Any middle-ager can recall that Christmas Day in 1991 brought America a monumental present -- an American victory in the Cold War. It was marked by an address from President George H. W. Bush and the resignation of Mikhail Gorbachev as Soviet president.
As reviewer Anne Applebaum, a Pulitzer prize author, states, "....for the first time, Serhii Plokhy tells the story not just from the point of view of Moscow and not from Washington, but also from Kyiv and the other republics where many of the most important decisions were actually made."
Among the subjects the author discusses and insights he provides are:
*How the collapse of the USSR had very little to do with US policies -- in fact, until the last minute, the US tried to save the empire.
*How even after letting the republics go, "Russia dreamed about bringing them back into a Moscow-run sphere of influence. Putin's (current) policy has its roots in 1991."
*Today's Ukrainian crisis could be just the beginning of the new world wide rivalry with Russia.
*How what we see in the region today threatens to destroy the world order based on the sanctity of the borders negotiated in 1991 as the Soviet Union was falling apart.
Author Serhii Plokhy is a professor of Ukrainian History and director of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University.
The Great and Holy War -- How World War I Became a Religious Crusade by Philip Jenkins, HarperOne '14, $29.99, 438 pages, ASIN #0062105094. Index, notes, illustration credits, b&w images sprinkled through text.
"The war was fought by the world's leading Christian nations, who presented the conflict as a holy war. Thanks to the emergence of modern media, a steady stream of patriotic and militaristic rhetoric was given to an unprecedented audience, using language that spoke of holy war and crusade, of apocalypse and Armageddon.
"But this rhetoric was not mere state propaganda. Jenkins reveals how the widespread belief in angels and apparitions, visions and the supernatural, was a driving force throughout the war and shaped all three of the Abrahamic religions -- Christianity, Judaism, and Islam -- paving the way for modern views of religions and violence. The disappointed hopes and moral compromises that followed the war also shaped the political climate of the rest of the century, giving rise to such phenomena as Nazism, totalitarianism, and communism."
Author Philip Jenkins is a professor of history and member of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. He has written several previous books.