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The Road to Unfreedom

Russia, Europe, America

Timothy Snyder

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  • The Road to Unfreedom

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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 Yorker

With 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 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.

A New York Times Editors' Choice

"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

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.


Einband Taschenbuch
Seitenzahl 368
Erscheinungsdatum 10.04.2018
Sprache Englisch
ISBN 978-0-525-57540-5
Verlag Random House LCC US
Maße (L/B/H) 23.1/15.4/2.7 cm
Gewicht 466 g


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In diesem Buch beschreibt der Autor, wie die Freiheit im 20. und 21. Jahrhundert bedroht wird. Er macht das u.A. am Hand der verschiedenen Religionen, der Geschehnissen in der Ukraine, ex-KGB Offizier Putin und natürlich dem Krawall-Milliardär (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) Donald Trump. Wer nach den Lesen dieses Buches noch ‘... In diesem Buch beschreibt der Autor, wie die Freiheit im 20. und 21. Jahrhundert bedroht wird. Er macht das u.A. am Hand der verschiedenen Religionen, der Geschehnissen in der Ukraine, ex-KGB Offizier Putin und natürlich dem Krawall-Milliardär (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) Donald Trump. Wer nach den Lesen dieses Buches noch ‘glaubt' der hiesige President der Vereinigten Staaten hatte bei seiner Wahl in 2016 keine Verbindung zum Putin und seinen Genossen/Volksgenossen, sollte die Bedeutung der Begriffe Kohärenz und Konsistenz in seinem Wörterbuch nachsehen. Gut dokumentiert mit einer originellen, sehr effizienten Auflistung der Dokumentation. Dieses Buch sollte eigentlich von jedem gelesen sein, der verantwortungsvoll die heutige Weltlage beurteilen möchte, bzw. seine/ihre politische Position für die Zukunft selbst bestimmen möchte. Wichtiges Buch, das der Besitz einer gebundenen Ausgabe wert ist.

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  • Chapter ONE

    Individualism or Totalitarianism (2011)

    With law our land shall rise, but it will perish with lawlessness.

    -Njal's Saga, c. 1280

    He who can make an exception is sovereign.

    -Carl Schmitt, 1922

    The 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 Czeslaw Milosz 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 Milosz 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 Russi