Magazine article Russian Life

Lost Kingdom

Magazine article Russian Life

Lost Kingdom

Article excerpt

Serhii Plokhy (Basic Books, $42)

In February 2014 the future was so tantalizingly near. The Sochi Olympics closed to fanfare and acclaim. Despite the naysayers (and the budget-busting construction), Russia had pulled off a first-class spectacle, hosting one of the world's most important international events.

And then, four days later, masked Russian troops bearing no insignia occupied Crimea. Less than a month after that, Russia claimed the Ukrainian peninsula as Russian territory, ignoring international outrage. Hybrid warfare in eastern Ukraine followed, and Russia's relations with the West headed into an ever-deepening abyss, culminating in the election meddling scandals and, most recently, tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions.

If we want to understand what is going on, argues Plokhy, we need to look at Crimea and Ukraine in the context of the longer sweep of Russian history. We need to understand what it means to be Russian, what the difference is (for Russians) between national borders and national identity. …

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