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New Left Review 93, May-June 2015

Volodymyr Ishchenko


Andrew Wilson’s earlier publications on Ukraine won him a reputation as a serious historian. [1] Andrew Wilson, Ukraine Crisis: What It Means for the West, Yale University Press: New Haven, CT and London 2014, £12.99, paperback 236 pp, 978 0 300 21159 7 His first books—notably Ukrainian Nationalism in the 1990s (1997), The Ukrainians (2002) and Ukraine’s Orange Revolution (2005)—were distinguished by three signal features. Firstly, Wilson argued strongly that while Ukrainian nationalism was a force in the west of the country—where, bred under Austrian and Polish rule, it had mostly possessed a strong right-wing bent—it had only limited appeal in the country as a whole, due to the existence of deep regional, linguistic and ethnic historical divisions. Ukrainian ‘national identity’, Wilson insisted in The Ukrainians, was essentially a product of the Soviet era. Second, he made no bones about the fact that since 1990, the country had had a sorry economic and political record; the state was thoroughly colonized by oligarchy, thuggery and corruption; civil society remained very weak. It was a myth, Wilson argued, that Ukrainian political culture was more tolerant, democratic and pluralist than Russia’s. Third, Wilson provided detailed analysis of the various oligarchic bosses and clans, and of their rivalries. Ukraine’s Orange Revolution offered praise for the protests of 2004 and was cautiously optimistic about the Yushchenko–Timoshenko regime that emerged from them.

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Volodymyr Ishchenko, ‘Maidan Mythologies’, NLR 93: £3

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