"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Battle of Poltava

Serhii Plokhy, the Mykhailo Hrushevsky Professor of Ukrainian History at Harvard University, has done so much to advance our understanding of East-Slavic history, one integral part of which, of course, is its religious history, which he has treated in such books as Religion and Nation in Modern Ukraine (2003), co-authored with Frank Sysyn; The Cossacks and Religion in Early Modern Ukraine (Oxford, 2002); and Tsars and Cossacks: A Study in Iconography (Harvard, 2002). He is also the author of a fascinating story about the end of World War II and the Yalta conference, to which I drew attention here

Now he has come out with a new collection of articles under his editorship: Poltava 1709: The Battle and the Myth (Harvard Papers in Ukrainian Studies) (2012), 480pp.

About this book, the publisher tells us: 
The Battle of Poltava has long been recognized as a crucial event in the geopolitical history of Europe and a decisive point in the Great Northern War between Sweden and the Russian Empire. The Russian victory at Poltava contributed to the decline of Sweden as a Great Power and was a major setback to Ukrainian independence. Hetman Ivan Mazepa, who joined forces with the Swedish king Charles XII against Tsar Peter I, remains a controversial figure even today.
In 2009, the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute gathered scholars from around the globe and from many fields of study—history, military affairs, philology, linguistics, literature, art history, music—to mark the 300th anniversary of the battle. This book is a collection of their papers on such topics as the international, Russian, and Ukrainian contexts of the battle; Mazepa in European culture; the language and literature of the period; art and architecture; history and memory; and fact, fiction, and the literary imagination. Mazepa himself is the focus of many of the articles—a hero to Ukrainians but a treacherous figure to Russians. This book provides a fresh look at this watershed event and sheds new light on the legacies of the battle’s major players.

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