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  • Eric Sun

'Lost Kingdom: A History of Russian Nationalism from Ivan the Great to Vladimir Putin'

As featured in Edition 41, available here.

By Eric Sun (3rd year - Philosophy, Politics and Economics - Reading, United Kingdom)

Russia is a nation at a political crossroad. How should Russia define itself geographically and ethnically? Who are the Russians? How has the notion of being ‘Russian’ changed over time? These are the questions Lost Kingdom: A History of Russian Nationalism from Ivan the Great to Vladimir Putin by Serhii Plokhy looks to address, and it does so in impressive fashion.

The title of the book is somewhat misleading, for its account of the history of Russia and Russian nationalism does not just start at Ivan the Great; it also does a surprisingly good job at giving the reader a concise sense of the legacy of the medieval Eastern European kingdom which built the foundations of Russian national identity, the Kyivan Rus. That develops a logical theme for the rest of the book to not only follow the identity of ‘Russians’ as we know today, but its neighbouring and former subjects in Ukraine and Belarus too. In fact, not only does Plokhy do a great job at examining Russian nationalism, but shocks the unfamiliar reader of Russian history through a focus on people whom nowadays we would not call Russians. Lost Kingdom explores Russian nationalism often through their lenses, giving us a timeline not only of how ‘Great Russians’ see themselves, but how ‘Little Russia’ and ‘White Russia’ became Ukraine and Belarus.

In today’s geopolitical climate, this book is a recommended read for anyone wishing to understand the complex relations between Russia and its neighbours, particularly Ukraine, beyond the headlines. That being said, this is not the most accessible piece of work in the world, especially for those unfamiliar with Orthodox Christianity and Eastern European history. The terminology and geography mentioned, especially in the early chapters, can be confusing. Overall, though, this is a well-researched and increasingly timely book to pick up in 2022.

Image 1: Basic Books

Image 2: Flickr/ Pedro Szekely

Image 3: Flickr/ Mima vladimir



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