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  • Published: 6 February 2024
  • ISBN: 9781802061789
  • Imprint: Penguin Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • RRP: $24.99

The Russo-Ukrainian War

From the bestselling author of Chernobyl

Urgent, compelling reading from the author of Chernobyl on the defining conflict of our times: do you know what is at stake in Ukraine?

On 24 February 2022, Russia shocked the world by launching an invasion of Ukraine. In the midst of checking on loved ones who were now on the front lines of Europe's largest conflict since the Second World War, acclaimed Ukrainian-American historian Serhii Plokhy inevitably found himself attempting to understand the deeper causes of the invasion, analysing its course and contemplating the wider consequences.

The Russo-Ukrainian War is the comprehensive history of a conflict that has burned since 2014, and that, with Russia's attempt to seize Kyiv, exploded a geo-political order that had been cemented since the end of the Cold War. With an eye for the gripping detail on the ground, both in the halls of power and down in the trenches, as well as a keen sense of the grander sweep of history, Plokhy traces the origins and the evolution of the conflict, from the collapse of the Russian empire to the rise and fall of the USSR, and on to the development in Ukraine of a democratic politics soon loathed by its neighbour in the east.

Plokhy argues that Ukraine's defiance of Russia, and the West's demonstration of unity and strength, has presented a profound challenge to Putin's Great Power ambition, and further polarized the world along a new axis. A riveting, enlightening account, this is present-minded history at its best.

  • Published: 6 February 2024
  • ISBN: 9781802061789
  • Imprint: Penguin Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • RRP: $24.99

About the author

Serhii Plokhy

Serhii Plokhy is Professor of History at Harvard University and a leading authority on the Cold War and nuclear history. His books include the Baillie Gifford award-winner Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy, Nuclear Folly, The Gates of Europe and The Last Empire.

Also by Serhii Plokhy

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Praise for The Russo-Ukrainian War

The world's foremost historian of Ukraine. . . the chronicler of a country on the front lines of a seismic European war

Financial Times

An utterly compelling account, deeply personal, persuasively authoritative, surely the must-read book for this challenging moment

Philippe Sands, author of East West Street

For those trying to understand the roots of the war in Ukraine, there is no better guide than Serhii Plokhy. It's impossible to make sense of the Russian invasion of 2022 without knowing something of the history - recent and less recent - and the struggle for Ukrainian national identity; this compelling and lucid book illuminates both

Lindsey Hilsum, author of In Extremis

The essential book for the Russia-Ukraine war - superb, accessible and erudite - by the world's chief expert. The must-read work

Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of The World: A Family History

The thread of history is central to understanding Putin's invasion of Ukraine. Serhii Plokhy outlines this in fascinating detail and reminds us of the constant fragility of peace

David Lammy

The great chronicler of Ukraine breaks new ground in his rigorous and elegant analysis of Europe's biggest conflict since 1945. Wonderfully readable and deeply personal

Luke Harding, Observer

This magisterial book by a leading historian explains how long-held Russian imperial delusions lay behind the attack on Ukraine. It brilliantly outlines the dangers of perverse history

David Patrikarakos, The Times

Erudite, objective and immensely readable. A compelling rejoinder to those who, reductively, still blame Putin's war of aggression on western provocations, and an expression of faith in Ukrainian resilience

Ben Hall, Financial Times

Plokhy, a Harvard historian who has authored many respected books, is himself Ukrainian. . . this book represents an impassioned plea for his country

Sunday Times

Impressive and valuable... A clear, reliable and (in the circumstances) remarkably calm account of how we got here

John Simpson, Guardian

A feat of scholarship under pressure

Patrick Hudson, Tablet

Plokhy is a fine, crisp writer and does brilliant research. . . . There is so much more here to inform this huge and important debate that I can only urge anybody who cares about the matter to buy and read the book

Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday

A masterpiece of historical research that will give Western readers a much better understanding of Russia's motivations and the conflict's early months


The horrific war in Ukraine rumbles on, and perhaps it's a strange time for a history of the conflict to come out, but Serhii Plokhy is the perfect historian to write it. Plokhy has lost relatives and friends in the conflict, and The Russo-Ukrainian War details with well-constructed arguments the causes and consequences of Putin's gamble. It may be current affairs, but it's difficult not to argue the invasion is historic

Oliver Webb-Carter, Aspects of History

How did we get here? Serhii Plokhy, a professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard University, looks for an answer to Putin's irrational war in this important and magisterial account. . . He is excellent on the dangers of perverse history

The Times and Sunday Times Best Books for Summer

The foremost historian of Ukraine turns his attention to contemporary events. He argues that Russia's invasion is an act of old-fashioned imperialism. Plokhy uses his historical perspective to provide an original erudite and very readable account of the roots of the war and its course so far

Gideon Rachman, Financial Times Best Summer Books

Vladimir Putin's full invasion of Ukraine has made 2021 look like "vegetarian times", to borrow Anna Akhmatova's phrase. I'll be spending three weeks among the scrabbly pitch pines of Cape Cod, and of the stream of new books about the war itself, I plan to bring ... Serhii Plokhy's The Russo-Ukrainian War (Allen Lane), for its historical perspective on Ukraine and the Russian imperial project

Rebecca Reich, TLS Summer Books

This is one of those wars rooted deep in the past, and it takes an outstanding historian to make sense of its antecedents without falling into partisan cheerleading or cartoonish oversimplification. Fortunately, Serhii Plokhy is such a historian. His evident sympathy for his homeland never overpowers his scholarly instincts

Mark Galeotti, TLS

Plokhy has become an international celebrity. His books on Ukrainian history fly off the shelves as a domestic and international audience look to understand the history and culture of the country at the heart of the clash. His writings introduce readers to a history that is rarely taught in the West and explain the region's complex and difficult past

Daily Telegraph