The Red Prince

The Red Prince

eBook - 2008
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Wilhelm Von Habsburg wore the uniform of the Austrian officer, the court regalia of a Habsburg archduke, the simple suit of a Parisian exile, the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and, every so often, a dress. He could handle a saber, a pistol, a rudder, or a golf club; he handled women by necessity and men for pleasure. He spoke the Italian of his archduchess mother, the German of his archduke father, the English of his British royal friends, the Polish of the country his father wished to rule, and the Ukrainian of the land Wilhelm wished to rule himself. In this exhilarating narrative history, prize-winning historian Timothy D. Snyder offers an indelible portrait of an aristocrat whose life personifies the wrenching upheavals of the first half of the twentieth century, as the rule of empire gave way to the new politics of nationalism. Coming of age during the First World War, Wilhelm repudiated his family to fight alongside Ukrainian peasants in hopes that he would become their king. When this dream collapsed he became, by turns, an ally of German imperialists, a notorious French lover, an angry Austrian monarchist, a calm opponent of Hitler, and a British spy against Stalin. Played out in Europe?s glittering capitals and bloody battlefields, in extravagant ski resorts and dank prison cells, The Red Prince captures an extraordinary moment in the history of Europe, in which the old order of the past was giving way to an undefined future-and in which everything, including identity itself, seemed up for grabs.
Publisher: [S.I.] : Basic Books, 2008.
ISBN: 9780465012473
Branch Call Number: eBOOK OVERDRI
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc


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Mar 14, 2019

Wilhelm von Habsburg is interesting as a Habsburg archduke who self-identified as a Ukrainian, giving himself the Ukrainian name Vasyl Vyshyvani, although he was not Ukrainian at all in his bloodlines. From his youth he dreamed of a Ukraine that would unite all the regions that were predominantly Ukrainian, East and West, in one country, ideally with him as king. This was what inspired Snyder, an American historian who speaks Ukrainian to write this biography. However, even Snyder seems to have found the red duke’s life somewhat thin as a subject, and he speaks so much about Wilhelm’s family, many of whom self-identified as Poles, the book could, with slight alterations, have been called “The Children of Stefan von Habsburg”.
Snyder is a graceful, witty writer, and the book is littered with clever quips, such as “France [under the Third Republic] was governed by men in their seventies because the men in their eighties were dead.” At the same time, his deep interest in Ukrainian history seems to make him lose balance. He writes of Wilhelm in the 1930s having a connection to Ukraine, “a major European country that might join the Habsburg restoration”. At that time, Ukraine wasn’t a country at all, split between four different states, and it has never been a major European country since achieving independence in terms of military might or economic clout. Snyder writes: “The Orange Revolution was the most important defense of democracy in the Europe of the early twenty-first century”, surely giving it a primacy it really didn’t have.
Snyder’s whitewashes the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OAN) and leaves unnamed the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the military wing of the Banderist faction of the OAN. He attributes the relative homogenization of the population of postwar Ukraine to the Nazi massacres of Jews and Soviet deportations of Poles. There is no mention of the savage massacres of Poles, Jews and ethnic Russian by UPA insurgents. Stepan Bandera, the infamous leader of OAN-B, is nowhere mentioned in the book. Snyder mentions that Lyda Tulchyn, an OAN activist with whom Wilhelm collaborated, had “[l]ike several thousand other Ukrainian nationalists, made her way to Bavaria”, but does not mention that Bandera was one of them, or that he was murdered in Munich in 1959. In January 2010, Victor Yushchenko, who came to power due to the Orange Revolution Snyder so greatly admires, declared the murderous Bandera a Hero of Ukraine.
Like too many books, this one takes tangential swipes at the Serbs. Pace Snyder, Gavrilo Princip wanted Bosnia to be part of a future Yugoslavia, not a Greater Serbia.


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