Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and NationsBy Norman Davies (Viking, 830 pp., $40) There is a well-worn story that is told in one form or another in all European history textbooks. In 824, ten years after the death of Charlemagne, Agobard, Archbishop of Lyon, hailed a new Christian imperial ambition to unite all the peoples and lands of the Western Holy Roman Empire by reformulating Galatians 3:28: “There is now neither Gentile nor Jew, Scythian nor Aquitanian, nor Lombard, nor Burgundian, nor Alaman, nor bond, nor free.
Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler And Stalin By Timothy Snyder (Basic Books, 524 pp., $29.95) ‘Now we will live!’... the hungry little boy liked to say ... but the food that he saw was only in his imagination.” So the little boy died, together with three million fellow Ukrainians, in the mass starvation that Stalin created in 1933. “I will meet her ... under the ground,” a young Soviet man said about his wife. Both were shot in the course of Stalin’s Great Terror of 1937 and 1938, which claimed 700,000 victims.
It’s one of those hideous little episodes making minor headlines this week that will be forgotten by the media next week. 15-year-old Vada Vasquez of the Bronx is in a coma with a bullet in her brain, after being caught in the crossfire when a group of Bloods took aim at 19-year-old Tyrone Creighton (and succeeding; he’s in the hospital, too). The Bloods went after Creighton at the behest of friends of a man in Rikers who suffered a beatdown by Creighton’s two brothers in Rikers with him.