Norman Davies

Norman Davies is professor emeritus at University College London, an honorary fellow at St Antony's College, Oxford, and the author of several books on Polish and European history.

Volhynia and the forgotten massacre of the Second World War

Completely innocent men, women and children have been slaughtered. ‘Terrorism’ hardly suffices to describe the savage rampage beyond the Gaza Wall undertaken by men from Hamas on 7 October. In the aftermath of the Second World War, when knowledge emerged of the crimes perpetrated by Nazi Germans and their collaborators, humanity vowed ‘Never Again’. Yet the

How Russia lost Kazakhstan

Prior to Russia’s invasion in February 2022, few westerners knew much about Ukraine, and even less about Kazakhstan. We all suffer from Moscow-centred perceptions and the bad habit of equating the Soviet Union with Russia.  But now we know that Putin is driven by spurious historical theories, in which Ukraine has no right to exist,

Christmas in Ukraine and the ghosts of conflicts past

In Ukrainian, the name for Christmas is Ridztvo (Різдво), meaning ‘Nativity’. The Russian equivalent, used by one in three citizens in Ukraine, is Rozhdyestvo (Рождество). It is a season for hope and rebirth. Since, in the Slavic languages, all wishes or implied wishes are followed by the genitive case, the term for ‘Happy Christmas’ in Ukrainian comes out, none-too-simply,

What does Russia really want?

The question of ‘why’ Russia invaded Ukraine has been forgotten amid war’s fog. Greed and malice partially explains it. History, geopolitics and culture reveals more. A country which has more land than anyone else on Earth is not grabbing territory for territory’s sake. Logically, Russia should be giving away land to anyone who might manage it better.

War of words: a history of Ukraine’s language debate

It’s not often that ex-KGB officers blame Lenin for anything. But in his speech of 21 February 2022, on the eve of his ‘special military operation’, Vladimir Putin rounded on the founder of Bolshevism for creating the artificial Ukrainian state.  ‘Modern Ukraine was entirely created by…Bolshevik, Communist Russia,’ he declared; ‘and…in a way that was

A short history of language in Ukraine

After six months of war in Ukraine, most observers agree that the roots of Russian aggression lie in the country’s deep-rooted attitudes to culture and history. In line with Russia’s nationalist traditions, Putin denies any place for a separate Ukrainian identity. The Ukrainians, in contrast, see themselves as a proud nation with their own history,

The Dnieper rapids and why Putin does not belong in Ukraine

Za in Ukrainian – and other Slavic languages – means ‘Beyond’, and porohi means ‘the Rapids’; so Zaporizhia stands for ‘the place beyond the rapids’. It a nice irony that the place, whose threatened nuclear power plant has put it in the headlines, is connected to one of Europe’s most venerable historico-geographical sites. The Dnieper

The forgotten history of Poland and Ukraine

Since the outbreak of war in February there has been an overwhelming focus on the historical links between Russia and Ukraine, partly to counter Putin’s grand assertions that Kyiv belongs to Moscow. But this spotlight on Russia has meant the important history of Poland and Ukraine has been fatally overlooked. Ukraine was part of the

The rise and fall of Mariupol

Now that the city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov has been conquered by the Russian army, it is worth looking back at how the city was founded, conquered and destroyed. It is a history that both offers deep insight into the psyche of Russia – and also lays bare the remarkable foundations of

God and mammon

Krakow The greatest churchman of modern times is dead; and the most Catholic nation in Europe is bereft. John Paul II, ‘Papa Wojtyla’ has passed on to a better life. His faithful compatriots must fend for themselves. Men and women weep without shame. Requiem services are celebrated every hour from dawn till midnight. Congregations spill