In 2020, Oxford University Press published a second edition of Serhy Yekelchyk’s Ukraine: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford UP, 2020). This series is based on the reference format that allows to concisely present the most essential information on both generic and most recent acute issues. One will find in this addition answers to the questions pertaining to Kyivan Rus, the Cossacks, as well as the notorious Pereiaslav Treaty of 1654. In addition to this information, the book contains chapters that concisely describe both the Orange Revolution and the Euromaidan. These chapters are followed by inquiries into Russia’s occupation of the Crimea and the Donbas war which is supported by the Kremlin. Yekelchyk emphasizes that the Euromaidan was, on the one hand, the Ukrainians’ response to the corrupt regime which was being normalized by Yanukovych and his supporters; on the other hand, it was also a response to the turn to Russia, which Yanukovych promoted and supported: “Popular dissatisfaction with the corrupt regime had been mounting for years, but the sudden diplomatic turn from Europe to Russia was simply the last straw” (93). For the Ukrainians, “Europe” represented democratic values which were systematically violated by Russia: “‘Europe’ served as a popular shorthand slogan implying democracy, rule of law, and economic opportunity—all the things ordinary citizens found lacking in Yanukovych’s Ukraine” (93).
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is viewed by Yekelchyk as part of Putin’s ambitions to restore the mightiness of Russia—in terms of global positioning—within the traditions of both the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union.
Yekelchyk’s book also contains brief inquiries into the most recent developments around the Russo-Ukrainian conflict on the international level: the evaluation of the presidency of Petro Poroshenko and his decisions during the years of the most active conflict; the investigation of the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines passenger flight; the international sanctions against Russia; the recent controversy about the Steinmeier Formula. There are sections which address the alleged meddling of the Ukrainian authorities in the 2016 presidential election in the US and the current presidency of Volodymyr Zelensky. With Ukraine: What Everyone Needs to Know, Serhy Yekelchyk shares his outstanding expertise that helps understand the complex overlaps and developments that shape the historical and political environment in contemporary Ukraine.
Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed is a PhD candidate in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures, Indiana University