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About Serhii Plokhy
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On the morning of April 26, 1986, Europe witnessed the worst nuclear disaster in history: the explosion of a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Soviet Ukraine. Dozens died of radiation poisoning, fallout contaminated half the continent, and thousands fell ill.
In Chernobyl, Serhii Plokhy draws on new sources to tell the dramatic stories of the firefighters, scientists, and soldiers who heroically extinguished the nuclear inferno. He lays bare the flaws of the Soviet nuclear industry, tracing the disaster to the authoritarian character of the Communist party rule, the regime's control over scientific information, and its emphasis on economic development over all else.
Today, the risk of another Chernobyl looms in the mismanagement of nuclear power in the developing world. A moving and definitive account, Chernobyl is also an urgent call to action.
As prize-winning historian Serhii Plokhy reveals in The Last Empire, the collapse of the Soviet Union was anything but the handiwork of the United States. On the contrary, American leaders dreaded the possibility that the Soviet Union -- weakened by infighting and economic turmoil -- might suddenly crumble, throwing all of Eurasia into chaos. Bush was firmly committed to supporting his ally and personal friend Gorbachev, and remained wary of nationalist or radical leaders such as recently elected Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Fearing what might happen to the large Soviet nuclear arsenal in the event of the union's collapse, Bush stood by Gorbachev as he resisted the growing independence movements in Ukraine, Moldova, and the Caucasus. Plokhy's detailed, authoritative account shows that it was only after the movement for independence of the republics had gained undeniable momentum on the eve of the Ukrainian vote for independence that fall that Bush finally abandoned Gorbachev to his fate.
Drawing on recently declassified documents and original interviews with key participants, Plokhy presents a bold new interpretation of the Soviet Union's final months and argues that the key to the Soviet collapse was the inability of the two largest Soviet republics, Russia and Ukraine, to agree on the continuing existence of a unified state. By attributing the Soviet collapse to the impact of American actions, US policy makers overrated their own capacities in toppling and rebuilding foreign regimes. Not only was the key American role in the demise of the Soviet Union a myth, but this misplaced belief has guided -- and haunted -- American foreign policy ever since.
Situated between Central Europe, Russia, and the Middle East, Ukraine was shaped by the empires that used it as a strategic gateway between East and West -- from the Roman and Ottoman empires to the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. For centuries, Ukraine has been a meeting place of various cultures. The mixing of sedentary and nomadic peoples and Christianity and Islam on the steppe borderland produced the class of ferocious warriors known as the Cossacks, for example, while the encounter between the Catholic and Orthodox churches created a religious tradition that bridges Western and Eastern Christianity. Ukraine has also been a home to millions of Jews, serving as the birthplace of Hassidism -- and as one of the killing fields of the Holocaust.
Plokhy examines the history of Ukraine's search for its identity through the lives of the major figures in Ukrainian history: Prince Yaroslav the Wise of Kyiv, whose daughter Anna became queen of France; the Cossack ruler Ivan Mazepa, who was immortalized in the poems of Byron and Pushkin; Nikita Khrushchev and his protege-turned-nemesis Leonid Brezhnev, who called Ukraine their home; and the heroes of the Maidan protests of 2013 and 2014, who embody the current struggle over Ukraine's future.
As Plokhy explains, today's crisis is a tragic case of history repeating itself, as Ukraine once again finds itself in the center of the battle of global proportions. An authoritative history of this vital country, The Gates of Europe provides a unique insight into the origins of the most dangerous international crisis since the end of the Cold War.
At the conference held in in Moscow in October 1943, American officials proposed to their Soviet allies a new operation in the effort to defeat Nazi Germany. The Normandy Invasion was already in the works; what American officials were suggesting until then was a second air front: the US Air Force would establish bases in Soviet-controlled territory, in order to "shuttle-bomb" the Germans from the Eastern front. For all that he had been pushing for the United States and Great Britain to do more to help the war effort--the Soviets were bearing by far the heaviest burden in terms of casualties--Stalin, recalling the presence of foreign troops during the Russian Revolution, balked at the suggestion of foreign soldiers on Soviet soil. His concern was that they would spy on his regime, and it would be difficult to get rid of them afterword. Eventually in early 1944, Stalin was persuaded to give in, and Operation Baseball and then Frantic were initiated. B-17 Flying Fortresses were flown from bases in Italy to the Poltava region in Ukraine.
As Plokhy's book shows, what happened on these airbases mirrors the nature of the Grand Alliance itself. While both sides were fighting for the same goal, Germany's unconditional surrender, differences arose that no common purpose could overcome. Soviet secret policeman watched over the operations, shadowing every move, and eventually trying to prevent fraternization between American servicemen and local women. A catastrophic air raid by the Germans revealed the limitations of Soviet air defenses. Relations soured and the operations went south. Indeed, the story of the American bases foreshadowed the eventual collapse of the Grand Alliance and the start of the Cold War. Using previously inaccessible archives, Forgotten Bastards offers a bottom-up history of the Grand Alliance, showing how it first began to fray on the airfields of World War II.
Imagine you could eavesdrop on a dinner party with three of the most fascinating historical figures of all time. In this landmark book, a gifted Harvard historian puts you in the room with Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt as they meet at a climactic turning point in the war to hash out the terms of the peace.
The ink wasn't dry when the recriminations began. The conservatives who hated Roosevelt's New Deal accused him of selling out. Was he too sick? Did he give too much in exchange for Stalin's promise to join the war against Japan? Could he have done better in Eastern Europe? Both Left and Right would blame Yalta for beginning the Cold War.
Plokhy's conclusions, based on unprecedented archival research, are surprising. He goes against conventional wisdom-cemented during the Cold War- and argues that an ailing Roosevelt did better than we think. Much has been made of FDR's handling of the Depression; here we see him as wartime chief. Yalta is authoritative, original, vividly- written narrative history, and is sure to appeal to fans of Margaret MacMillan's bestseller Paris 1919.
In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimea and attempted to seize a portion of Ukraine -- only the latest iteration of a centuries-long effort to expand Russian boundaries and create a pan-Russian nation. In Lost Kingdom, award-winning historian Serhii Plokhy argues that we can only understand the confluence of Russian imperialism and nationalism today by delving into the nation's history. Spanning over 500 years, from the end of the Mongol rule to the present day, Plokhy shows how leaders from Ivan the Terrible to Joseph Stalin to Vladimir Putin exploited existing forms of identity, warfare, and territorial expansion to achieve imperial supremacy.
An authoritative and masterful account of Russian nationalism, Lost Kingdom chronicles the story behind Russia's belligerent empire-building quest.
A harrowing account of the Cuban missile crisis and how the US and USSR came to the brink of nuclear apocalypse.
Nearly thirty years after the end of the Cold War, today’s world leaders are abandoning disarmament treaties, building up their nuclear arsenals, and exchanging threats of nuclear strikes. To survive this new atomic age, we must relearn the lessons of the most dangerous moment of the Cold War: the Cuban missile crisis.
Serhii Plokhy’s Nuclear Folly offers an international perspective on the crisis, tracing the tortuous decision-making that produced and then resolved it, which involved John Kennedy and his advisers, Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro, and their commanders on the ground. In breathtaking detail, Plokhy vividly recounts the young JFK being played by the canny Khrushchev; the hotheaded Castro willing to defy the USSR and threatening to align himself with China; the Soviet troops on the ground clearing jungle foliage in the tropical heat, and desperately trying to conceal nuclear installations on Cuba, which were nonetheless easily spotted by U-2 spy planes; and the hair-raising near misses at sea that nearly caused a Soviet nuclear-armed submarine to fire its weapons.
More often than not, the Americans and Soviets misread each other, operated under false information, and came perilously close to nuclear catastrophe. Despite these errors, nuclear war was ultimately avoided for one central reason: fear, and the realization that any escalation on either the Soviets’ or the Americans’ part would lead to mutual destruction.
Drawing on a range of Soviet archival sources, including previously classified KGB documents, as well as White House tapes, Plokhy masterfully illustrates the drama and anxiety of those tense days, and provides a way for us to grapple with the problems posed in our present day.
A thrilling tale of Soviet spy craft, complete with exploding parcels, elaborately staged coverups, double agents, and double crosses, The Man with the Poison Gun offers unparalleled insight into the shadowy world of Cold War espionage.
Driven by an urban "bourgeoisie" that rejected the hierarchies of industrial society in favor of a post-modern heterarchy, a previously passive post-Soviet country experienced a profound social revolution that generated new senses: "Dignity" and "fairness" became rallying cries for millions. Europe as the symbolic target of political aspiration gradually faded, but the impact (including on Europe) of Ukraine's revolution remained. When Russia invaded—illegally annexing Crimea and then feeding continuous military conflict in the Donbas—, Ukrainians responded with a massive volunteer effort and touching patriotism. In the process, they transformed their country, the region, and indeed the world.
This book provides a chronicle of Ukraine's Maidan and Russia's ongoing war, and puts forth an analysis of the Revolution of Dignity from the perspective of a participant observer.
Ukraine and Europe challenges the popular perception of Ukraine as a country torn between Europe and the east. Twenty-two scholars from Europe, North America, and Australia explore the complexities of Ukraine’s relationship with Europe and its role the continent’s historical and cultural development.
Encompassing literary studies, history, linguistics, and art history, the essays in this volume illuminate the interethnic, interlingual, intercultural, and international relationships that Ukraine has participated in. The volume is divided chronologically into three parts: the early modern era, the 19th and 20th century, and the Soviet/post-Soviet period. Ukraine in Europe offers new and innovative interpretations of historical and cultural moments while establishing a historical perspective for the pro-European sentiments that have arisen in Ukraine following the Euromaidan protests.