C. Max Magee of The Millions has an annual tradition of asking people to talk about books they’ve read and enjoyed during the previous year, and he has once again begun the series with my contribution; here it is, featuring my recommendations of Timothy Snyder’s The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999, discussed on LH here, and Yuri Slezkine’s Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North, discussed briefly here and here, along with a few others. It’s always an honor to lead off the parade, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing what books got other participants excited enough to write about.


  1. Poland, to me, was a land over which German and Russian armies fought, and Ukraine and Belorussia (as it was then) were just bits of the Soviet Union that the Kremlin pretended were independent enough to be member states of the UN.

    If the federated Soviet republics were member states of the UN, it’s news to me. Sure you didn’t mean Hungary and Czechoslovakia?

  2. J.W. Brewer says

    Harrumph. When I was a lad, Every Schoolboy Knew (or at least I did, although I was admittedly more interested in atlases and flags and things like that than perhaps the median schoolboy was) that for wacky historical reasons the Ukrainian SSR and Byelorussian [sp? maybe it varied a bit in Anglophone sources in those days] SSR had their own seats in the UN.

  3. Well I’ll be damned: “Ultimately two Soviet Republics (Ukrainian SSR and Byelorussian SSR) were admitted as full members of the UN, so between 1945–1991 the Soviet Union was represented by three seats in the United Nations.” (Wiki)
    I honestly had no idea.

  4. Young people today, I tell you. No grasp of history.

  5. Which is why we come here, to be enlightened. Well, that and the stories of the world before electricity…

  6. Uphill both ways, I tell you! My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead and that’s the way I likes it.

  7. It was a compromise so that the Soviet Union would allow the U.N. to award separate seats to India and New Zealand, neither of which was fully sovereign de jure at the time. In addition, the Philippines was still a U.S. commonwealth. Of course, all four (given the partition of India) were sovereign by 1947, whereas Ukraine and Belarus didn’t become sovereign until 1991.

  8. My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead and that’s the way I likes it. My vehicle gets 40 leagues to the bale of hay …

  9. Thanks Hat! LH and friends are now the best predictors of my reading life, as I duly followed their ways into Vasiliy Grossman, into Snyder, and into A Biography of No Place, into Walter Ong (this one is due either to Greg the Slawk or Stu the Grumbly). Thanks you all!

  10. Bring Up the Bodies. Hilary Mantel.
    It’s good enough to make me consider a return to reading fiction routinely. But is there anyone else around who’s this good?

  11. Yeah, I’m dying to read Wolf’s Hall (which I have) and continue on, but am wondering if I should wait for the final volume to appear.

  12. Read them again when the last one comes out; it’s not going to be for a long time. I don’t know if I’ll be able to stand to read the last one: the hero’s going to get his head chopped off.

  13. I already read that scene as Ford Madox Ford tells it, so I’m inoculated.

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