From Tonny Media’s podcast Until the Bomb Drops to the book We Need to Talk About Putin by Mark Galeotti and the Venice Biennale: in this guide, we’re putting together our editors’ reading, watching, and listening tips on the war in Ukraine a row.
Mark Galeotti | We need to talk about Putin
There are quite a few western myths about the Russian leader. Time for some clarification: from the year 2000, British Russia expert Mark Galeotti reasons back to the present, to explain how Putin thinks and acts. In the compact We Need to Talk About Putin, Galeotti offers a different perspective on the myths. He explains how Putin’s recent political thinking works: a must for those who want to know what goes on in Putin’s head. Published by Prometheus.
Marc Jansen | Borderland: A History of Ukraine
For centuries, Ukraine was in the shock zone where the great powers of Eastern Europe collided, with the current war being the most recent example. The first version of Grensland: A History of Ukraine was published in 2015, followed by an expanded and revised version in 2017, and today the book is once again relevant. The book explains how the country has formed despite all the unrest, in the broadest sense of the word. Published by Van Oorschot.
Hubert Smeets | Putin’s Revenge
Former Russia correspondent Hubert Smeets shows in his 2015 book how Russia has increasingly turned away from the West since Putin came to power. Putin’s revenge is a razor-sharp yet sobering analysis of the complex situation that has arisen since the Russian annexation of Crimea and the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. This makes it especially suitable for those who want more depth in the context of the war. Published by Prometheus.
Michel Krielaars | War with Russia
A frequently heard political criticism of the war in Ukraine is that people in Western Europe should have seen the war coming. Michel Krielaars, former correspondent and historian of Russia, illustrates the how and why of it. He starts with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and works his way up to the present: in 90 pages this book provides a clear overview of the road to war. Published by Pluim Publishers.
Need more book tips? Also read our article from February, in which the Books editors compiled a list of 15 recommendations on this topic: 15 books to better understand the war in Ukraine.
Photos AP Photo/Getty Images/AFP (Edit NRC)
Zelensky: Wartime President | NPO
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, as many know by now, has had an extraordinary career: before his presidency, he starred in the satirical TV series Servant of the People. The German documentary Zelensky: Wartime President describes how he suddenly became a real president after the success of a TV series. Particularly interesting: the portrait pays special attention to Zelensky’s deft use of his image as a war hero on social media.
Putin: A Russian Spy Story | NPO
Vladimir Putin also gained the necessary experience before he became president. In this three part documentary see how he uses his secret service experiences to lead the country and take on the opposition. It is a beautiful biography of the ‘dry, humorless little fighter’ who grew up in poverty in St Petersburg, how he was saved from the streets by his talent for judo and how he subsequently manifested himself in Russian politics. This documentary provides insight into how Putin became the man he is today.
The Rachman Review | Financial Times
Even before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, interest in geopolitical issues seemed to be growing. A podcast that embodies that excellently and regularly makes episodes about the war in Ukraine is The Rachman Review. Recently, a Ukrainian politician told how the parliament continued to work during the siege of Kiev. Presenter is Gideon Rachman, columnist and chief of the foreign affairs department of the Financial Times. Highly recommended for those who want to hear more about political relationships, which, despite the threats, are still presented in a sunny manner by Rachman.
Before the bomb falls | Tonny Media
Before the Bomb Falls is a soberly arranged podcast: Jelle Brandt Corstius in front of a microphone, every day, with an analysis of the war in Ukraine based on his knowledge of Russia. He looks at the reaction of the Russian population and tries to explain current developments from the history of Russia and the Soviet Union. Brandt Corstius talks about articles he sees in the Russian media, from Kremlin propaganda or a single independent but highly censored newspaper. Therefore, Before the Bomb Falls is also recommended for people who are interested in how they deal with the media in Russia.
Ukrainecast | BBC
At breakneck speed, when the war started, a podcast was created at the BBC, using the same format as the Newscast. A daily podcast to report on developments in Ukraine. In the beginning, the focus was mainly on the impact on the population and the way in which Putin’s warfare surprised Europe, but now there is a lot of focus on specific events and their impact. Recommended for those who have just stopped with the daily Ukraine news stream and are looking for more depth.
Additional tips for podcast episodes, made by NRC:
Zelensky Mows Down Ukrainian Parliament in Servant of the PeopleScreenshot from Servant of the People Series
Servant of the People | Netflix
This is the series we referred to earlier: this Ukrainian comedy series made Zelensky a star. He plays a history teacher who suddenly becomes president and brings a breath of fresh air to his corrupt country. Good idea, the voters thought, and they elected Zelensky as real president after the last season. Highly recommended to get an entertaining glimpse into Zelensky’s beliefs.
Chernobyl | HBO Max
Chernobyl is a must for those who want to know more about how the Soviets thought in the 80s of the last century, and how Russia can still run today. This suspenseful five-part series about the disaster of the famous Ukrainian nuclear power plant in 1986, provides a sobering picture of the blunders, lies and cynical scheming of the Soviet regime.
Kalush Orchestra – Stefania
The Kalush Orchestra’s combative folk-rap won the Eurovision Song Contest with the song Stefania. It was about the mother of rapper Psiuk, but when the war started it took on a deeper meaning: it became an ode to the motherland. “We wake up every morning with the question whether our family and friends are still alive,” they told NRC for the Eurovision Song Contest.
Oxxxymiron – Charity Concert
A Russian? Yes, one of Russia’s most famous rappers, Miron Yanovich Fyodorov, immediately cut off his tour of Russia when Putin invaded Ukraine. He organizes a series of charity concerts, ‘Russians Against War’ (RAW), including in Istanbul, Berlin and London, and calls on his Russian fans to turn against their government’s misinformation. His last concert, in Berlin, is on YouTube†
Valentyn Silvestrov – five works
Ukraine’s foremost composer fled his hometown of Kiev after the invasion. He survived the Soviet era, when the authorities censored or ignored his work. Now he found asylum in Berlin, with his daughter and granddaughter. His tranquil works now resound all over the world as a reminder of human values.
The design of the ‘Fountain of Exhaustion’ (Fountain of Exhaustion). Statue Pavlo Makov
Ukraine submitted a special entry for its pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Pavlo Makov, artist from Kharkov, has been working on the Fountain of Exhaustion since 1995. A work that has been shown more often over the years, sometimes with an addition, based on the conviction that it was not the work that changed, but the world around the work. 72 copper funnels on the wall in the shape of a pyramid that hang in Venice do not show the power and inexhaustibility that fountains often symbolize. With each row, less and less water trickles down the funnels: the work symbolizes the undermining of the idea of power, display of power, but painfully enough also of the exhaustion that every imperialist model – in this case Russian imperialism – entails.
The Ukrainian Pavilion can be seen at the Venice Biennale from April 23 to November 27.
Julian Röpke – journalist at the German newspaper Bild. Pro-Ukrainian, but gives objective information. At home in analyzing technical, public sources, but presenting them comprehensibly.
Ostint account – ‘open source intelligence’ account, which provides analysis based on public sources that gives ordinary citizens an idea of how the war is developing.
Olga Tokariuk – independent journalist, including for Hromadske, an independent Ukrainian media brand. Also a researcher in disinformation. Shares both current affairs and research.
Oksans Step-up Chuk – political scientist from Ukraine, she mainly shares images and stories of eyewitnesses of the war.
Sergei Radchenko – internationally renowned historian specializing in the Cold War and the period afterwards. Shares many of his own views on the war in Ukraine.
Rob Lee – military analyst from the United Kingdom, focused on Russian defense policy.
Alex Kokcharov – political analyst from the United Kingdom, specializing in tensions in Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic States, among others.
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