Nonfiction Book Review
Title: A Brief History of Ukraine: A Singular People within the Crucibles of Empires
Author: Dominic Haynes
Released: April 13, 2022
A Brief History of Ukraine: A Singular People within the Crucibles of Empires by Dominic Haynes is an absorbing overview of a beleaguered country with an indomitable spirit that continues to fight for its freedom and independence from Russia.
Because I cannot stomach watching or listening to the news regularly, I learn about world events through books, documentaries, and online articles. Therefore, I wanted to read this 30,000-word book to try to understand more about how Ukraine has found itself in the position it’s in today. (Also, my childhood friend’s husband is of Ukrainian descent.) Haynes has crafted a well-written, informative brief history of Ukraine that helps us understand precisely what the country has been up against and what has led to the current war with Russia.
It begins with the roots and origins of ancient Ukraine from 30,000 BCE to 800s CE and takes us all the way up to the 21st century to 2022 CE.
The book has a few typos but is engaging and easy to read. However, I would have found it very helpful if the book had included a map of Ukraine, preferably one from ancient times and one from modern-day Ukraine, so I wouldn’t have to keep referring to the Internet on my phone while reading it to pinpoint where the areas referred to are located.
I looked up many leaders and empires discussed in this book, beginning with the Trypillya. I knew nothing about Ukraine other than what I experienced at a traditional Ukrainian wedding reception I attended in Toronto many years ago and saw in Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations when Tony travelled to Ukraine in 2011 with his friend and travel companion Zamir Gotta who had ancestors from Crimea. Ukraine appeared to be a beautiful country, “Europe’s breadbasket,” rich in fertile lands, abundant culture, and strong, passionate people.
I love archaeology programs, historical movies, and television series, including those about Goths and Vikings, so I knew a bit about some historical figures, like Atilla the Hun, Ghengis Khan, and Catherine the Great. But I have never read Herodotus.
The book helps put Crimea and Belarus and their influence on Ukraine into perspective. We understand that Ukraine has always been ruled by other countries, including Lithuania, Poland, and Russia. Despite this, Ukraine has its own unique culture and identity that it continues to fight to retain.
As with the evolution of any country, religion plays a pivotal role and unfailingly leads to conflict. While I believe in a Higher Power, I think that more harm than good has come from organized religion and would not be upset if Roman Catholicism and all its offshoots were abolished. I also believe in personal sovereignty and that the medieval practice of serfdom must be wholly eradicated in order for its enslaved people to be free to choose how they want to live. In light of the current war between Russia and Ukraine that some think may lead to World War III, it is evident that most of the world believes that freedom from tyranny is worth fighting for.
“Dominic Haynes has a degree in Social Sciences from the University of Manchester, and his years of study have fueled a passion for independent research. He has a deep interest in history, and his degree marked the beginning of a lifetime of extensive study.” I would not hesitate to read other books by Dominic Haynes as he has written a series of A Brief History of books, including America, Canada, England, Portugal, and China.