The heroic resistance of Ukraine against Russia in the cruel war captured the whole world’s attention. But people are also interested in knowing more about Ukraine as a peaceful state — its sociopolitical landscape, history, culture, and the grounds for the Russian-Ukrainian war.
This desire to learn more is laudable. Obtaining accurate information about Ukraine’s culture and history is an effective weapon against Russia’s informational warfare. Because Putin tries to manipulate Ukraine’s history and deny our culture, language, and the very existence of the Ukrainian nation.
That’s why we decided to make a list of resources where you can read, listen, and watch more about Ukraine’s real history and culture. The podcasts, movies, and books we mention are in English — and either available for free or can be delivered abroad.
- Books on Ukraine’s Past and Present
- Movies and Documentaries about Modern Ukraine’s History
- Other Resources
Books on Ukraine’s Past and Present
1. A History Of Ukraine: A Short Course by Oleksandr Palii
If you want to find out more about Ukraine’s history from prehistoric times up until now, this is a great book to begin your journey. Ukrainian historian Alexander Palii has styled his narrative as a “crash course”. You get to learn the main historical events, facts, and pillars of Ukraine’s history and culture.
Available in two languages: Ukrainian and English on Amazon.
We all welcome you to travel around Ukraine once the war ends. But until then, you can read and explore all regions of our country with Ukraїner: The Book — a collection of visual and narrated essays about different corners of Ukraine. You’ll get to see the enormity of large cities and the coziness of Carpathian villages, the grandness of our mountains, and the width of our steppes. But most importantly, you will see our people — united, ambitious, and devoted to Ukraine.
3. Kobzar by Taras Shevchenko
Shevchenko is regarded as the most important Ukrainian poet, writer, artist, and public figure, whose works served as the basis for modern Ukrainian literature and language. In the eyes of the entire Ukrainian nation, Taras Shevchenko is a prophet. Every line from his poem book “Kobzar” holds true today, especially as Ukraine is facing Russian aggression. At the time of Shevchenko’s writing, Ukraine was occupied by the Russian empire too.
“Kobzar” English version translated by Peter Fedynsky is available on Amazon. There is also an illustrated edition of Shevchenko’s poem “Kateryna”, depicting the difficult fate of a Ukrainian woman deceived by a Russian soldier.
4. Awesome series
The independent Ukrainian publisher Osnovy Publishing, has created an inspiring series of guide books about Ukraine and its biggest cities:
- AWESOME UKRAINE features Ukraine’s national dishes, historical facts, cultural symbols, myths, pop culture. The book contains picturesque photos and is written with humor and healthy patriotism
- AWESOME DIGITAL UKRAINE tells about the history and development of Ukrainian computer science and technology, which enabled us to become one of the top IT destinations.
- AWESOME KYIV explores the local cultural phenomenon and vibrancy of Ukraine’s capital. A medley of medieval gold-dommed churches, Ukrainian baroque buildings, and hip modern venues, revitalizing the Soviet-era neo-modernism facades, you can get a glimpse into the beating heart and soul of pre-war Kyiv.
AWESOME KHARKIV tells the story of the strongest industrial and educational city in Ukraine. Unfortunately, the city has been under heavy shelling over the past two weeks with many historical buildings damaged. In this book, you can see how Kharkiv looked and felt before the war, and compare it to how we will recreate it in the future.
- AWESOME ODESA shows you the beauty and humor of Ukraine’s port city. Odesa is currently fully prepared to fight back the Russian aggression, with every resident ready to resist the enemy trying to occupy the once chill, golden beaches of Odesa.
- AWESOME LVIV lets you discover the rich history and artistic modern culture of the city that smells like coffee! At the moment, Lviv is one of the safe havens for Ukraine’s internally displaced people. In peaceful times, Lviv attracted thousands of local and foreign visitors with its rich cultural heritage and quirky dining venues.
5. Thinking Big: Innovation in Ukraine by Yurii Marchenko
Have you ever used the popular face-swapping app Reface that makes you look like a celebrity in a beat? Well, that’s one of the many Ukraine-born startups. Our crafty people keep doing a lot of innovative things! Thinking Big: Innovation in Ukraine deep dives into Ukraine’s innovative potential and showcases some of our most successful projects up to date.
6. The Art of Ukrainian Sixties by Olha Balashova
Ukraine’s resistance against the deadly regime did not start with this Russian war. Prior to 1991, Ukraine was occupied by the Soviet Union — a country that restricted Ukrainian culture, language, and history.
Even in the face of constant repression and arrests, Ukrainian artists created works of art. “The Art of Ukrainian Sixties” presents 15 artists who created nonconformist and “officially sanctioned” art during the 1960s, a period when the Soviet Union was gradually returning to Stalinism.
7. Collection of Books about Ukraine from “Exact Editions”
London digital publishing company Exact Editions is temporarily giving free access to their collection of books about Ukraine. Most of these books are from influential university presses and international publishing houses.
You will learn more about the history of Ukraine, the Russian-Ukrainian War, Crimea and the Crimean Tatars, and Putin’s methods of dictatorship and tyranny in these books.
Movies and Documentaries about Modern Ukraine’s History
1. Winter On Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom (2015)
The documentary explores how peaceful student protests turned into a Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine — when the nation realized its desire for freedom and made the decision to join the European Union.
Discover the sacrifices Ukrainians made during protests against Viktor Yanukovych — a former (fleeing) president who violently attacked demonstrations and wanted to propel Ukraine into stronger ties a Russia.
“Winter On Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom” is currently available on Netflix for free.
2. Ukraїner (2019)
Get a glimpse of everyday life in Ukraine — the art and craft, traditions and culture of ordinary Ukrainians. This movie features a series of video essays from different parts of Ukraine, where people tell different stories. But there is one factor that unites them all — their diversity and authenticity.
You can watch the Ukraїner documentary on YouTube in Ukrainian with subtitles in five languages.
3. Cyborgs: Heroes Never Die (2017)
The film covers the Battle of Donetsk Airport — a key milestone of the Russian-Ukrainian war that started in 2014. Ukrainian military personnel, mobilized people, and volunteers fought with the Russian army to protect the Donetsk Airport — a place that would allow easier deployment of Russian troops for further invasion.
“Cyborgs: Heroes Never Die” describes how the Ukrainian defenders sacrificed their civilian lives, learned military skills on the spot, and changed their perceptions of the world as they had to protect their homeland.
4. Mr. Jones (2019)
Soviet authorities sought to portray the Soviet Union to the outside world as a young powerful state of the wildest communist dreams. Yet behind the apparent equality of all people was a man-made terror-famine — Holodomor — which killed millions of Ukrainians.
The film depicts the story of a Welsh journalist Gareth Jones, who risked his life to become one of the first people in the world to spread the truth about the genocide of Ukrainians.
5. Homeward (2019)
”Homeward” tells a story of a father and a son, of Crimean Tatar descent — a family that lost their member in the Russian-Ukrainian war. They travel all the way to Kyiv to transport his body and bury it in their homeland, Crimea, which is temporarily occupied by Russia. Crimean Tatars, the indigenous population of this peninsula, have been suffering greatly under the Russian occupation both during Soviet times and now.
1. We Are Ukraine Repository
Volunteers and journalists created a repository with information about Ukraine. This repository consists of images, each accompanied by a one-sentence description. The news covers a wide range of topics: the Russian-Ukrainian war, world support, history & culture, economics, sports, etc. Those images are downloadable. Volunteers invite everyone to use them for materials about Ukraine or to share them on social media.
2. Chytomo Portal
Chytomo features blogs written by Ukrainian journalists, artists, writers, and critics. Featured here are news and opinions on Ukraine’s culture of reading, the book publishing industry, architecture, music, etc. Recently, authors have been revealing how the war influences Ukraine’s culture.
3. Ukraїner Blog
Ukraїner is a project dedicated to the constant exploration of Ukraine’s best-known and most unknown destinations. Filming their experiences in National Geographic style, authors share documentaries and travel videos on their YouTube channel.
Separately, the team runs a website, where they share written stories about the people they’ve met and their everyday lives, along with great photographs from their trips. Ukraїner offers a lot of information on the different regions of Ukraine and topics ranging from aviation and business to crafts and farming.
Their blog is available in 12 different languages, including English.
4. Ukraine World Blog and Podcast
Ukraine World portal has blog posts, videos, and infographics about the current situation in Ukraine, the state of affairs in Belarus, and Russian aggression in Ukraine. The authors also analyze how the Ukrainian government has introduced reforms in order to integrate with the European Union.
Particularly interesting is their podcast that covers news about the Russian-Ukrainian war, discusses what led to that, and features the history of Ukraine and its geopolitical landscape. It is especially pertinent today to listen to the episode called “How Russia uses disinformation as an instrument of war“.
5. Learning the Ukrainian Language
The bravery of Ukrainians has piqued the world’s interest, causing the Ukrainian language to gain in popularity. To truly understand Ukrainian culture, history, and context, it’s best to consume information in Ukrainian.
You can learn basic Ukrainian vocabulary via the DuoLingo application.
Ukrainian Learners Group is a community of Ukrainian learners and native speakers who will share helpful materials and offer valuable advice.
Ukrainians are not just fighting Russian troops in this war. We are standing up against
Russian journalists, historians, and cultural figures who twist the truth to fuel Putin’s deceitful narrative. That’s why we collected these materials — to give you a better understanding of Ukraine, its history, and its cultural context.
Hopefully, more and more people will realize that Ukraine and Russia don’t have the same history, since Ukraine was occupied and repressed by Russia for decades. We are not “brotherly nations” because of their continuous meddling with our cultural identity.
We are Ukraine (not the Ukraine) because we are a sovereign country, not just a territory, affiliated with Russia.
Knowledge is power. That’s why we strive to give you the most relevant sources for learning more about Ukraine.
Do you wish to assist the Ukrainians in their fight against Russian occupants? Here’s how you can make a difference!