Moving from the sixteenth century to the present, and using a wide array of multi-lingual sources, The Reconstruction of Nations shows how multiple versions of national identity evolved and competed with each other in what are now Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine. Snyder contends that the triumph of modern ethnic nationalism in this part of Eastern Europe is very recent. Federalism and communal toleration were considered viable national ideas from the 16th through 20th centuries - only the atrocities of the Second World War buried such traditional alternatives. Snyder's original explanations for these atrocities include the first scholarly account of the Ukrainian-Polish ethnic cleansings of the 1940s. Snyder concludes with an analysis of the peaceful resolution of national tensions in the region since 1989.
The Reconstruction of Nations is a winner of the American Historical Association's George Louis Beer Prize for the best publication in European international history since 1895.