Q: You write of The Gates of Europe, “The title of the book…is of course a metaphor, but not one to be taken lightly or dismissed as a marketing gimmick.” Why did you select this title for your history of Ukraine?Learn more about The Gates of Europe at the Basic Books website.
A: There is a long tradition in historiography to treat countries in Eastern Europe as bulwarks against the East—anything from the Mongols to the Russians. I appreciated that this metaphor was there.
I look at this region not only as a battlefield…but also as a contact zone, an area where different ethnic groups lived together and cultural exchanges were taking place. Gates can serve as a perfect metaphor. Also, it’s a battlefield occasionally and the gates are closed. But through most of history, they’re open, and that’s where I hope the future of the region lies.
Q: Describing the situation today in Ukraine, you write, “For Ukraine, Russian aggression raised fundamental questions about its continuing existence as a unified state, its independence as a nation, and the democratic foundations of its political institutions.” What do you see looking ahead?
A: Some elements of the story are very familiar with historians-- starting in the early modern period you see an interregnum and a neighboring state acting as a perpetrator [who] tries to use the confusion and grab some territory and gain some political advantage. In a sense it’s...[read on]
My Book, The Movie: The Last Empire.
The Page 99 Test: The Gates of Europe.