Friday, December 23, 2016

Book Review: In Wartime: Stories from Ukraine by Tim Judah

Published: December 1st, 2015
Publisher: Allen Lane
Received: Blogging for Books
Read from November 25th to December 6th, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
From one of the finest journalists of our time comes a definitive, boots-on-the-ground dispatch from the front lines of the conflict in Ukraine.
Ever since Ukraine s violent 2014 revolution, followed by Russia s annexation of Crimea, the country has been at war. Misinformation reigns, more than two million people have been displaced, and Ukrainians fight one another on a second front the crucial war against corruption.
With "In Wartime," Tim Judah lays bare the events that have turned neighbors against one another and mired Europe s second-largest country in a conflict seemingly without end.
In Lviv, Ukraine s western cultural capital, mothers tend the graves of sons killed on the other side of the country. On the Maidan, the square where the protests that deposed President Yanukovych began, pamphleteers, recruiters, buskers, and mascots compete for attention. In Donetsk, civilians who cheered Russia s President Putin find their hopes crushed as they realize they have been trapped in the twilight zone of a frozen conflict.
Judah talks to everyone from politicians to poets, pensioners, and historians. Listening to their clashing explanations, he interweaves their stories to create a sweeping, tragic portrait of a country fighting a war of independence from Russia twenty-five years after the collapse of the USSR." 


I feel as if the war in Crimea is a current event that many outside of the region have lost interest in, though Russia and Ukraine continue to fight each other in Donbass. While I knew about the conflict, before reading this book my knowledge of the historical context of the conflict was very limited. I knew that Ukraine used to be part of the USSR, and I knew that a lot of the borders created when the Soviet Union split up were arbitrary. However, I did not know why Russia would go after Crimea of all places within Ukraine. I had never even heard of Crimea until 2014.

This book was excellent at providing me with a deeper knowledge of what was happening historically when Russia laid claim to Crimea. This book doesn't just explore the current war, it looks backwards to explore what led to this point in history. It was without a doubt written for people like me who have little knowledge of the various regions of Ukraine and what their relationship with Russia is like. It was fascinating to read about what many Ukrainians think about Ukraine and Russia.

That was one of the largest strengths of the book: getting the opinions of people involved in the conflict. The author isn't just writing about historical context. Throughout the book, he travels throughout Ukraine and talks to people from a wide variety of regions and demographics. You get a good picture of how much thoughts on Ukraine v. Russia differ among the people of Ukraine. He talks to people who want to be Russian, believing that will bring them prosperity that Ukraine hasn't provided. Others are very anti-Russia for a variety of reasons. Others don't care which country they are a part of as long as the fighting stops and life can go on.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to better understand the current situation in Ukraine. It did a great job of exploring both the historical context that led us to this point and of getting a variety of opinions from the people actually living through this conflict.

I received this book through Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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