© Historisches Kolleg / Stefan Obermeier
Before 24 February 2022, Putin’s regime seemed to many primarily interested in maintaining its own power and personal enrichment. But that does not really explain Russia’s renewed attack on Ukraine, the brutality of the warfare or the hate propaganda. Martin Schulze Wessel places the war in the context of Russia’s expansion into Eastern Europe and shows how the country’s imperial past continues to impact the present.
The principles of freedom, democracy and national self-determination are under attack in Ukraine today. This may sound melodramatic, but the historian of Eastern Europe Martin Schulze Wessel justifies this position masterfully with a history of the Russia Empire. Eruditely retracing the history of Russia, Poland and Ukraine since Peter the Great, he describes how Moscow’s imperial policy towards its neighbours was accompanied by an anti-Western attitude that persists to this day. An oppressive history lesson, his book opens our eyes to the mindset of Putin and his regime and its contempt for a diverse Western civil society.
Martin Schulze Wessel is a professor of Eastern and Southern European history at the University of Munich, and a member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. From 2012 to 2016 he was chairman of the German Historians’ Association.