|Tatiana Zhurzhenko’s Borderlands into Bordered Lands is more than just a book. It is a symbol of the boom that border studies have been experiencing in the last decade. And it is also a testimony to the ways that borders affect our daily lives everywhere. In exploring the making of Ukraine’s borders today, Zhurzhenko shows vividly how states caught in the crossroads of empires debate not only their borderline on the ground but also their identity, their loyalties, their citizenship, their culture, and even their language. Zhurzhenko shows how these axes collide within Ukraine, competing for the mental spaces of its citizens, some looking east and some looking west and always tearing at their own identity. The book shows, therefore, that borders are not simple constructs, built, rebuilt, and de-built at will but that they have a life of their own and that they have real effects on people’s lives. In effect, Ukraine is a typical case of a “borderline” identity between a tantalizing Europe and the gravitational pull of Russia, a line that runs through the heart of the country - an imaginary yet no less real border.
The case of Ukraine, explored in depth by Zhuzhenko is revealing also in the way it attempts to establish new relations with its neighbors, such as Belarus and even Poland - the first torn, as Ukraine, between those who look to Europe and those who look to Russia and the second split asunder in the Slavic world and now proceeding firmly apace with its own Westernization. What is of the Slavic sisterhood, asks Zhurzhenko, in the middle of these bordered-landed identities. The borders, as Zhurzhenko argues are not only marked on the land, through forests and mountains but in the minds themselves where discourses and narratives are woven and geopolitical choices are made.
To bring these concepts home, Zhurzhenko explores the impact of border construction in five local villages. She describes how the reorganization of the border affects the daily lives of people, making their once close neighbors distant, turning equality into asymmetries, shaping identities, and making new loyalty demands. Thus, the book is not only key in understanding the making of border but on how borders shape our daily lives. This work is a must to those who wish to understand the impact of borders not in context where they have been built over a long time but where their construction if accelerated into a few years, showing in fast-forward motion the importance of border to us all.
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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229