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Ireland and Ukraine: Studies in Comparative Imperial and National History: A path-breaking book that answers pertinent questions

Work opens up fresh perspective on European history and politics, exploring details of conquests, famines and independence movements

Ireland and Ukraine, Studies in Comparative Imperial and National History
Author: Edited by Stephen Velychenko, Joseph Ruane and Liudmyla Hrynevych
ISBN-13: 978-3838216652
Publisher: ibidem press
Guideline Price: €69.90

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shocked Europe and disrupted the world. Suddenly these events become highly relevant in everyday terms, provoking many questions as to their origin and meaning. This impressive book will help answer them. It brings together distinguished Irish and Ukrainian historians and social scientists to analyse and document the many similarities and differences between the two countries’ imperial, colonial and national pasts.

In doing so it opens up fresh comparative perspectives on European history and politics. These help explain why Irish people have responded with such spontaneous solidarity towards Ukraine’s suffering as a shared historical experience.

The book contributes originally to the wider revival of research on comparative imperial and colonial history. Traditional distinctions between seaborne and land-based empires have found Irish historians concentrating on non-European comparisons of the colonial experience, rather than seeking out similarities between British, Russian, Ottoman and Habsburg empires in Europe.

Here the editors and authors ask whether and where settler colonial models apply in Europe and how Russian and British imperial rule compares in Ireland and Ukraine. They explore in detail how such rule plays out through their long histories, famines, respective nationalist and independence movements and in their ethnic and cultural minorities.


Differences loom larger the deeper a number of the analyses go. Joseph Ruane emphasises Ireland’s distinctive exposure to British state-building after it was colonised, while Donnacha Ó Beacháin and Stephen Velychenko make more of the continuing imperial context. Liam Kennedy argues strongly that British ideology and policy towards Ireland in the Famine cannot be compared to the intentionally state terrorist policies of Stalin’s regime towards Ukraine in the 1930s famine, the Holodomor. Hiroaki Kuromiya trenchantly disputes comparisons between the Donbas region and Northern Ireland as imperial enclaves.

Overall Ukraine’s imperial experience has been far more violent than Ireland’s, Roisin Healy shows. Its exposure to several empires makes it much more diverse ethnically and religiously, according to Alfred Rieben. For all that the similarities of imperial rule and national resistance also resonate strongly through this path-breaking book.

Paul Gillespie

Paul Gillespie

Dr Paul Gillespie is a columnist with and former foreign-policy editor of The Irish Times