The Making of Modern Ukraine

The Making of Modern Ukraine

Timothy Snyder | Dept of History | Yale Univ | HIST 247 – Fall 2022

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 syllabus and reading list to be found here.

Lectures published in reverse chronological order.

Coming Up Next …

Class 23 (Dec 6, 2022): The Colonial, The Post-Colonial, and the Global
Class 22 (Dec 1, 2022): Ukrainian Culture in the Twenty-First Century

Class 21 (Nov 29, 2022): Comparative Russian Imperialism features guest lecturer, Professor Arne Westad of Yale, comparing Russian imperialism with other empires in recent centuries.

What can be that breaking point in a person’s life? Class 20 (Nov 17, 2022): Maidan and Self-Understanding brings us to Maidan and the Self-Understanding that resulted. Guest lecturer is Marci Shore, Associate Professor of History at Yale University and the author of The Ukrainian Night: An Intimate History of Revolution (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018).

Class 19 (Nov 15, 2022): Oligarchies in Russia and Ukraine brings additional reminders of the impact Poland had on the formation of the Ukrainian state.

Class 18 (Nov 10, 2022): Before and After the End of History brings into focus Marxism, dialectics, consumerism and nationalism during the transition from Khrushchev to Brezhnev.

The impact of colonization in Europe in the 1950s through the 1970s is examined in Class 17 (Nov 8, 2022): Cold War and Neostalinism: The Khrushchev and Brezhnev Years. Reforms, Recentralization, Dissidence.

Why the 1940s was such a terrible time for Ukraine is the subject of Class 16 (Nov 3, 2022): Colonization, Extermination, Ethnic Cleansing: the 1940s.

Class 15 (Nov 1, 2022): Ukrainization to Famine: The Soviet 1930s explores a very dark and terrifying couple of decades. Ukrainization, Famine, Terror of 1920s – 1930s.

Why would a Polish guard help a Ukrainian cross into the Soviet Union in 1933? Class 14 (Oct 27, 2022): Poland’s Ukrainian Question takes you through the interwar years.

Class 13 (Oct 25, 2022): Marxisms and Revolutions details the converging forces and end of empires.

Was the Privilegium Maius true history? Class 12 (Oct 18, 2022): Habsburg Curiosity traces the Habsburg family and their impact on Europe.

Class 11 (Oct 11, 2022): Russia: Empire and Peoples looks at the ‘triangle’ and converging issues in the 18th Century. Ottoman Retreat, Russian Power, Ukrainian Populism.

Class 10 (Oct 6, 2022): The Global Age of Empire examines how several global empires shaped the development of Ukraine.

Class 9 (Oct 4, 2022): Polish Power and Cossack Rebellion explores the influence of the Polish state on how Ukraine developed.

In Class 8 (Sep 29, 2022): The Jews of Ukraine, guest lecturer Glenn Dynner explores the early Jews of modern Ukraine.

Class 7 (Sep 27, 2022): The Rise of Muscovite Power continues the exploration of post-Viking states toward the rise of Muscovite power.

Class 6: The Grand Duchy of Lithuania (Sep 22, 2022) continues the foundations of the Kyiv state at a time when Lithuania was much larger than most people think.

In Class 5: Vikings, Slavers, Lawgivers: The Kyiv State (Sep 20, 2022), Professor Snyder describes the foundations of the Kyiv state.

Do you speak the language or does the language speak you? In Class 4: Before Europe (Sep 15, 2022) Professor Timothy Snyder maps out the landscape ‘Before Europe.’

In Class 3: Geography and Ancient History (Sep 13, 2022), Timothy Snyder, recently back from a visit to Ukraine, explores the geography and ancient history of the region.

Class 2: The Genesis of Nations (Sep 6, 2022).

Class 1: Ukrainian Questions Posed by Russian Invasion (Sep 1, 2022) is an introduction to the course and an exploration of questions raised by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.


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.

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