The history and myths that made Russia

How did Russia's longstanding sense of grievance morph into a civil religion?

How did Russia come to be the kind of nation that it is? What are the roots of its particular identity? Gregory Carleton and Serhii Plokhy take on these questions, and both turn to similar events in the nation’s history and parse out their meanings in a similar way. But their histories are very different, and thus it is instructive to read them together.

Plokhy, who teaches at Harvard University, is interested in how Russian identity came to encompass Ukrainian identity, why it constantly feels the need to threaten Ukrainian independence in the name of a unified Russia, and what this means for the future of the geopolitical area. But Lost Kingdom does not begin where so many histories of Russia begin.

Typically, such histories, especially of the romantic variety, begin in the tenth century when Prince Volodymyr (Uk­rain­i­an spelling) or Vladimir (Rus­sian spelling) united himself and his people with Orthodox Christianity, thus establishing his kingdom as an enemy to the invading Mongols and pitting Christ­ianity against Islam. The center of Rus’, as this short-lived kingdom came to be called, was Kyiv (Russian spelling: Kiev), and Russians have claimed it as the beginning place of their civilization.