Serhii Plokhy: ‘Russia thought it was invading the Ukraine of 2014’

The Ukrainian historian tells Mike Higgins about how the war is giving rise to a new Ukraine and why China’s role – not nuclear weapons – is ‘the big unknown’.

The World Today
5 minute READ

The ‘shock, pain, frustration and anger’ caused by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, spurred the Ukrainian historian Serhii Plokhy to write his new book, ‘The Russo-Ukrainian War’. Plokhy is the author of ‘Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy’, which won the Baillie Gifford Prize, and ‘The Gates of Europe’ among other books. He is Professor of History at Harvard University and Director of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. 

We have been careful to frame the conflict in Ukraine as the latest Russian invasion of the country. Why do you call your book ‘The Russo-Ukrainian War’?

Calling it something like ‘Russia’s War in Ukraine’ gives all the agency to the aggressor. It may have started as an invasion by Russia of a sovereign country that was perceived to be a failed state, but what Russia encountered was a nation that has fought back with amazing resilience. That title gives agency to Ukraine.

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