Intent to Destroy

Russia’s Two-Hundred-Year Quest to Dominate Ukraine

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By Eugene Finkel

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The full story of how and why Russia has tried to violently subjugate Ukraine across the centuries, and how Ukrainians have resisted

Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 shocked the world. And yet, to Ukrainians, this attack was painfully familiar, the latest episode in a centuries-long Russian campaign to divide and oppress Ukraine.  
In Intent to Destroy, political scientist Eugene Finkel uncovers these deep roots of the Russo-Ukrainian War. Ukraine is a key borderland between Russia and the West, and, following the rise of Russian nationalism in the nineteenth century, dominating Ukraine became the cornerstone of Russian policy. Russia has long used genocidal tactics—killings, deportations, starvation, and cultural destruction—to successfully crush Ukrainian efforts to chart an independent path. As Finkel shows, today’s violence is simply a more extreme version of the Kremlin’s long-standing policy. But unlike in the past, the people of Ukraine—motivated by the rise of democracy in their nation—have overcome their deep internal divisions. For the first time, they have united in favor of independence from Russia. 
Whatever the outcome of the present war, Ukraine’s staunch resistance has permanently altered its relationship to Russia and the West. Intent to Destroy offers the vital context we need to truly understand Europe’s bloodiest conflict since World War II.
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  • “A powerful indictment of Russia’s centuries-long obsession with eliminating the Ukrainian identity, language, and people.”
    Yaroslav Trofimov, author of Our Enemies Will Vanish
  • “An unprovoked invasion, a forced-adoption program, massacres of civilians, the upending of truth, a jagged ‘Z’ symbol deployed to signal loyalty to a repressive regime—the parallels between present and past in Russia's war on Ukraine are breathtaking. A work of deep expertise and sober sensitivity, Intent to Destroy connects these threads and details the repeated waves of devastation that have resulted from Russia's long-term obsession with eradicating Ukraine's separate identity.”
    Charles King, New York Times–bestselling author of Gods of the Upper Air
  • “Eugene Finkel tells a story of violence, identity, and the final stages of empire in Europe—the story of Ukraine. Starting with attempts by Imperial Russia in the nineteenth century to destroy Ukrainian identity, Intent to Destroy stretches through Stalin's genocidal famine in the 1930s, to Putin's invasion today. However, as Finkel shows, Ukrainian identity, even in military or political defeat, survived until the collapse of the Soviet Union; since then, and especially since 2014, it has evolved into something powerful and enduring. This is a book that can help explain the most important war and geopolitical crisis in Europe today and which does so with clarity, learning and sensitivity. Anyone interested in understanding what is happening in Ukraine today should read it.”
    Phillips Payson O’Brien, author of The Strategists

On Sale
Nov 19, 2024
Page Count
336 pages
Basic Books

Eugene Finkel

About the Author

Eugene Finkel is Kenneth H. Keller Professor of International Affairs at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. The author or coauthor of three previous books, his writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Foreign Affairs. He was born in Lviv, Ukraine, and lives in Bologna, Italy.

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