The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America PDF AZW3 EPUB MOBI TXT Download

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the author of On Tyranny comes a stunning new chronicle of the rise of authoritarianism from Russia to Europe and America.“A brilliant analysis of our time.”—Karl Ove Knausgaard, The New YorkerWith the end of the Cold War, the victory of liberal democracy seemed final. Observers declared the end of history, confident in a peaceful, globalized future. This faith was misplaced. Authoritarianism returned to Russia, as Vladimir Putin found fascist ideas that could be used to justify rule by the wealthy. In the 2010s, it has spread from east to west, aided by Russian warfare in Ukraine and cyberwar in Europe and the United States.  Russia found allies among nationalists, oligarchs, and radicals everywhere, and its drive to dissolve Western institutions, states, and values found resonance within the West itself.  The rise of populism, the British vote against the EU, and the election of Donald Trump were all Russian goals, but their achievement reveals the vulnerability of Western societies.In this forceful and unsparing work of contemporary history, based on vast research as well as personal reporting, Snyder goes beyond the headlines to expose the true nature of the threat to democracy and law. To understand the challenge is to see, and perhaps renew, the fundamental political virtues offered by tradition and demanded by the future. By revealing the stark choices before us–between equality or oligarchy, individuality or totality, truth and falsehood–Snyder restores our understanding of the basis of our way of life, offering a way forward in a time of terrible uncertainty.

Timothy Snyder
April 9, 2019
368 pages

File Size: 10 MB
Available File Formats: PDF AZW3 DOCX EPUB MOBI TXT or Kindle audiobook Audio CD(Several files can be converted to each other)
Language: English, Francais, Italiano, Espanol, Deutsch, chinese

A New York Times Editors’ ChoiceShortlisted for the 2019 Lionel Gelber Prize“A brilliant and disturbing analysis, which should be read by anyone wishing to understand the political crisis currently engulfing the world.” —Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens“Combining topical reporting with delvings into the history of ideas and some political-philosophical musing in the author’s own voice, this relatively short book covers a vast canvas. . . . A roller-coaster world calls for a news editor’s skill in processing facts and a philosopher’s ability to dissect ideologies. Snyder has both.” —The Economist“The Road to Unfreedom is a rich and complex book, punctuated by epigrams that cast heroic clarity upon the disturbing distance the United States has already traveled to the sinister destination in Snyder’s title. If some of Snyder’s assessment seems overstated or premature, he can powerfully reply: He has perceived more accurately than his critics what has already happened. He has earned the right to be heard on what may lie ahead.” —David Frum, The Atlantic“The Road to Unfreedom offers a brief, potent and carefully documented history of Vladimir Putin’s consolidation of power in Russia, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” —The Chicago Tribune“We are living in dangerous times, Timothy Snyder argues forcefully and eloquently in his new book. . . . To understand Putin, Snyder argues persuasively, you must understand his ideas. . . . The Road to Unfreedom is a good wake-up call.” —Margaret MacMillan, The New York Times Book Review“Deluged by ugly headlines, readers need books that force us to pause, step back and understand how America arrived at this chaotic moment. One of the best such books this year is historian Timothy Snyder’s essential, penetrating look at how toxic ideas, autocratic power and fake news spread from Russia into Ukraine, Western Europe and now to the White House. At a time when the politics of apocalypse haunt American democracy, Snyder helps unpack how we got here—and, maybe, how we can get out.” —Lucas Wittmann, TIME”Snyder’s horror at what has happened in Russia—and at the risks to the US and Europe—gives his writing energy and passion. He is unsparing in his indictment of Putin’s Russia. . . .But he is also clear-eyed about the weaknesses of American society that have made the US vulnerable to Russian intervention and domestic populism.” —Gideon Rachman, The Financial Times”Essential reading. . . . Chilling and unignorable.” —The Guardian“Of all the books that seek to explain the current crisis of Western liberal democracy, none is more eloquent or frightening than Snyder’s The Road to Unfreedom.” —Foreign Affairs“Brilliant. . . . Bleak and eloquent. . . . Snyder’s account of the Trump ascendancy, and the many helping hands given from Russia, is vividly and insightfully told.” —Edward Lucas, The Times (London)Praise for Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny   “We are rapidly ripening for fascism. This American writer leaves us with no illusions about ourselves.” —Svetlana Alexievich, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature   “A slim book that fits alongside your pocket Constitution and feels only slightly less vital. . . . Grounded in history yet imbued with the fierce urgency of what now.” —Carlos Lozada, The Washington Post   “Snyder reasons with unparalleled clarity, throwing the past and future into sharp relief. He has written the rare kind of book that can be read in one sitting but will keep you coming back to help regain your bearings.” —Masha Gessen, author of The Future Is History   “As Timothy Snyder explains in his fine and frightening On Tyranny, a minority party now has near-total power and is therefore understandably frightened of awakening the actual will of the people.” —Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker   “Snyder knows this subject cold. . . . It is impossible to read aphorisms like ‘post-truth is pre-fascism’ and not feel a small chill about the current state of the Republic.” —Daniel W. Drezner, The New York Times Book Review“Snyder draws an unbroken line between the darkest events and personalities of the past and the ones that confront us in the here and now. . . . As he did in On Tyranny, Snyder argues that we are facing a challenge of potentially catastrophic proportions, but he refuses to despair.” –Jonathan Kirsch,Jewish Journal About the Author Timothy Snyder is the Levin Professor of History at Yale University and the author of the books On Tyranny, Black Earth, and Bloodlands. His work has received the literature award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Hannah Arendt Prize, and the Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut. Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. Chapter ONEIndividualism or Totalitarianism (2011)With law our land shall rise, but it will perish with lawlessness.—Njal’s Saga, c. 1280He who can make an exception is sovereign.—Carl Schmitt, 1922The politics of inevitability is the idea that there are no ideas. Those in its thrall deny that ideas matter, proving only that they are in the grip of a powerful one. The cliché of the politics of inevitability is that “there are no alternatives.” To accept this is to deny individual responsibility for seeing history and making change. Life becomes a sleepwalk to a premarked grave in a prepurchased plot.Eternity arises from inevitability like a ghost from a corpse. The capitalist version of the politics of inevitability, the market as a substitute for policy, generates economic inequality that undermines belief in progress. As social mobility halts, inevitability gives way to eternity, and democracy gives way to oligarchy. An oligarch spinning a tale of an innocent past, perhaps with the help of fascist ideas, offers fake protection to people with real pain. Faith that technology serves freedom opens the way to his spectacle. As distraction replaces concentration, the future dissolves in the frustrations of the present, and eternity becomes daily life. The oligarch crosses into real politics from a world of fiction, and governs by invoking myth and manufacturing crisis. In the 2010s, one such person, Vladimir Putin, escorted another, Donald Trump, from fiction to power.Russia reached the politics of eternity first, and Russian leaders protected themselves and their wealth by exporting it. The oligarch-in-chief, Vladimir Putin, chose the fascist philosopher Ivan Ilyin as a guide. The poet Czesław Miłosz wrote in 1953 that “only in the middle of the twentieth century did the inhabitants of many European countries come to understand, usually by way of suffering, that complex and difficult philosophy books have a direct influence on their fate.” Some of the philosophy books that matter today were written by Ilyin, who died the year after Miłosz wrote those lines. Ivan Ilyin’s revival by official Russia in the 1990s and 2000s has given his work a second life as the fascism adapted to make oligarchy possible, as the specific ideas that have helped leaders shift from inevitability to eternity.The fascism of the 1920s and 1930s, Ilyin’s era, had three core features: it celebrated will and violence over reason and law; it proposed a leader with a mystical connection to his people; and it characterized globalization as a conspiracy rather than as a set of problems. Revived in conditions of inequality as a politics of eternity, fascism serves oligarchs as a catalyst for transitions away from public discussion and towards political fiction; away from meaningful voting and towards fake democracy; away from the rule of law and towards personalist regimes.History always continues, and alternatives always present themselves. Ilyin represents one of these. He is not the only fascist thinker to have been revived in our century, but he is the most important. He is a guide on the darkening road to unfreedom, which leads from inevitability to eternity. Learning of his ideas and influence, we can look down the road, seeking light and exits. This means thinking historically: asking how ideas from the past can matter in the present, comparing Ilyin’s era of globalization to our own, realizing that then as now the alternatives were real and more than two. The natural successor of the veil of inevitability is the shroud of eternity, but there are alternatives that must be found before the shroud drops. If we accept eternity, we sacrifice individuality, and will no longer see possibility. Eternity is another idea that says that there are no ideas.When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, American politicians of inevitability proclaimed the end of history, while some Russians sought new authorities in an imperial past. When founded in 1922, the Soviet Union inherited most of the territory of the Russian Empire. The Tsar’s domain had been the largest in the world, stretching west to east from the middle of Europe to the shores of the Pacific, and north to south from the Arctic to Central Asia. Though largely a country of peasants and nomads, its middle classes and intellectuals considered, as the twentieth century began, how a empire ruled by an autocrat might become more modern and more just.Ivan Ilyin, born to a noble family in 1883, was typical of his generation as a young man. In the early 1900s, he wanted Russia to become a state governed by laws. After the disaster of the First World War and the experience of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, Ilyin became a counterrevolutionary, an advocate of violent methods against revolution, and with time the author of a Christian fascism meant to overcome Bolshevism. In 1922, a few months before the Soviet Union was founded, he was exiled from his homeland. Writing in Berlin, he offered a program to the opponents of the new Soviet Union, known as the Whites. These were men who had fought against the Bolsheviks’ Red Army in the long and bloody Russian Civil War, and then made their way, like Ilyin, into political emigration in Europe. Ilyin later formulated his writings as guidance for Russian leaders who would come to power after the end of the Soviet Union. He died in 1954.After a new Russian Federation emerged from the defunct Soviet Union in 1991, Ilyin’s short book Our Tasks began to circulate in new Russian editions, his collected works were published, and his ideas gained powerful supporters. He had died forgotten in Switzerland; Putin organized a reburial in Moscow in 2005. Ilyin’s personal papers had found their way to Michigan State University; Putin sent an emissary to reclaim them in 2006. By then Putin was citing Ilyin in his annual presidential addresses to the general assembly of the Russian parliament. These were important speeches, composed by Putin himself. In the 2010s, Putin relied upon Ilyin’s authority to explain why Russia had to undermine the European Union and invade Ukraine. When asked to name a historian, Putin cited Ilyin as his authority on the past.The Russian political class followed Putin’s example. His propaganda master Vladislav Surkov adapted Ilyin’s ideas to the world of modern media. Surkov orchestrated Putin’s rise to power and oversaw the consolidation of media that ensured Putin’s seemingly eternal rule. Dmitry Medvedev, the formal head of Putin’s political party, recommended Ilyin to Russian youth. Ilyin’s name was on the lips of the leaders of the fake opposition parties, the communists and (far-right) Liberal Democrats, who played a part in creating the simulacrum of democracy that Ilyin had recommended. Ilyin was cited by the head of the constitutional court, even as his idea that law meant love for a leader ascended. He was mentioned by Russia’s regional governors as Russia became the centralized state that he had advocated. In early 2014, members of Russia’s ruling party and all of Russia’s civil servants received a collection of Ilyin’s political publications from the Kremlin. In 2017, Russian television commemorated the hundredth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution with a film that presented Ilyin as a moral authority.Ilyin was a politician of eternity. His thought held sway as the capitalist version of the politics of inevitability collapsed in the Russia of the 1990s and 2000s. As Russia became an organized kleptocracy in the 2010s, as domestic inequality reached stupefying proportions, Ilyin’s influence peaked. The Russian assault on the European Union and the United States revealed, by targeting them, certain political virtues that Ilyin the philosopher ignored or despised: individualism, succession, integration, novelty, truth, equality.Ilyin first proposed his ideas to Russians a century ago, after the Russian Revolution. And yet he has become a philosopher for our time. No thinker of the twentieth century has been rehabilitated in such grand style in the twenty-first, nor enjoyed such influence on world politics. If this went unnoticed it was because we are in the thrall of inevitability: we believe that ideas do not matter. To think historically is to accept that the unfamiliar might be significant, and to work to make the unfamiliar the familiar. Our politics of inevitability echo those of Ilyin’s years. Like the period between the late 1980s to the early 2010s, so the period between late 1880s to the early 1910s was one of globalization. The conventional wisdom of both eras held that export-led growth would bring enlightened politics and end fanaticism. This optimism broke during the First World War and the revolutions and counterrevolutions that followed. Ilyin was himself an early example of this trend. A youthful supporter of the rule of law, he shifted to the extreme Right while admiring tactics he had observed on the extreme Left. The former leftist Benito Mussolini led his fascists in the March on Rome soon after Ilyin was expelled from Russia; the philosopher saw in the Duce hope for a corrupted world.Ilyin regarded fascism as the politics of the world to come. In exile in the 1920s, he was troubled that Italians had arrived at fascism before Russians. He consoled himself with the idea that the Russian Whites were the inspiration for Mussolini’s coup: “the White movement as such is deeper and broader than [Italian] fascism.” The depth and breadth, Ilyin explained, came from an embrace of the sort of Christianity that demanded the blood sacrifice of God’s enemies. Believing in the 1920s that Russia’s White exiles could still win power, Ilyin addressed them as “my White brothers, fascists.”Ilyin was similarly impressed by Adolf Hitler. Although he visited Italy and vacationed in Switzerland, Ilyin’s home between 1922 and 1938 was Berlin, where he worked for a government-sponsored scholarly institute. Ilyin’s mother was German, he undertook psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud in German, he studied German philosophy, and he wrote in German as well and as often as he did in Russian. In his day job he edited and wrote critical studies of Soviet politics (A World at the Abyss in German and The Poison of Bolshevism in Russian, for example, just in the year 1931). Ilyin saw Hitler as a defender of civilization from Bolshevism: the Führer, he wrote, had “performed an enormous service for all of Europe” by preventing further revolutions on the Russian model. Ilyin noted with approval that Hitler’s antisemitism was derivative of the ideology of Russian Whites. He bemoaned that “Europe does not understand the National Socialist movement.” Nazism was above all a “Spirit” of which Russians must partake.In 1938, Ilyin left Germany for Switzerland, where he lived until his death in 1954. He was supported financially in Switzerland by the wife of a German-American businessman, and also earned some money by giving public lectures in German. The essence of these lectures, as a Swiss scholar noted, was that Russia should be understood not as present communist danger but as future Christian salvation. According to Ilyin, communism had been inflicted upon innocent Russia by the decadent West. One day Russia would liberate itself and others with the help of Christian fascism. A Swiss reviewer characterized his books as “national in the sense of opposing the entire West.”Ilyin’s political views did not change as the Second World War began. His contacts in Switzerland were men of the Far Right: Rudolf Grob believed that Switzerland should imitate Nazi Germany; Theophil Spoeri belonged to a group that banned Jews and Masons; Albert Riedweg was a right-wing lawyer whose brother Franz was the most prominent Swiss citizen in the Nazi extermination apparatus. Franz Riedweg married the daughter of the German minister of war and joined the Nazi SS. He took part in the German invasions of Poland, France, and the Soviet Union, the last of which Ilyin saw as a trial of Bolshevism in which the Russian nation might prevail.When the Soviet Union won the war and extended its empire westward in 1945, Ilyin began to write for future generations of Russians. He characterized his work as shining a small lantern in a great darkness. With that small flame, Russian leaders of the 2010s have begun a conflagration.Ilyin was consistent. His first major work of philosophy, in Russian (1916), was also his last major work of philosophy, in its edited German translation (1946).The one good in the universe, Ilyin maintained, had been God’s totality before creation. When God created the world, he shattered the single and total Truth that was himself. Ilyin divided the world into the “categorical,” the lost realm of that single perfect concept; and the “historical,” human life with its facts and passions. For him, the tragedy of existence was that facts could not be reassembled into God’s totality, nor passions into God’s purpose. The Romanian thinker E. M. Cioran, himself once an advocate of Christian fascism, explained the concept: before history, God is perfect and eternal; once he begins history, God seems “frenetic, committing error upon error.” As Ilyin put it: “When God sank into empirical existence he was deprived of his harmonious unity, logical reason, and organizational purpose.”For Ilyin, our human world of facts and passions is senseless. Ilyin found it immoral that a fact might be grasped in its historical setting: “the world of empirical existence cannot be theologically justified.” Passions are evil. God also erred in his creation by releasing “the evil nature of the sensual.” God yielded to a “romantic” impulse by making beings, ourselves, who are moved by sex. And so “the romantic content of the world overcomes the rational form of thought, and thought cedes its place to unthinking purpose,” physical love. God left us amidst “spiritual and moral relativism.”By condemning God, Ilyin empowered philosophy, or at least one philosopher: himself. He preserved the vision of a divine “totality” that existed before the creation of the world, but left it to himself to reveal how it might be regained. Having removed God from the scene, Ilyin himself could issue judgments about what is and what ought to be. There is a Godly world and it must be somehow redeemed, and this sacred work will fall to men who understand their predicament—thanks to Ilyin and his books.The vision was a totalitarian one. We should long for a condition in which we think and feel as one, which means not to think and feel at all. We must cease to exist as individual human beings. “Evil begins,” Ilyin wrote, “where the person begins.” Our very individuality only proves that the world is flawed: “the empirical fragmentation of human existence is an incorrect, a transitory, and a metaphysically untrue condition of the world.” Ilyin despised the middle classes, whose civil society and private life, he thought, kept the world broken and God at bay. To belong to a layer of society that offered individuals social advancement promise of movement was to be the worst kind of human being: “this estate constitutes the very lowest level of social existence.” Read more <div id="

  • Snyder’s book, “The Road to Unfreedom” is daunting. It’s jacket has the words “Russia, Europe, America,” and that might lead you to believe it covers each country in succession. Instead it covers them in parallel with a lot of emphasis on Russia. You need to know that at the outset. Snyder has terms of his own construction such as the “politics of inevitability” and the “politics of eternity.” Reread these very carefully on pages 8 and 9 and dog ear those pages. They are central to the rest of the book. Unfortunately, they are not intuitively clear, never well defined, and referred to often. This is the major flaw of the book.Snyder has a peculiarly insightful analysis of events. It can be both revealing and confusing at the same time. His prose ranges from clear and concise to intertwined and difficult. I had to double back often to track some thoughts (something I almost never have to do). The short ending epilogue is particularly obtuse.All that said, the man has done his homework remarkably well (with help from his grad students). His accumulation of specific facts and his tying them together make the book a compelling read and a punch to the gut. You get insights not found elsewhere. Just three examples…1. The influence of the political philosopher Ivan Ilyn on Putin and contemporary Russia, 2. The truth behind the war in Ukraine especially it’s cyber and propaganda elements, 3. The links between Russian oligarchical and criminal money and Donald Trump’s business ventures. Snyder makes a strong case that Trump is at best a Russian patsy if not much worse. Trump lovers will gag on the facts he lays out.If you want to get more on Trump and where America is headed, I recommend reading “Trumpocracy” and “Killing Democracy.” You may also like Snyder’s very short book “On Tyranny.” If you get caught up in his idea of the “politics of eternity,” you might find “The Fourth Turning” worth reading. It’s a bit bizarre, but it espouses a cyclical form of history that complements Snyder’s description. This last book has been deemed “Steve Bannon’s Bible” by some. All thee books are on Amazon.(Spoiler alert – stop here unless you want to find out more about the content.) There are some inescapable conclusions from the book. Russian media is managed to present the story the government wants presented and bears absolutely no connection to the truth. It is the ultimate in “fake news.” This is so blatant that Americans really cannot imagine the breadth and depth of its lies. Russia is actively workjng to destabilize America and Europe in order to bring them down to the economic and undemocratic level of Russia. Since Russia cannot improve due to its kleptocracy and oligarchy, it’s only option is to ruin the West. The Russians have financed Trump to cover his failed businesses and massive debts putting him in their pocket. The ties between the government and the oligarchs enable Putin to use them as intermediaries so that support is not directly tied to the government. Hence, “no collusion.” Russia back Trump because they realized how destructive his personality and illogical actions would be to U.S. government. Snyder lays out the fact that all of Russia’s efforts were for Trump and against Clinton to make that point. America is in an information war for the truth in order to save it’s democracy. Fox News and the far left are not helping as both get baited and ensnared by Russia misinformation.
  • As a professor of history Timothy Snyder has written extensively on authoritarian and totalitarian movements in the twentieth century. The Road to Unfreedom is one of his briefer works, but an extremely important one nonetheless. Snyder’s most important contribution to the growing set of volumes analyzing why the 2016 US Presidential election went so catastrophically wrong is to set the events of that year in their proper historical context, reminding us once again that history not only repeats itself, it sometimes whacks us over the head and screams “Why didn’t you pay attention?”Snyder spends the first section of his book detailing the differences between the politics of inevitability, in which progress is believed to be unstoppable and democracy and capitalism the certain future for all; and the politics of eternity, in which progress is temporary and history is cyclical, favoring elites and abandoning any concern for the masses. He identifies the Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin as a high priest of the politics of eternity. An anti-Bolshevik who was exiled from Soviet Russia in 1922, Ilyin called for a Fascist counter-revolution and portrayed Russia as the innocent victim of foreign intriguers. Although Ilyin died in the 1950s his writings were to have enormous influence on the Russian politicians of the 2010s who oversaw their country’s descent into kleptocracy, including Vladimir Putin himself. It was thanks to Ilyin’s influence that Putin took steps to destabilize the regions he perceived to be Russia’s enemies, primarily the European Union and the United States.Snyder spends a great deal of time detailing the events of 2014-15 in Ukraine, which the Russians invaded while denying they were doing so, spreading confusion with the assistance of the government-controlled Russian media as well as more reputable Western outlets like the Guardian and the Nation. I found these chapters most eye-opening because like most Westerners I remember being extremely confused over what exactly was taking place between Ukraine and Russia. As I read, I realized that in many respects what happened to Ukraine in 2014 was a practice round for what was to occur in the European Union and the United States in 2016. Snyder goes on to expose Russian efforts to influence the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and the United States. Much of his material here has already been covered, but it’s still important to reread it and be forewarned for the future. As I read, I found my memory returning again and again to an old TV mini-series from the 1980s called “Amerika,” about a Soviet takeover of the United States. Reading of Kremlin conspiracies and conversations between Russian oligarchs and their European and American stooges making plans to defeat the West I realized that that old series has actually come to fruition thirty years after its broadcast.The Road to Unfreedom ends bleakly, though the last lines from the epilogue does allow some hope: “If we see history as it is, we see our places in it, what we might change, and how we might do better. We halt our thoughtless journey from inevitability to eternity, and exit the road to unfreedom. We begin a politics of responsibility. To take part in its creation is to see a world for a second time. Students of the virtues that history reveals, we become the makers of a renewal that no one can foresee.”This is a brief work of less than 300 pages followed by an extensive End notes section. It is one of the most important works concerned Americans and Europeans can read in 2018.
  • Timothy Snyder is a professor of history at Yale and author of ‘Bloodlands’ and ‘Black Earth.’ He speaks and writes in five European languages, reads philosophical works in their original Russian and lectures in English, German and Polish. Snyder’s specialist subject is the study of how democratic government has in various places through the past century been skilfully dismantled stage-by-stage by autocrats, and ‘The Road to Unfreedom’ has an intentionally Orwellian-sounding title.The book is essentially the story of how Putin is and his oligarchic clan have spread their fascist ideology through Europe by invading and annexing southern and southeastern Ukraine and successfully developed hybrid information-warfare to support right-wing parties in Britain, France (Putin lavishly & openly supported le Pen financially), Germany & Poland, interfering in the electoral systems of western democracies by exploiting their vulnerabilities and complacency.The long closing chapter is an extremely detailed forensic analysis of how Trump is owned financially by Russian oligarchs and, according to Snyder, how the US presidency is now owned by Putin.One of Snyder’s most interesting ideas centres around how what he refers to as ‘the politics of inevitability’, the prevailing zetitgeist in the years following the end of the Cold War in 1989, have been overtaken by ‘the politics of eternity’ which is essentially how fascist regimes operate. These complex concepts are explained succinctly in Snyder’s public lectures and to-camera online monologues, which I recommend to the prospective reader prior to tackling this challenging but excellent academic thesis.The POE work like this. When all political power is held by 0.1% of the population who together own circa 80% of a country’s wealth, this privileged minority cannot allow democracy or rule of law to flourish as this will lead to diminishment of their wealth through the high taxation necessary to enact progressive legislation to improve life chances for the many and move society forward. So an alternative reality is created, a different sense of time; by connecting emotionally with a sector of the population (‘the base’) and looping back to a non-specific former time, promising to “make Germany/Russia/America great again” (the language & message is always the same). The idea is fostered that there is no truth other than the purity of ‘the people’, ‘the nation’, who are under threat by contamination from outside: Jews, moslems, ‘western degeneracy’, homosexuality, Mexicans, liberals, people from “s***hole countries”.The purpose of government then changes from ‘doing’ – i.e. improving society by moving it forward and making everyone’s lives better – to ‘being’, guarding the purity of ‘the true people’. All politicians lie, but you may choose our lies, our alternative reality, over ‘theirs’: the others, the outsiders, the ‘them’ who are not us. During this process, political opposition is eliminated in stages, elections become a rigged and managed ritual, investigative journalism is eliminated and replaced by state propaganda (i.e. RT, Sputnik & Fox News), and politics is reduced to a theatrical spectacle of rabble-rousing rallies and the manufacture of artificial crises one after another to keep the population off-balance and continuously emotionally enraged.While it’s possible to nit-pick at the edges of Prof Snyder’s thesis and take issue with a few insufficiently supported claims, as a writer overall he displays a knowledge of history and clarity of original thought without parallel. It’s scary stuff which may change the way you understand the current and future political landscape, particularly how the forces of neo-fascism (Putin, Le Pen, AFD, Trump) manipulate reality to their advantage in their thirst for personal wealth, power and status.
  • All the things you know and dislike – Brexit, Putin’s apparent manipulation of the referendum vote and the Trump result, the obvious expansionism of Russia and its plan to split both Europe and America from within – here come together as a coherent plan to change our cast of mind. Professor Snyder explains Putin’s fundamental beliefs, how he promotes the far right all over Europe and America, and the way falsehood has become weaponised thanks to his mentor Surkov.
  • Everyone in the UK, US and Europe should be encouraged to read this book.
  • Essential, terrifying reading if you want to understand Putin’s Russia.
  • Really great book. Written beautifully and just so insightful. I’m a Russian Studies student and this has been amongst my favourite.
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