Born and educated in Ukraine, Serhy Yekelchyk has published widely on modern Ukrainian history and Russian-Ukrainian relations. His Ukraine: Birth of a Modern Nation was the first historical survey to include the 2004 Orange Revolution and has since been translated into five languages. A professor at the University of Victoria, Dr. Yekelchyk currently serves as president of the Canadian Association of Ukrainian Studies.
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“The Conflict in Ukraine” has many merits. It is concise: it covers Ukrainian history, the Maidan, Crimea's annexation and the Donbas conflict in 166 pages. It is balanced: Yekelchyk shows the Donbas insurgency was instigated and kept alive by Russia yet it enjoyed local support. It includes all the relevant and leaves out all the irrelevant. It is mercifully free of the advocacy that taints Andrew Wilson's “Ukraine Crisis” and plagues Richard Sakwa's “Frontline Ukraine”.
Besides narrating the events, Yekelchyk offers his own argument: “the cris in Ukraine is only masquerading as ethnic strife. It is a conflict over what type of state and society will develop in the Post-Soviet political space.” (p. 165) The evidence comes from surveys: “some 27 percent of responders in a 1997 nationwide opinion poll selected the answer 'both Ukrainian and Russian' when asked to identify their ethnicity. Many self-identified Ukrainians also subscribed to the idea of a special connection with Russia. (p. 17) In the 2010 census, many ethnic Ukrainians in the Donbas chose “Russian” as their first language. (p. 117)
To persuade me, Yekelchyk needs to go further. He should estimate how many ethnic Ukrainians in the Donbas supported the insurgency. Such info ought to be glimpsed from surveys.
My other quibble is the claim that Yanukovich decided to flee after the riot police supposed to protect him made themselves scarce. (p. 110) Yekelchyk does not discuss, the evidence from camera records inside the presidential palace. The records show Yanukovich preparing to flee three days before the riot police left their posts. [...]
Never mind. The book's strength is how it summarizes Ukraine's crisis. And it does very well. If you want to know what happened, begin with “Conflict in Ukraine.”
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