I am waiting for my copy of The Gates of Europe by Serhii Plokhy and I have not read the other two books. But from what I know about the current war in Ukraine I believe it to be a perfect starting point for all discussions of what history is and is not.

Vladimir Putin has, in a long speech, outlined his history of Russia and the smaller role of Ukraine. Those who are on the other side have simply reversed the evidence to show that Ukraine has always, from the start, been the real Rus and the Mucovites very unimportant until they took the role of changing history in their favor. Minor Rus became Russia and Ukraine, divided between Poles, Tatars, Ottomans, and others.

Each interpretation can be defended up to a point. But interpretation is the point. The evidence is mixed and what is true at the start of the story is no longer true in later times. So Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy can both be right and wrong, and the people of Ukraine consists of people with both interpretations. So those who want to learn from history must first understand what they might learn and why the facts so called will not give them a clear lesson. One must in fact place an interpretation first upon the so-called facts in order to get any satisfactory lesson — and the lesson will be subjective not objective. This is obvious to all historians but a mystery to laymen who think they want to understand history with ease. Everything we think we know about most things are partial, clouded, imperfect, and the source of conflict.

Norman Ravitch *62
Savannah, Ga.