemented by Brezhnev was all but gone. The energetic new leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, who came to power in March 1985, had no ties to the Ukrainian party machine.

310-311: Mikhail Gorbachev, was in a position to threaten Shcherbytsky with expulsion from the party. Despite the rapidly increasing radiation level Gorbachev ordered his Ukrainian underlings to carry on as usual in order to show the country and the world that the situation was [311] under control and that the Chernobyl explosion presented no danger to the health of the population.

317: maidan is Ukrainian for “square”

321: The vote for Ukraine’s independence [zie 319] spelled the end of the Soviet Union.

322: Yeltsin had explained to the president of the United States more than once that without Ukraine, Russia would be outnumbered and outvoted by the Muslim republics.

326: Ukraine ended its de facto international isolation as a country previously refusing to join the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and became the third-largest recipient of US foreign aid, after Israel and Egypt.

328: The major challenge to the democratic nature of the Ukrainian political process was the catastrophic economic decline that followed the declaration of independence and was often blamed on it, making not only the Leonid Brezhnev era but also the period of Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms look like a paradise lost.

329: Ten years later [2001], when the government of independent Ukraine conducted its first census, it found 48,8 million Ukrainians in the country, 3 million fewer than the 51,4 million counted in the last Soviet census of 1989. [Veel Oekraïners verlieten Oekraïne om elders een beter bestaan op te bouwen.]

329: Whereas the Ukrainian population as a whole fell by roughly 5 percent between 1989 and 2001, the Jewish population fell by a staggering 78 percent, decreasing from 487,300 to 105,500. Among those who left were the families of the cofounders of Paypal (Max Levchin) and WhatsApp (Jan Koum).

330: Runaway inflation, which reached a staggering 2,500 percent in 1992, set the seal on the rapid economic decline.

330: At that time, more than half the country’s industrial output came from four eastern oblasts–Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, Donetsk, and Luhansk–that were rich in iron ore and coal and produced Ukraine’s primary export product: steel.

331: Ukraine began the new millennium with a rapid economic recovery, and, for better or worse, the oligarchs were important figures in that new success story.

331: Kuchma [= president] wanted him [= Heorhii Gongadze] detained and sent to Chehnia, where insurgents were fighting the Russian army. In September 2000, Gongadze’s corpse was found beheaded in a forest near Kyiv.

333: Yushchenko’s supporters were outraged. An estimated 200,000 Kyivans came to the Maidan, Kyiv’s Independence Square, to protest the election fraud. The Orange Revolution, which received that name after the official colors of Yushchenko’s presidential campaign, had begun.

334: to jump on the departing train of EU enlargement–in 2004, the European Union accepted ten countries as members, seven of them former Soviet satellites and republics.

335: But the Yushchenko government failed to make Ukraine a fairer place in which to live and conduct business. It did precious little about rampant corruption.

342: Rinat Akhmetov […] Ukraine’s richest oligarch

344: According to Ukrainian and American officials, one such missile shot down a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 with 298 people on board on July 17, 2014. [Zeer onbetrouwbare bronnen. De zaak is volgens mij nooit opgehelderd. Het was trouwens zeer dom van Malaysian Airlines om een vliegtuig over oorlogsgebied te zenden. Andere luchtvaartmaatschappijen hadden die route al lang verboden.]

344-345: But at stake for Ukraine and most of its people in the current conflict are the values that they associate with the European Union–democracy, human rights, and the rule of law–and not just potential membership in the [345] union per se. [Wat is dat voor flauwekul. Alsof er in Europa (en Amerika) nog sprake zou zijn van democratie, mensenrechten en de rechtsstaat. Allemaal verleden tijd.]

345: Ukraine’s literacy rate now stands at a staggering 99.7 percent. [Rusland haalt dezelfde score. Zo ‘staggering’ is dat op wereldschaal nu ook weer niet.]

352: the Crimea, which was attached to Ukraine only in 1954 [En dan nog zoveel heibel maken als Poetin het terug bij Rusland plakt met instemming van de overweldigende meerderheid van de bevolking.]

xx-xxi: The founder of modern Ukrainian historiography, Mykhailo Hrusevsky (1866-1934) […] regarded his subject as the history of a nation that had existed [xxi] since time immemorial and known periods of flourishing, decline, and revival, the latter culminating in the creation of Ukrainian statehood in the course and aftermath of World War I. [Dat is typisch negentiende-eeuwse geschiedschrijving. Hetzelfde gebeurde in België, Duitsland, Italië enzovoort.]

xxi: The title of the book, The Gates of Europe, is of course a metaphor, but not one to be taken lightly or dismissed as a marketing gimmick. Europe is an important part of the Ukrainian story, as Ukraine is part of the European one. [Dat zal wel zijn, maar Rusland is een veel belangrijker deel.]

xxiii: In the Cyrillic alphabet, Rus’ is spelled Русь: the last character is a soft sign indicating palatalized pronunciation of the preceding consonant. [Dat is de reden waarom in dit boek na “Rus” altijd een accent staat.]

xxiii: The ancestors of today’s Ukrainians, Russians, and Belarusians adopted the name ‘Rus’” in forms that varied from the Scandinavian/Slavic “Rus’” to the Hellenized “Rossiia”.

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