Explosive Reads

Russia blew up the Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine on 6 June (archive), although Russians crowing about it online changed their tune within hours and blamed Ukrainians themselves (yeah, right). Timothy Snyder provided useful guidelines for writing about the attack. The impact on the people of the area is almost too devastating to contemplate.

A couple of books over the past year have helped make everything clearer for me around Russia and Ukraine. The first was Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe by Norman Davies, a history of countries that used to exist but no longer do; learning about the changes in Eastern European borders over the centuries was particularly helpful. The second, which I read more recently, was Masha Gessen’s The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, tracing the changes there since the Cold War through the eyes of half a dozen individuals. This was outstanding; when the book ended I wished the narrative could have kept going past its publication date of 2017. Some contemporary reviews quibbled with its conclusions or said it was a bit over the top, but from the vantage point of 2023 it was bang on.

21 June 2023 · Books