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The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999 Paperback – Jul 11 2004

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; New edition edition (July 11 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030010586X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300105865
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 2.1 x 23.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 558 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #121,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“The Reconstruction of Nations is a brilliant and fascinating analysis of the subtleties, complexities, and paradoxes of the evolution of nations in Eastern Europe. Snyder highlights the success of contemporary leaders of Poland in bringing an end to the centuries of war, conquest, and ethnic cleansing, which have plagued that part of the world. His study has major implications for all of us who want to understand the processes of state collapse and nation-building in the world.”—Samuel P. Huntington, Chairman, Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies

"[A] fresh and stimulating look at the path to nationhood."—Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs

About the Author

Timothy Snyder is assistant professor of history at Yale University.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
THE RECONSTRUCTION OF NATIONS: POLAND, UKRAINE, LITHUANIA, BELARUS - The most impressive historic work I have ever read. The author Timothy Snyder brings out all the horrible details of second world war on the eastern front, including the secondary conflicts, i.e. conflicts let loose as a result of the devilish upheavals and elimination of the leading groups by Hitler and Stalin, e.g. wars between Poles, Ukrainians and Lithuanians behind the front line. This book should be read together with Timothy Snyder's "Bloodland - Europe between Hitler & Stalin", which is at least as impressive.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x99aaaa20) out of 5 stars 23 reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x99d01690) out of 5 stars Very Insightful Dec 5 2010
By Kochevnik - Published on
Format: Paperback
You will be hard-pressed to find a better English-language history of the past 150 years in Vilnius and in Volhynia/Galicia. Snyder goes into great detail about the history and ironies of Polish, Lithuanian and Ukrainian nationalism (Belarussian history and nationalism, described as a "national failure" by Snyder, gets shorter shrift). The modern history of these until-recently contested regions is quite complicated and arouses great passions from Poles/Lithuanians and Poles/Ukrainians to this day. Snyder does an excellent job of trying to approach the history here as something fresh, rather than try to amalgamate different competing national mythologies.

A warning: this is not a comprehensive history of the region, and is not even really a comprehensive history of modern Polish, Lithuanian and Ukrainian nationalism. A great many events, places and people are mentioned in passing, and if you do not already have a firm grounding in East European history you can easily get lost as the tides of history swirl by. The book is best understood as having, at its heart, a history of the Vilnius guberniya and a history of the Volhynia guberniya and Galician Koenigreich from about 1900 to about 1950. The chapters on Volhynia during the Second World War are at once both the most harrowing and also the most illustrative as to how individuals and groups were able to switch back and forth between ideologies and how persecutions and atrocities were able to build one on top of another. This goes a much longer way than many other recent histories in explaining just how genocide and ethnic cleansing was able to occur in Europe in the 20th century.

The last third of the book, dealing with Polish foreign policy, is the weakest (and the most poorly-edited). It felt a bit like a thesis paper spun out into 100 pages of a book: the same argument was largely made over and over again as to how Polish foreign policy post 1945 was able to be shaped by emigres, and how this foreign policy achieved peace in Eastern Europe post 1989. Honestly, this had little to do with the rest of the book, except as an epilogue, and would probably have been better handled in a separate book. It felt a little too idealistic, a little to Poland-centric (and largely focused on the ideas of a few elite, at that) and definitely controversial. For all of Snyder's arguments, no explanation is really ultimately given for why Poland was able to adopt such a forward-looking foreign policy, especially after all the conflicts and persecutions that he just finished documenting a few chapters earlier.

In any event, the book is a good read, covers a good breath of history in a wide area, and will be a welcome supplement to anyone interested in the region's history.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a58b4e0) out of 5 stars A lucid and refreshingly nuanced view of a complex and ambiguous history... March 14 2011
By Anonymous - Published on
Format: Paperback
As the author puts it right at the beginning of the book "The subjects of this book are the transformation of national ideas, the causes of ethnic cleansing, and the conditions for national reconciliation"

Previous reviewers have already more or less given an overview of the contents of this book... I'll not weigh this forum down with too much more of the same, but I WOULD like to add another voice in favor: This is really an exceptionally insightful and well-written book, and will undoubtedly leave you looking at the idea of nationalism, what national identity means, and even how we view history itself in a different light.
...I especially appreciate the subtlety with which the author outlines the development of distinct modern National Ideas in the region, with all the vague, selective interpretations of facts and moral shades of gray inherent in the building of an exclusive national mythology. Though we largely just take national identity for granted today as simply defined by some mixture of land of birth, language, and maybe to some more limited extent ancestry, the author shows not only how drastically the understanding of what national identity means has changed over a relatively short period of time (is belonging to the "nation" a privilege reserved for the ruling classes? Is it determined by religious affiliation? Language(s)? Volition alone?), but also how truly unclear, and even artificial national definitions (imposed upon mostly peasant populations for political ends) often were right up until the mass deaths, inter-communal slaughters, and forced population transfers of the Second World War compelled otherwise rather indifferent and often largely undifferentiated local populations to choose one loyalty or another, and finally form neatly divided nation-states for the first time.
...There's a lot more to it, but I'll leave it at that...
An extremely fascinating book.
I absolutely recommend it, though it might be helpful to have a decent understanding of Central and Eastern European history before reading to be able to best appreciate this book...

ALSO: I've found the book in PDF format at this website, where it can be read or downloaded...

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a1e3060) out of 5 stars Eastern Europe at the Front of the Stage April 27 2012
By Lars Fimmerstad - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book really throws light over an often ignored perspective on Europe's history. The tangled history of present day Eastern Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine is the key to so much of the horrors of especially the 20th Century. It also gives insights into the absurdity of concepts like ethninc and national identities as they were construed, distorted, invented and abused in the past two centuries. An aha experience is how important Poland and Polish culture once was, Polish being the language of the ruling elite in vast parts of Eastern Europe until not very long time ago. Reading this book on a World usually seen through the prism of German and Russian histories with it's inhabitants playing the part of victimes or stage extras one will never again see European history in the same way. An idispensible book. It should also be read together with Bloodlands of the same author.
34 of 44 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x99d522c4) out of 5 stars Highly recommended. June 5 2005
By U. Mihal - Published on
Format: Paperback
Well, being born in one of those Central Belarussian towns I would say I agree with 95% of material and it's analized with good skills. I highly recommend this book to anyone with interest in Eastern Europe history and to descendents of Poles, Belarussians and Ukrainians.

It is worth to remember that Commonwealth expirienced Ortodox( Uniates), Catholics, Protestans, Muslims(Tatar) living together in unity and friendship, while in Europe religious cleansings were at the peak.

I was also surprised I didnt found any information about Sluck Fight against Bolsheviks( since it is very important to Belarus history) and general Stanislaw Bulak-Balachowicz, who declaired compliance with first Belarus Government in 1919, not with Poles...and after forcibly evacuating to Polish territories was unarmed by polish "friend" Pilsudski.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a0a224c) out of 5 stars History is Subjective Aug. 16 2012
By Mike B - Published on
Format: Paperback
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 had built up over centuries; which is not to say that animosities never existed prior to 1939, far from it.

Mr. Snyder also describes how Poland's emancipation from the Soviet Bloc was a positive influence on Eastern Europe, particularly the emerging countries from the former Soviet Union. Poland refused to open up the Pandora's Box of history, and looking to the future, established good relations with its neighbors - Ukraine, Lithuania, Russia, Belarus and the newly unified Germany. As the author mentions a "Yugoslavia" of ethnic geographical confrontations could have erupted (as in the past) with the contested lands that had at one time belonged to either Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine and other countries.

I did find this book opaque when reading about history prior to the Twentieth Century (this constitutes about one-fifth of the book). The author presumes a familiarity with historical events that I did not have. Little is mentioned about the Eastern Ukraine and Stalin's horrible devastation of it during the 1930's. Ruthenia is mentioned but not explained. Same for the Uniate Church.

But we do get an excellent flow of these countries in the Twentieth Century and their long and troubled road to nationhood. We are given the varying, and often conflicting, historical interpretations of these different nationalities. For a group of people history is never objective.