Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Khmelnytskyi Statue and Square, Kiev

From a book by Andrew Wilson, The Ukranians: Unexpected Nation, I finally learned the identity of this statue on a very prominent square in Kiev. The square lies between St. Sophia's and the reconstructed St. Mikhail's Cathedral in the upper town, and honours the Cossack hetman Bohdan Khmelnytskyi, who drove the Poles and Polish-affiliated Ruthenians out of the government in Kiev in the mid-17th century.
Wilson's book traces how the idea of Ukraine and Ukrainians evolved over the centuries, culminating in the independent state that grew out of the dismantling of the Soviet Union. Ukraine has few natural borders and has suffered invasions for centuries, but somehow has retained and recently further developed a sense of being a nation separate from Russia and its other powerful neighbours.
Ukraine, like most nations, bases itself on various national myths, and the Cossacks are among the most powerful of these ideas. While it is somewhat academic, Wilson's book is intended for the general reader and provides a good overview of Ukrainian history and development. Books in English on modern Ukraine are not numerous, and this one could be a valuable starting point for further study of the country.


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