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To Kill Ukraine

An exploration of Russia’s history of violence in the Ukraine

Basic Books
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Eugene Finkel


The war in Ukraine is the most import event in Europe since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The explicit goal of Russia’s invasion is to dismantle the US-dominated post- Cold War global order and resurrect the Kremlin’s control of Eurasia. The invasion brought mass murder back to Ukraine, crimes which are sadly not infrequent throughout Ukraine’s history. This book zooms in on the intersection of the most important geopolitical event in recent decades and the most odious type of violence. Russian mass murder of Ukrainian civilians is an important lens to understand not just the ongoing war but also Russia, Ukraine and the relations between them more generally.

This book demonstrates that Russian violence against Ukrainian civilians is a deliberate, large scale campaign of mass murder. The goal of this campaign is to wipe out Ukrainians as an identity group. Finkel’s key argument is that this violence is deeply rooted in the history of Ukrainian-Russian relations and is a direct continuation of the Kremlin’s playbook of dealing with domestic and foreign opposition.

The book presents this genocidal violence, how it unfolded and was experienced by its victims. The book explains its causes: Russia’s visions of domination and tools of violent subjugation, most of which were in the past employed in Ukraine and against Ukrainians and Ukraine’s internal cleavages that prevented the emergence of a strong, viable state and a unifying national identity. How and why a true civic national identity emerged in Ukraine after centuries of external domination and internal rifts and why did the Kremlin perceive this identity as an existential threat. Finally, the book explores the challenges of historical memory, accountability for crimes committed by Russia, and what will be required for reconciliation between future generations of Ukrainians and Russians.