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The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999

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4.30  ·  Rating details ·  428 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Timothy Snyder traces the emergence of four rival modern nationalist ideologies from common medieval notions of citizenship. He presents the ideological innovations and ethnic cleansings that abetted the spread of modern nationalism but also examines recent statesmanship that has allowed national interests to be channeled toward peace.
“A work of profound scholarship and co
...more
Paperback, 367 pages
Published July 11th 2004 by Yale University Press (first published January 11th 2003)
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Start your review of The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999
Mikey B.
Jan 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a riveting history of Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus, and how these “nations” fluctuated over historical time in terms of geography, language, culture, ethnicity...

Only after the extreme onslaught of the Second World War did these regions become more homogenous ethnically then they were in the past. Mr. Snyder goes into detail on the cleansing that these countries underwent from Hitler, Stalin and themselves. The German attack in Eastern Europe unleashed the ethnic hatreds that h
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Paul
Oct 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, russia
The Maidan saga is still evolving, and it recently took an ugly pivot to the past, as has been documented in Foreign Policy journal and elsewhere. Shortly after the new Ukrainian government ascended to power, President Poroshenko appointed an amateur historian whose nationalist views have been the subject of ridicule by historians of Ukraine worldwide to the post of Director at the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance. The historian in question has a record of downplaying and denying the ...more
Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk
My "to read" shelves are prioritised; "these can wait" and "these must be read soon". There are books that languish there, on the shelves, if not covered in cobwebs (my wife would never allow that ignominy) then certainly enshrouded in an invisible thick web of time. It is my shame that this book languished on my shelves for so long. It has sat there, in the "these must be read soon", for a number of years. It has sent out signals that "there things here of great worth" but I have constantly gla ...more
Joseph
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who like Poland and Eastern Europe
Jesli Europa jest nimfa -- Neapol
Jest nimfy okiem blekitnem
Sercim – cierniami w nodze: Sewatopol,
Azow, Odessa, Petersburg, Mitawa –
Paryz jej glowna
Nakrochmalonym – a zas Rzym … szlaplerzem

Juliusz Slowacki wrote the above in 1836. Norman Davies cites these words in “Heart of Europe” and offers this translation: “If Europe is a nymph, then Naples is the nymph’s bright blue eyes – Warsaw is her heart, whilst Sevastopol, Azov, Odessa, Petersburg, and Mitau are the sharp points of her feet. Paris is
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Malcolm
Jul 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-europe
The nation, as a thing, has become such a taken for granted of contemporary culture and politics - in its various forms of the nation-state, of the nation as ethnic group, of the nation as self-determining - that it is sometimes difficult to remember that it is the product of historical, social, political and cultural choices, changes and developments. There are few places on the 'Old World' where this is as obviously the case as east and central Europe, that area fought over, claimed and traver ...more
Max Tang
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this ambitious treatise, Timothy Snyder summarized the tumultuous evolutions in these four countries. Poland, as the regional hegemony, more or less served as an underlying narrative to the historical events: from the earlier Lublin Union, to the contemporary entry to the European Union and NATO.

The book started with a discussion of pre-modern periods. Vilnius served as a telling angle of the complexity of national narratives. Vilnius is the current capital of Lithuania but has historically
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Evgen
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
In this book, Professor Snyder shows how the political identities of Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus have formed starting from the foundation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Hardly any other author could have condensed the century-long history of the four nations into such a well-structured, detail-rich volume. Definitely a must-read for anyone interested in Eastern Europe.
Bob
Aug 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book. Insightful, subtle, clear. I learned an enormous amount about the history and politics of Eastern Europe as well as the evolution of nationalism and state formation. I read it slowly and got much out of it. The proofreader did not.
Katie
Mar 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Lesson learned from this book: If you were "Ukrainian," "Polish," or "Belorussian," most of the 20th-century sucked for you. Also, trust no one!
Andrey Chu
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favs
Clearly a must-read for anyone from Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania or Belarus with even minor interest in history. The book discusses the heritage of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the process of building nations and nation-states it originated. It discusses the emergence of modern day's nationalism that substituted the hundreds-years old political and cultural tradition with spurious national myths and national pantheons. It deals with how the name Lithuania become unquestionably associated with ...more
John
Sep 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: european-history
My paternal grandparents were Catholic Lithuanians who emigrated to the United States before the First World War. I have spent many years looking for a readable history of modern Lithuania in English, but was unable to find anything but dense self-serving histories written by opinionated Lithuanian nationalists. I am happy to say the Timothy Snyder has remedied that deficiency with "The Reconstruction of Nations".

While his scholarly tone can make the book hard going at times, Snyder is admirably
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Matt Schmalzel
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
We are generally so conditioned to understand that nation = state = ethnicity = language = territory that we seldom pause to question the underlying assumptions and historical trajectory of this notion. This book does so with aplomb by taking as its subject the lands of the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, a political entity that was the largest country in early modern Europe and contained a startling diversity of languages, religious beliefs, and political realities. The historical deconstru ...more
Rahul Chatterjee
May 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In this fascinating book, Timothy Snyder traces the emergence of Polish, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, and Belarusian nationhood over four centuries, discusses various atrocities (including the first account of the massive Ukrainian-Polish ethnic cleansings of the 1940s), and examines Poland’s recent successful negotiations with its newly independent Eastern neighbors, as it has channeled national interest toward peace.

An engaging, sophisticated, and highly readable study that we will be arguing with a
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Lesia Mandzevych
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
A good piece of smooth and tolerant historical reading, suitable for large audiences. The biggest asset of this book is its "bigger picture" approach that allows readers to go beyond their national historical narratives, often too one-sided and opinionated. Mr. Snyder offers constructive, yet the empathetic way of understanding and acceptance of mutual history, very much needed nowadays in Eastern Europe.
Marc Pearce
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a deeply academic, and thoroughly detailed presentation of the history of nations that arose from out of the remnants of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Not a quick, or light read by any means, but a very enlightening history, that's well worth the time spent absorbing it all. Simply excellent scholarship, that should not be passed over. Highly recommended reading!
Abby
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this book to prepare for an upcoming trip to Poland and Lithuania. It's an excellent, dense history. Some passages required re-reading because he's quite brilliant but not always that clear. He's a huge fan of early-1990's Poland. Not sure how he feels today. Relatively-little attention to the Jews but I know he's written other books.
Andrew Trachuk
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-bookshelf
Great book about four nations formation. Especially for me, as I living in Precarpathian Galicia. A great honor to Giedroyc and his Kultura. The Polish nation was big minds in the 70-90-th of 20-th century. Now Poland, Lithuanian and Ukraine are the biggest friends. I see intelligence of Poland at the early 90-th, especially on the background of crazy today`s Russia. ...more
Jeffrey Manners
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: overijse-library
Simply outstanding in all respects. One of the best books on the history of the region I've ever read. In particular, his explanation of the development and changing forms of nationalism is extremely insightful and illuminating. Five stars are not enough for this book. I give it a six !
kmm1985
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent! Comprehensive and very well-written.
John
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting look at the contemporary nation design from a common element and history.
Sarah
Sep 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I learned heaps and this is obviously very well researched. Quite dense, it was a bit of a slog to get through.
Andrew
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing and comprehensive review of Polish relationship with its 3 eastern neighbours. Won't learn that at school even in Poland. Very captivating style of writing. Loaded with impactful statements. I had something to highlight on every second page.
Olksndr
Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A truly amazing and well written book. Man, the things in this region are way much more complex and interconnected than I've believed before
R.
Oct 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The short version of this is that after the emancipation of the serfs early modern nationalisms of the region (which primarily used Polish as the high literary language) began to use peasant languages (like Lithuanian) as a way to counter the cultural power of Poles, et al, and create a new modern linguistic nationalism. In some ways it seems organically drawn from these newly awakened former serfs in the age of Romantic Nationalism, and in others it seems to have been constructed by (local) eli ...more
Matthew Turner
interesting book about a region I knew nothing about. Did you know that Poland was the first democracy in Eastern Europe and that the Commonwealth of Lithuania had religious freedom and was a very tolerant place?

This book is interesting but long and slow.

Jane Fidler
Dec 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A scholarly, but somewhat difficult to follow, history of north eastern Europe States and and kingdoms. Post WWII history was new information to me. I thought it all ended in 1945. I read it to get information for genealogic research.
Leopold Benedict
Timothy Snyder is an incredibly intelligent writer. His writing style is more sophisticated than an average academic book, but you can still read it comfortably. The book filled a lot of gaps in my knowledge of Eastern European history. I will read more books by Snyder.
Aaron
Mar 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An incredible book on the little know history of Poland and its imperial relations. It is also a fabulous study in modern nationality formation.
Jan
Jan 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very learned and intriguing perspective on the multiple overlayerede agendas and conflicts that eventually produced the Lithuania we know today
David Levine
Oct 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Snyder is one of the best on Eastern Europe. Highly recommended.
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Timothy Snyder is Housum Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1997, where he was a British Marshall Scholar. He has held fellowships in Paris, Vienna, and Warsaw, and an Academy Scholarship at Harvard.

His most recent book is Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, p
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