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The Ukrainian Night reviewed in the Economist

on Thu, 11/23/2017 - 11:50

Revolutions are inherently intellectual. Often powered by ideologies, they are also, at bottom, imaginative leaps: demands for a different life, premised, says Marci Shore, on a faith that “at any moment everything could change”.

“The Ukrainian Night” is her account of the pro-democracy uprising in Ukraine in 2014 and its aftermath, turmoil that was at once visceral and peculiarly cerebral, involving various languages, religions, ethnicities, versions of history and visions of the future.

Ms Shore, a historian at Yale University, briskly describes Ukraine’s bloodsoaked past and the relevant modern events: the failure of the Orange revolution of 2004; the gangsterish presidency of Viktor Yanukovych; the terror he unleashed against protesters and his flight to Russia; the annexation of Crimea and the war Vladimir Putin hallucinated into reality in the Donbas.

But this is not conventional history or reportage. Ms Shore was not on the Maidan, Kiev’s Independence Square and the epicentre of the revolution, and does not visit the front.Instead, in short, meditative chapters that mimic her subjects’ fractured experiences, she captures the feelings of people drawn into the convulsions.

One of them, Slava Vakarchuk, is the lead singer of Okean Elzy, a pop group, and famous in Ukraine; others are lesser-known students and teachers.

They and she habitually refer to philosophers and authors, above all Russian writers such as Akhmatova, Dostoyevsky and Gogol, the shared intellectual inheritance of Russians and Ukrainians (the book’s title comes from a poem by Mayakovsky). These interviews sketch the psychological stages of revolution.

They evoke an aura of solidarity in which “the borders that normally existed between people dissolved”, individuality seeming at once fulfilled and subsumed by the crowd. They describe an imperative, now-ornever moment of choice, and the way, on the Maidan, time seemed to collapse.

See full review here

The Ukrainian Night: An Intimate History of Revolution
Marci Shore
Yale University Press
ISBN 9780300218688
Hardback, £25.00

Contact Yale Representation for more information.