Category Archives: The Making of Modern Ukraine

Ukraine must have existed as a society and polity on 23 February 2022, else Ukrainians would not have collectively resisted Russian invasion the next day. What does it mean for a nation to exist? Timothy Snyder explores these and other questions in a very timely course.

This course was recorded live in a classroom at Yale University in the autumn of 2022.

22: Ukrainian Ideas in the 21st Century



Class 22 brings us closer to the modern day and looks at the role of culture.

Timothy Snyder is the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. He speaks five and reads ten European languages.

Ukraine must have existed as a society and polity on 23 February 2022, else Ukrainians would not have collectively resisted Russian invasion the next day. What does it mean for a nation to exist? Is this a matter of structures, actions, or both? Why has the existence of Ukraine occasioned such controversy? In what ways are Polish, Russian, and Jewish self-understanding dependent upon experiences in Ukraine? Just how and when did a modern Ukrainian nation emerge? For that matter, how does any modern nation emerge? Why some and not others? Can nations be chosen, and can choices be decisive? If so, whose, and how? Ukraine was the country most touched by Soviet and Nazi terror: what can we learn about those systems, then, from Ukraine? Is the post-colonial, multilingual Ukrainian nation a holdover from the past, or does it hold some promise for the future?

Course reading list
Video version of this course available on YouTube.


21: Comparative Russian Imperialism



Class 21 features guest lecturer, Professor Arne Westad, comparing Russian imperialism with other empires in recent centuries.

Timothy Snyder is the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. He speaks five and reads ten European languages.

Ukraine must have existed as a society and polity on 23 February 2022, else Ukrainians would not have collectively resisted Russian invasion the next day. What does it mean for a nation to exist? Is this a matter of structures, actions, or both? Why has the existence of Ukraine occasioned such controversy? In what ways are Polish, Russian, and Jewish self-understanding dependent upon experiences in Ukraine? Just how and when did a modern Ukrainian nation emerge? For that matter, how does any modern nation emerge? Why some and not others? Can nations be chosen, and can choices be decisive? If so, whose, and how? Ukraine was the country most touched by Soviet and Nazi terror: what can we learn about those systems, then, from Ukraine? Is the post-colonial, multilingual Ukrainian nation a holdover from the past, or does it hold some promise for the future?

Course reading list
Video version of this course available on YouTube.


20: Maidan and Self-Understanding with guest lecturer Marci Shore



What can be that breaking point in a person’s life? Class 20 brings us to Maidan and the Self-Understanding that resulted. Guest lecturer is Marci Shore, Associate Professor of History at Yale University.

Marci Shore, Ukrainian Night: An Intimate History of Revolution, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018.

Timothy Snyder is the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. He speaks five and reads ten European languages.

Ukraine must have existed as a society and polity on 23 February 2022, else Ukrainians would not have collectively resisted Russian invasion the next day. What does it mean for a nation to exist? Is this a matter of structures, actions, or both? Why has the existence of Ukraine occasioned such controversy? In what ways are Polish, Russian, and Jewish self-understanding dependent upon experiences in Ukraine? Just how and when did a modern Ukrainian nation emerge? For that matter, how does any modern nation emerge? Why some and not others? Can nations be chosen, and can choices be decisive? If so, whose, and how? Ukraine was the country most touched by Soviet and Nazi terror: what can we learn about those systems, then, from Ukraine? Is the post-colonial, multilingual Ukrainian nation a holdover from the past, or does it hold some promise for the future?

Course reading list
Video version of this course available on YouTube.


19: Oligarchies in Russia and Ukraine



Class 19 brings additional reminders of the impact Poland had on the formation of the Ukrainian state.

Timothy Snyder is the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. He speaks five and reads ten European languages.

Ukraine must have existed as a society and polity on 23 February 2022, else Ukrainians would not have collectively resisted Russian invasion the next day. What does it mean for a nation to exist? Is this a matter of structures, actions, or both? Why has the existence of Ukraine occasioned such controversy? In what ways are Polish, Russian, and Jewish self-understanding dependent upon experiences in Ukraine? Just how and when did a modern Ukrainian nation emerge? For that matter, how does any modern nation emerge? Why some and not others? Can nations be chosen, and can choices be decisive? If so, whose, and how? Ukraine was the country most touched by Soviet and Nazi terror: what can we learn about those systems, then, from Ukraine? Is the post-colonial, multilingual Ukrainian nation a holdover from the past, or does it hold some promise for the future?

Course reading list
Video version of this course available on YouTube.


18: Before and After the End of History



Class 18 brings into focus Marxism, dialectics, consumerism and nationalism during the transition from Khrushchev to Brezhnev.

Timothy Snyder is the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. He speaks five and reads ten European languages.

Ukraine must have existed as a society and polity on 23 February 2022, else Ukrainians would not have collectively resisted Russian invasion the next day. What does it mean for a nation to exist? Is this a matter of structures, actions, or both? Why has the existence of Ukraine occasioned such controversy? In what ways are Polish, Russian, and Jewish self-understanding dependent upon experiences in Ukraine? Just how and when did a modern Ukrainian nation emerge? For that matter, how does any modern nation emerge? Why some and not others? Can nations be chosen, and can choices be decisive? If so, whose, and how? Ukraine was the country most touched by Soviet and Nazi terror: what can we learn about those systems, then, from Ukraine? Is the post-colonial, multilingual Ukrainian nation a holdover from the past, or does it hold some promise for the future?

Course reading list
Video version of this course available on YouTube.


17: Reforms, Recentralization, Dissidence: 1950s-1970s



The impact of colonization in Europe in the 1950s through the 1970s is examined in Class 17.

Timothy Snyder is the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. He speaks five and reads ten European languages.

Ukraine must have existed as a society and polity on 23 February 2022, else Ukrainians would not have collectively resisted Russian invasion the next day. What does it mean for a nation to exist? Is this a matter of structures, actions, or both? Why has the existence of Ukraine occasioned such controversy? In what ways are Polish, Russian, and Jewish self-understanding dependent upon experiences in Ukraine? Just how and when did a modern Ukrainian nation emerge? For that matter, how does any modern nation emerge? Why some and not others? Can nations be chosen, and can choices be decisive? If so, whose, and how? Ukraine was the country most touched by Soviet and Nazi terror: what can we learn about those systems, then, from Ukraine? Is the post-colonial, multilingual Ukrainian nation a holdover from the past, or does it hold some promise for the future?

Course reading list
Video version of this course available on YouTube.


16: Colonization, Extermination, Ethnic Cleansing



Why the 1940s was such a terrible time for Ukraine is the subject of Class 16.

Timothy Snyder is the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. He speaks five and reads ten European languages.

Ukraine must have existed as a society and polity on 23 February 2022, else Ukrainians would not have collectively resisted Russian invasion the next day. What does it mean for a nation to exist? Is this a matter of structures, actions, or both? Why has the existence of Ukraine occasioned such controversy? In what ways are Polish, Russian, and Jewish self-understanding dependent upon experiences in Ukraine? Just how and when did a modern Ukrainian nation emerge? For that matter, how does any modern nation emerge? Why some and not others? Can nations be chosen, and can choices be decisive? If so, whose, and how? Ukraine was the country most touched by Soviet and Nazi terror: what can we learn about those systems, then, from Ukraine? Is the post-colonial, multilingual Ukrainian nation a holdover from the past, or does it hold some promise for the future?

Course reading list
Video version of this course available on YouTube.


15: Ukrainization, Famine, Terror: 1920s – 1930s



Class 15 explores a very dark and terrifying couple of decades.

Timothy Snyder is the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. He speaks five and reads ten European languages.

Ukraine must have existed as a society and polity on 23 February 2022, else Ukrainians would not have collectively resisted Russian invasion the next day. What does it mean for a nation to exist? Is this a matter of structures, actions, or both? Why has the existence of Ukraine occasioned such controversy? In what ways are Polish, Russian, and Jewish self-understanding dependent upon experiences in Ukraine? Just how and when did a modern Ukrainian nation emerge? For that matter, how does any modern nation emerge? Why some and not others? Can nations be chosen, and can choices be decisive? If so, whose, and how? Ukraine was the country most touched by Soviet and Nazi terror: what can we learn about those systems, then, from Ukraine? Is the post-colonial, multilingual Ukrainian nation a holdover from the past, or does it hold some promise for the future?

Course reading list
Video version of this course available on YouTube.


14: Interwar Poland’s Ukrainians



Why would a Polish guard help a Ukrainian cross into the Soviet Union in 1933? Class 14 takes you through the interwar years.

Timothy Snyder is the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. He speaks five and reads ten European languages.

Ukraine must have existed as a society and polity on 23 February 2022, else Ukrainians would not have collectively resisted Russian invasion the next day. What does it mean for a nation to exist? Is this a matter of structures, actions, or both? Why has the existence of Ukraine occasioned such controversy? In what ways are Polish, Russian, and Jewish self-understanding dependent upon experiences in Ukraine? Just how and when did a modern Ukrainian nation emerge? For that matter, how does any modern nation emerge? Why some and not others? Can nations be chosen, and can choices be decisive? If so, whose, and how? Ukraine was the country most touched by Soviet and Nazi terror: what can we learn about those systems, then, from Ukraine? Is the post-colonial, multilingual Ukrainian nation a holdover from the past, or does it hold some promise for the future?

Course reading list
Video version of this course available on YouTube.


13: Republics and Revolutions



Class 13 details the converging forces and end of empires.

Timothy Snyder is the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. He speaks five and reads ten European languages.

Ukraine must have existed as a society and polity on 23 February 2022, else Ukrainians would not have collectively resisted Russian invasion the next day. What does it mean for a nation to exist? Is this a matter of structures, actions, or both? Why has the existence of Ukraine occasioned such controversy? In what ways are Polish, Russian, and Jewish self-understanding dependent upon experiences in Ukraine? Just how and when did a modern Ukrainian nation emerge? For that matter, how does any modern nation emerge? Why some and not others? Can nations be chosen, and can choices be decisive? If so, whose, and how? Ukraine was the country most touched by Soviet and Nazi terror: what can we learn about those systems, then, from Ukraine? Is the post-colonial, multilingual Ukrainian nation a holdover from the past, or does it hold some promise for the future?

Course reading list
Video version of this course available on YouTube.