The beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022 shocked the world, setting off the largest-scale land war in Europe since at least the Balkan wars of the 1990s, and driving more than 1.5 million civilians to flee to countries to the west. Russian President Vladimir Putin had delivered an ultimatum while massing his forces on Ukraine’s borders: either Moscow would be given iron-clad assurances that Ukraine would never join NATO, or it would take military action. But days before giving the order to invade, Putin gave a speech indicating that his aims were broader still: reuniting Ukraine with Russia in shared nationhood based on deep historical connections.

In fact, the 2022 war in Ukraine is the culmination of years of clashes pitting Ukrainian aspirations for democracy and membership in European institutions against Russian security anxieties and desires for control of its neighbor. These tensions first broke out into war in 2014. After Ukrainians launched mass protests against then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s move to end talks on economic partnership with the European Union and his decision to sign an agreement with Moscow instead, forcing him to flee the country, Russia seized the Ukrainian Black Sea territory of Crimea and supported a pro-Russian separatist insurgency in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas. That armed conflict has left more than 14,000 people dead to date, as well as sending hundreds of thousands of displaced people into other parts of Ukraine.

Current History has regularly covered these developments, publishing essays commissioned from a range of scholars to address various aspects of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, as well as trends within each country and in Russia’s relations with other neighbors in its “near abroad.” From Ukraine’s struggles to build a durable democracy to Putin’s tightening autocratic rule in Russia, and the emergence of new forms of nationalism in both countries, this virtual issue offers free access to a broad spectrum of articles that will provide a comprehensive source for any readers at any level of expertise seeking to know more about the background to the war in Ukraine. For more articles on these topics we invite you to search the available Current History archive at or to explore past regional issues. And expect more coverage of the latest developments in our upcoming October 2022 issue on the region.

War and Nation-Building in Ukraine

Russia’s Recolonization of Crimea
Austin Charron

Ukraine’s Emerging Security State
Serhiy Kudelia

Everyday Life in Ukraine’s War Zone
Greta Uehling

The Battle for Historical Memory in Postrevolutionary Ukraine
Oxana Shevel

Can Ukraine Save Its Revolution?
Andrew Wilson

Russian Nationalism and Ukraine
Marlene Laruelle

Russia and Putin

The Art of Navalny and the History of Corruption
Alexander Etkind

Russia’s Incoherent State
Jeremy Morris

Is Putinism the Russian Norm or an Aberration?
Michael McFaul

What Drives Moscow’s Military Adventurism?
Pavel K. Baev

The End of Ambiguity in Russia
Samuel A. Greene

The Purpose of Putin’s Machismo
Valerie Sperling

More on Russia’s “Near Abroad”

Catastrophe and Denial in Belarus
David R. Marples

Latvia’s Russian Questions
Kevin M. F. Platt