Scripta Selecta

Kirjoituksia Kansalliskirjaston kokoelmista

Works on the subject of Ukrainian history in the collections of the Slavonic Library

Emilia Karjalainen, Irma Reijonen

The collections of the Slavonic Library of the National Library of Finland provide research information and perspectives on the history of the regions of Russia and Eastern Europe.

A blind kobzar, a Ukrainian bard, with a young guide. The vignette shows a group of kobzars and lyrists at a market. In the background are folk instruments: kobza, torban and tambourine. From the photo album Изъ Украйнской старины (1900).

There are about a thousand copies of books examining the history of Ukraine and the wide range of languages in which the books are written shows how diverse the collection is. The books can be accessed via the subject search of the search service of the National Library of Finland. The majority of the works are in Ukrainian: 384 copies. After this, the largest groups are Russian-language works (about 300 copies) and English-language works (about 200 copies). Even after these, the language selection available is still wide-ranging – there are several dozens of works in Polish, German and Finnish. You can organise the search results according to the publication year so that you can easily view the most recent books related to the subject, for example, or view which kinds of books about the history of Ukraine were published in the 1800s. The search cannot retrieve all material related to Ukrainian history, but for the newest works the search result is comprehensive.

There are plenty of works from different time periods and different countries, starting from maps from the 1600s and books from the early 1800s to the most recent publications. The publications’ spectrum of publication places and times is reflected in the viewpoints from which history has been written. The Russian understanding of the history of Ukraine is considerably different from Ukrainians’ own understanding. The latest Russian publications contain information influencing efforts and outright propaganda. Different understandings of history act as source material for research: in order to be able to study information influencing, there must be material that can be studied. Even identifying information influencing requires access to texts written from different premises that can be compared to one another. History writing and history’s adherence to a particular perspective are themes explored in the book Rossiâ - Ukraina: kak pišetsâ istoriâ which is based on the lectures and conversations of two historians, Georgi Kasjanov and Aleksandr Miller. The work strives to separate the interpretation of history from political and ideological purposes and restore it to a question to be studied through scientific methods. 

Kahden kirjan kannet: Ukrainan historia ja Taistelu Ukrainasta
Finnish translation of the book Frontline Ukraine by R. Sakwa and Ukrainan historia by J. Remy.

The Finnish-language book Ukrainan historia (2015) written by Johannes Remy, docent of East European history, provides a comprehensive look at the history of Ukraine. The book goes over the Ukrainian history from the medieval Kievan Rus’ to the modern times, exploring subjects such as the Cossacks wars, independence, famine, Ukrainian nationalism, and the issue of Crimea. 

Another example of recent books exploring Ukrainian history is Frontline Ukraine: crisis in the borderlands (2016) written by Richard Sakwa who researches the history of Russia and Europe at the University of Kent. The book analyses the background and significance of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

The progress of Ukrainian history is also the subject of The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine (2015) written by Serhii Plokhy who is a professor of history at Harvard University. The book examines the history of Ukraine through historical figures, from the beginning of the 1000s to the Maidan protests in 2014. In an earlier work of his, The origins of the Slavic nations : premodern identities in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus (2006), Plokhy examines the cultures and history of East Slav nations and strives to understand the premodern history of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

Tragic Soviet-era events are examined in works such as Anne Applebaum’s book Red famine: Stalin's war on Ukraine and Andy Dougan’s book Dynamo: defending the honour of Kiev (Finnish translation). ‘Red famine’ examines the great famine of 1932–33 in Ukraine. ‘Dynamo’ on the other hand provides a different kind of look at the history of Ukraine; the books tells the story of a traditional and successful Kievan football team during the German occupation.

Kahden kirjan kannet: Ukraina - rajanmaa ja Krim on meidän
Finnish translation of the book Ukraina - gränslandet by A. Laurén and Krim on meidän by K. Kniivilä.

There are two books published in 2015 that provide a journalistic perspective on the situation in Ukraine in the last few years. Ukraina – gränslandet is a Swedish-language book that examines the events of 2014, written by Anna-Lena Laurén, who has worked as a foreign correspondent, and journalist Peter Lodenius. In the book, Laurén recounts her experiences in Kiev, Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, and Lodenius provides context for the events. In journalist Kalle Kniivilä’s Finnish-language book Krim on meidän - imperiumin paluu, Crimea residents tell about their lives in the occupied Crimea peninsula.

Other works related to Ukraine and Ukrainian history can be searched for via the National Library of Finland’s search service with different search terms. In this crisis situation it is important to display non-fiction related to Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe and to emphasise the importance of scientific facts. Articles published on that relate to Ukraine can be perused via Finna – they are freely available. 

Click here for the Finnish version of the text.