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Russia's War on Ukraine: News, Context & Analysis

A concise overview of selected resources designed to help researchers discover the context and ongoing developments of Russia's war on Ukraine.

A Beginner's Guide to the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

This guide is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather to introduce sources to help researchers and students deepen their understanding of events unfolding in Ukraine.  It includes selected links to news sources, to books in held in Stanford's Library, to helpful overviews outlining historical and political factors leading to this moment, and to articles and reports by experts in the field.  

News Sources (Reliable and Freely Accessible)

The news landscape, especially in Ukraine and Russia, is particularly volatile since the beginning of the latest invasion.  These sources are maintaining stability and providing accurate information in and on the region, despite immense challenges.  In addition, NPR's On the Media has put together a Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: Ukraine Edition with guidelines for determining credible sources from disinformation. 

Ukrains'ka Pravda (Ukrainian Truth) is an independent online publication (with a YouTube site that has over 300,000 subscribers) that covers socio-political and economic events in Ukraine. Regular authors include political scientists, economists, writers, cultural figures, well-known journalists. Its stance is pro-Ukrainian, and it has been covering all aspects of the war in detail.

Library Resources

Gates of Europe

The Gates of Europe: The History of Ukraine

As Ukraine is embroiled in an ongoing struggle with Russia to preserve its territorial integrity and political independence, celebrated historian Serhii Plokhy explains that today’s crisis is a case of history repeating itself: the Ukrainian conflict is only the latest in a long history of turmoil over Ukraine’s sovereignty. Situated between Central Europe, Russia, and the Middle East, Ukraine has been shaped by empires that exploited the nation as a strategic gateway between East and West—from the Romans and Ottomans to the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. In The Gates of Europe, Plokhy examines Ukraine’s search for its identity through the lives of major Ukrainian historical figures, from its heroes to its conquerors.

House with the Stained Glass Window

The House with the Stained Glass Window

Recommended by historian Marci Shore:

It’s about four generations of women who share an apartment in a house in Lviv. The story extends from the Soviet Terror of the 1930s to the Ukrainian revolution of 2014. This is a Bildungsroman, in which the coming-of-age of the narrator, the youngest of the women, draws us into an archaeology of Lviv; the once-Habsburg, then-Polish, now post-Soviet Ukrainian city reveals itself as a layered composition. It’s a beautiful novel.

Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation

The Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation

Andrew Wilson brings his classic work up to the present, through the Orange Revolution and its aftermath, including the 2006 election, the ensuing crisis of 2007, the Ukrainian response to the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, the economic crisis in Ukraine, and the 2009 gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine. It looks forward to the key election in 2010, which will revisit many of the issues that were thought settled in 2004.

Greetings from Novorossiya

Greetings from Novorossiya: Eyewitness to the War in Ukraine

Recommended by historian Marci Shore:

Paweł Pieniążek is a very young Polish journalist. He was beaten by Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych’s riot police in the early days of the Maidan, in December 2014. Nonetheless, he stayed in Ukraine, and after Yanukovych’s defeat and flight to Russia, followed his story to the Donbas. This is some of the best reportage from a little-understood war. Pieniazek’s stories reveal the tragedy of hybrid war in the age of post-truth: people are being killed in fact for reasons that are fiction.


Borderland: A Journey through the History of Ukraine

Inspired and informed by the author's own experiences in Ukraine, this is a history of a politically and culturally rich collection of borderlands. The word "Ukraine" means "borderland" and, for most of its history, the lands that make up Ukraine have been a collection of other countries' borders. Split between Russia and Poland in the 18th century, between Austria and Russia in the 19th century and between Russia, Poland, Romania and Czechoslovakia between World War I and II, before being swallowed whole by the Soviet Union in 1945, Ukrainians have never, until 1991, known anything approaching a state of their own. Until the depradations of Stalin and Naziism, Ukraine was ethnically diverse: Russians, Poles and Jews lived in the cities; Crimea belonged to Muslim tartars, Greeks and Armenians; Boyks, Lemks and Hutsuls farmed the Ukrainian Carpathians. Their ghosts linger on in literature (Gogol, Bulgakov), language and in an architecture quite distincitve from that of Russia. Combining history, her own adventures in Ukraine and personal interviews, Anna Reid charts the tragic past of this land and the troubles inflicted upon it, and considers how a country builds itself up from scratch and creates a sense of national identity.

Ukraine Diaries

Ukraine Diaries: Dispatches from Kiev

Kurkov writes of a traumatised country – his Ukraine Diaries harbours neither illusions about the tremendous struggles facing Ukraine, nor disillusions about the need for dissent and the Maidan. Russia has invaded Ukraine, and the ‘civil’ in civil war – a word Kurkov feels very important to Putin – has faded away. Kurkov concludes that Ukraine has learnt a cynical lesson from Europe – money matters more than convictions. He believes that this lesson will haunt Europe for years to come.

Ukraine's Maidan, Russia's War

Ukraine's Maidan, Russia's War : A Chronicle and Analysis of the Revolution of Dignity

In early 2014, sparked by an assault by their government on peaceful students, Ukrainians rose up against a deeply corrupt, Moscow-backed regime. Initially demonstrating under the banner of EU integration, the Maidan protesters proclaimed their right to a dignified existence; they learned to organize, to act collectively, to become a civil society. Most prominently, they established a new Ukrainian identity: territorial, inclusive, and present-focused with powerful mobilizing symbols. Driven by an urban “bourgeoisie” that rejected the hierarchies of industrial society in favor of a post-modern heterarchy, a previously passive post-Soviet country experienced a profound social revolution that generated new senses: “Dignity” and “fairness” became rallying cries for millions. Europe as the symbolic target of political aspiration gradually faded, but the impact (including on Europe) of Ukraine’s revolution remained. When Russia invaded—illegally annexing Crimea and then feeding continuous military conflict in the Donbas—, Ukrainians responded with a massive volunteer effort and touching patriotism.

In Wartime

In Wartime: Stories from Ukraine

Making his way from the Polish border in the west, through the capital city and the heart of the 2014 revolution, to the eastern frontline near the Russian border, seasoned war reporter Tim Judah brings a rare glimpse of the reality behind the headlines. Along the way he talks to the people living through the conflict - mothers, soldiers, businessmen, poets, politicians - whose memories of a contested past shape their attitudes, allegiances and hopes for the future. Together, their stories paint a vivid picture of a nation trapped between powerful forces, both political and historical. 

Jews and Ukrainians in Russian Literary Borderland

Jews and Ukrainians in Russian Literary Borderlands

Recommended by historian Marci Shore: 

“Ukraine” means borderlands. In the territory that is now present-day Ukraine, Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Yiddish and German languages, literatures, humors, cultures, joys and despairs intermingled for hundreds of years. In this study spanning the century from 1829 to 1929, Glaser leads us into encounters among the most variegated characters. The book takes us through the First World War, the fall of the tsarist empire, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the Civil War that followed. In these years, Kyiv alone was occupied by five different armies; the confusion was breathtaking—the literature as well.

The author is a scholar of comparative literature who is herself not Ukrainian, but who came to learn Russian, Ukrainian and Yiddish and to grasp Ukraine extremely well. The book allows us to wander among and within wonderful tales and wonderful literature. The setting of the marketplace is in some ways the center of this book, the marketplace as a site that illuminates the simultaneous drama and everydayness of encounters with others.

Midnight in Chernobyl

Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold History of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster

Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews conducted over the course of more than ten years, as well as letters, unpublished memoirs, and documents from recently-declassified archives, Adam Higginbotham brings the disaster to life through the eyes of the men and women who witnessed it firsthand.

Red Famine

Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine

 In 1932-33, nearly four million Ukrainians died of starvation, having been deliberately deprived of food. It is one of the most devastating episodes in the history of the twentieth century. With unprecedented authority and detail, Red Famine investigates how this happened, who was responsible, and what the consequences were. It is the fullest account yet published of these terrible events.The book draws on a mass of archival material and first-hand testimony only available since the end of the Soviet Union, as well as the work of Ukrainian scholars all over the world. It includes accounts of the famine by those who survived it, describing what human beings can do when driven mad by hunger. It shows how the Soviet state ruthlessly used propaganda to turn neighbours against each other in order to expunge supposedly 'anti-revolutionary' elements. It also records the actions of extraordinary individuals who did all they could to relieve the suffering.The famine was rapidly followed by an attack on Ukraine's cultural and political leadership - and then by a denial that it had ever happened at all. Census reports were falsified and memory suppressed. Some western journalists shamelessly swallowed the Soviet line; others bravely rejected it, and were undermined and harassed. The Soviet authorities were determined not only that Ukraine should abandon its national aspirations, but that the country's true history should be buried along with its millions of victims. Red Famine, a triumph of scholarship and human sympathy, is a milestone in the recovery of those memories and that history. At a moment of crisis between Russia and Ukraine, it also shows how far the present is shaped by the past.



Recommended by historian Marci Shore:

Mesopotamia is Zhadan’s most recent book to appear in English. It’s a novel composed of different stories, mostly prose with some poetry as well. The stories are set in Kharkiv, a city in eastern Ukraine where Zhadan, who is himself from the Donbas, now lives. It was unclear in spring of 2014 whether there was going to be a separatist rebellion in Kharkiv, whether it was also going to become part of the territory ensconced in war.

Everything Flows

Everything Flows

Recommended by historian Marci Shore:

Everything Flows takes us through the Stalinist experience in a very condensed but pointed way. It takes us through the story of the famine in Ukraine, and there’s no way to understand Ukraine without understanding the horror of that famine.

Historical Context

Research & Analysis