The best books on Ukraine and Russia, recommended by Serhii Plokhy

Thousands of people have been killed since 2014 in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, in a war that has been rife with disinformation, misleading narratives and false flag operations. Here Serhii Plokhy, Professor of Ukrainian History at Harvard University, recommends books to better understand the conflict, from an introductory work by an eminent historian to the latest work of some of Ukraine’s leading novelists.

The best books on Catherine the Great, recommended by Andrei Zorin

She was born in 1729 as Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, a German princess, but by 1762 had become Empress of All Russia and went on to rule for 34 years as Catherine II. She regarded herself as an enlightened despot who embraced the ideas of the Enlightenment and consorted with the French philosophes. Russian historian Andrei Zorin introduces the remarkably industrious and able politician who is remembered as Catherine the Great.

The best books on The Cold War, recommended by Archie Brown

American military and economic superiority cannot explain why the Cold War came to an end in the late 1980s and early 1990s. According to the historian Archie Brown, you need to accept the primacy of politics and human agency both in the USSR and the West. He chooses five books to understand the Cold War and offers some broader reflections on the qualities of good political leadership—then and now.

The best books on 20th Century Russia, recommended by Francis Spufford

Reading about Russia’s 20th century is like finding another vision of how the world might have been. Francis Spufford, author of Red Plenty, recommends books that tell the story of Russia in the last century — from Soviet science fiction set in capitalist wastelands to Khrushchev as raconteur.

The best books on Revolutionary Russia, recommended by Thomas Keneally

Best-selling author Thomas Keneally explains that the Cold War biographies couldn’t afford to say that Stalin was attractive, or that Lenin was magnetic, but they were, because otherwise people wouldn’t have followed them. He picks some great introductions to Revolutionary Russia.