I Stand For Peace Reading Event May – Sept 2022

The unfolding situation in Ukraine is distressing and worrying for so many of us.

When my home state of NSW is not in the middle of another major flooding event, our news is full of what is happening in Eastern Europe. The what and where is easy to see. But it’s hard to get a handle on WHY it’s happening. Putin’s comments during his televised speech on the 21st Feb 2022, that Ukraine was created by Bolshevik Russia and all he wanted to do was to bring them back into the fold, didn’t sound convincing to me. Surely Ukraine existed before 1917? And surely this is more than some sentimental reunion exercise?

President Putin, surely there is more to to the story than this:

As a result of Bolshevik policy, Soviet Ukraine arose, which even today can with good reason be called ‘Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s Ukraine’. He is its author and architect. This is fully confirmed by archive documents.

Putin obviously has his own agenda. The Western leaders, Volodymyr Zelenskyy and NATO have theirs. Somewhere in the middle live the rest of us, wishing and hoping for peace.

Back in February, I received an ARC of The Shortest History of the Soviet Union | Shelia Fitzpatrick (2022). I jumped straight into it hoping that it would somehow shed some light on the current situation. It did and it didn’t. It was mostly a handy recap of events leading up to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, confirming that there was indeed a chequered modern history between the two.

My interest in reading more deeply was then piqued by Henri on Twitter back in late February when he posted two threads – a non-fiction/history thread and a fiction one – listing the various books about Ukraine that he recommended.

Since then there have been any number of posts about books set in Ukraine, by Ukrainian authors or books that highlight the complicated and long history between Russia and Ukraine. Below are a few such posts/lists.

Over the past few weeks I have seen many of you posting your thoughts about what is happening. Your confusion, your concern and your anguish is evident.

The only way I know how to fix this quandary within myself, is to read.

I have a few Ukrainian books and many Russian books on my TBR pile. I’ve decided it is time to read them. I want to understand what is happening, I want to get to know the Ukrainian people better, their culture and history and I want to work out why Putin is doing what he is doing. What does he hope to achieve? Why does he believe this is the “right decision”? And what does he think the end game looks like?

A part of me is scared to find out, but knowledge is power. Ignorance is NOT bliss. If all of this goes really pear-shaped, then I want to have a better understanding of why it is so.

I don’t expect to read everything from my TBR (as listed below). But I wanted to have somewhere to collate my reading and my thoughts as I go along. If you’d like to join me in this reading quest, please do. It’s as simple as that.

List your books in the comments below, or make your own post. Take as long as you need.

I’ve given myself four months purely to have a start and end date to work around. I may continue reading Ukraine beyond that…or I may abandon ship. Either option is fine. Reading, for me, is a pleasure not a chore…and sometimes that pleasure is wrapped up in self-education – the seeking of knowledge, understanding and perspective. This is one of those times.

FICTION:

  • A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian | Marina Lewycka (2005)
  • Stalingrad | Vasily Grossman (1952)
  • Life and Fate | Vasily Grossman (1960)
  • Axiomatic | Maria Tumarkin (2018)

NON-FICTION:

  • From Russia With Love | Heidi Blake (2019)
  • Red Notice | Bill Browder (2015)
  • October | China Miéville (2017)
  • Secondhand Time | Svetlana Alexievich (2013)
  • Chernobyl Prayer: A Chronicle of the Future | Svetlana Alexievich (1997)
  • The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II | Svetlana Alexievich (1983)
  • A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891 – 1924 | Orlando Figes (1996)

General Non-Fiction:

  • In Europe: Travels Through the Twentieth Century | Geert Mak (2004)
  • A Short History of Europe | Simon Jenkins (2018)

On the 1st May I will publish a MASTER POST to keep track of what I have read (and any books that you might read & review as well). I hope that some of you will join me, even if for just one book.

19 thoughts on “I Stand For Peace Reading Event May – Sept 2022

  1. I have been feeling the same. Thank you for the lists, mostly I have just been trying to read media backgrounding articles but this is a great idea and will join you on this one. I have an ebook of Ukraine and Russia: From Civilized Divorce to Uncivil War in my library so I will try and read that one at least. I had not even thought to check the library for available texts until reading your post, so thank you for the lists it has been useful. I will join in and commit to that 1 title to start with but will to read more. 🌻🌻🌻

    Like

    1. Thanks for your support Sharon. I hadn’t heard of the Paul D’Anieri
      book before – it sounds like a really good starting point for understanding the history between Russia and Ukraine as well as Russia and the West.

      Like

  2. This is a great idea! One of the aspects of all this that puzzles me is the slant that Putin is giving to the Russians – that Ukraine is the aggressor – it is so terrifying. I need to read about the background, so your lists are really helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you find a book on one of the lists Margaret that helps. I find the news reports confusing on many levels! Putin’s state of mind is just plain bemusing, if only the consequences weren’t so serious.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful idea Brona, thank you. A title that came my way and seemed that it might cast light on the situation is Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present – about how authoritarian leaders rise and how they can be stopped. There is no question that authoritarianism is at the root of the present conflict, and it’s growing everywhere. Somehow this has to be stopped at its origins, not at the end when it’s grown out of control. So reading and understanding more of the history is very important.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Davida, yes I did know that. My list includes Ukrainian authors like Marina and Maria Tumarkin (who now lives in Australia). By the by, Maria also write a book about a decade ago, Otherland that tells of her return visit to Ukraine & Russia with her teenage daughter, which sounds fascinating

      Liked by 1 person

  4. An excellent way we can show solidarity with that poor country, Brona: I too would like to join in.

    I’m currently doing a slow read of a short collection of Nikolai Gogol’s stories, a famous son of what was then called Little Russia and which now is again Ukraine.

    Then I shall look out for other titles with a Ukrainian connection: as luck would have it I have a collection of children’s stories by Ukrainian-born Nikolay Nosov based on a character called Dunno which my father gave me in the early 60s, so I may well go for those.

    Like

    1. I love the sound of the children’s stories!
      I have found it interesting to see how many writers were born in Ukraine or had parents from that region. I understand that during the USSR era, these distinctions blurred. Maybe what I will discover as I read more, is that there are very few points of difference (culturally) between Russian and Ukrainian people. Perhaps their search for a separate identity is a recent phenomenon?

      In the Sheila Fitzpatrick book on the Soviet Union I read last month, she made an interesting comment about how modern-day Ukraine was revising its foundational/origin mythology to better reflect where they are now. It has been bubbling away in the back of my mind ever since. What exactly does this mean?

      I suspect I need to search out one of the history of Ukraine texts…

      Like

      1. All kinds of bits and pieces start slotting into place once one starts to pick at the monolith that has been Tsarist and then Soviet Russia, and which Putin in his megalomaniac frame of mind is trying to reinstate.

        For example, Tchaikovsky’s grandparents were apparently from what was then the Ukraine (that is, the region, aka Little Russia) and one of his symphonies, the Second, featured Ukrainian folk melodies and was then dubbed ‘Little Russian’ as a result. I see that some commentators are agitating for it to be renamed the Ukrainian symphony to reorientate our perceptions.

        Like

  5. Absolutely! I’m in. I have several Andrey Kurkov novels on my shelves plus Red Notice, and Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty amongst others on my shelves. I will definitely try to include some in my summer reading.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s