Timothy Snyder

Timothy Snyder is the Housum Professor of History at Yale. 
His essay in the September 24, 2015 issue is drawn from his new book, Black Earth: The ­Holocaust as History and Warning, published in September 2015 by Tim Duggan Books, an imprint of Random House.

  • Svetlana Alexievich: The Truth in Many Voices

    October 12, 2015

    The central attainment of Svetlana Alexievich, this year’s laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature, is the recovery of Soviet experience from myth; it has made her an acute critic of the nostalgic dictatorships in Belarus and Russia.

  • Edge of Europe, End of Europe

    July 21, 2015

    The clearest expression of the idea of Europe can be found in eastern Ukraine.

  • Putin's New Nostalgia

    November 10, 2014

    In speaking of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact as good foreign policy, Russian President Vladimir Putin has violated both a long Soviet taboo and revised his own prior position that the agreement was “immoral.”

  • Ukraine: The Antidote to Europe's Fascists?

    May 27, 2014

    The European left has a real problem, and it is not the Ukrainian far right. It is the European far right, which happens to be popular, and is supported by the Russian far right, which happens to be in power in Moscow.

  • Ukraine: The Edge of Democracy

    May 22, 2014

    The Ukrainian presidential election marks the eastern boundary of European democracy, which is why it is so threatening for the Putin regime in Moscow.

  • Crimea: Putin vs. Reality

    March 7, 2014

    Putin’s invasion was not a reaction to an actual threat, but rather an attempt to activate a threat so that violence would erupt that would change the world.

  • Ukraine: The Haze of Propaganda

    March 1, 2014

    From Moscow to London to New York, the Ukrainian revolution has been seen through a haze of propaganda.

  • Ukraine: The New Dictatorship

    January 18, 2014

    On paper, Ukraine is now a dictatorship.

  • Ukraine: Putin's Denial

    December 13, 2013

    In its response to the Ukrainian uprising, the Russian government is denying the existence of an independent Ukrainian nation.

  • A Way Out for Ukraine?

    December 5, 2013

    The desire of so many to be able to have normal lives in a normal country is opposed by two fantasies, one of them now exhausted and the other extremely dangerous.

  • Grand Old Marxists

    August 28, 2012

    A specter is haunting the Republican National Convention—the specter of ideology. The novelist Ayn Rand (1905–1982) and the economist Friedrich von Hayek (1899–1992) are the house deities of many American libertarians, much of the Tea Party, and Paul Ryan in particular. The irony of today is that these two thinkers relied on some of the same underlying assumptions as the Marxism they were trying to defeat. The paradoxical result is a Republican Party ticket that embraces outdated ideology, taking some of the worst from the twentieth century and presenting it as a plan for the twenty-first.

  • How Democracy Can Save Europe

    February 7, 2012

    The European crisis, which we process from headline to headline as a matter of currencies and bailouts, is really a test of large-scale democratic capitalism. The hope was that a debt crisis, when it came, would by necessity produce a unified fiscal policy. But fiscal policy is at the very core of a democratic system, and the EU is not yet democratic. Instead, the German government has indulged its population in the dangerous fantasy that European imitation of German austerity will solve the problem. As a result, domestic politics in Germany and on the European periphery threatens to undo the European system. To resolve the crisis, German leaders must persuade Germans and other Europeans to take the bold step of supporting a functioning European democracy. Here is how to do it.

  • Ukraine's Last Chance?

    November 9, 2011

    Ukraine has long been a borderland between greater powers. What is different about the present moment is that it is now an independent state, and that it has become a borderland between two authentically different approaches to foreign relations. The European Union has no interest in admitting Ukraine as it is today, but might be interested in admitting the orderly, lawful eastern neighbor it might one day become. Russia has no interest in the rule of law in Ukraine, but is happy to exert influence upon its territory as part of its efforts to control the distribution of natural resources and reassert its power in the post-Soviet space.

  • In the Land of No News

    October 27, 2011

    Lincoln, Lawrence, and Norman are among America’s most attractive cities, where the opportunity for social advancement provided by big state universities are sources of local pride. Like most of the big college towns in the middle of the country, they have the art shops, the bookstores, and the cafés that coastal people say they miss in American life. What they do not have is presence. If you watch the national news on television, you see two kinds of American places: the kind where things are happening, and the kind where things have already happened. CNN and Fox speculate about the present in New York, Washington, and Los Angeles (and during campaign season, in “battleground” or swing states like Iowa and Ohio). Everywhere else in the country, things do happen, but always without warning—and rarely with anyone to witness them.

  • As Ohio Goes: A Letter from Tea-Party Country

    August 17, 2011

    The notion that the federal government ought to be starved of resources is not patriotism: it is right-wing anarchism, which corrodes not only the American state but the American nation. America is defined by its middle classes, and these are ceasing to exist. Belonging to the middle classes means that, without enormous wealth, you do not need to be concerned about the security of your pension, the quality of your children’s education, and the reliability of your family’s health care. At this point few people in Clinton County, Ohio can say (despite some good public schools) that they are worried about none of these.

  • Toleration and the Future of Europe

    August 10, 2011

    In Anders Breivik’s manifesto, the ostensibly Christian defeat of the Ottoman armies at Vienna in 1683 is the central historical event. He imagines a European rebirth in 2083, four hundred years later, and names the Polish king Jan Sobieski, whose troops were crucial to raising the Ottoman siege, as one of his heroes. Breivik thinks Europe today is again under siege from Muslims, and that Europeans must resort to “atrocious, but necessary” violence to defend it. It is unsurprising that what Breivik has to say about European history is trivial. But since the reference to Vienna has largely passed without criticism, it is worth recalling for a moment what actually happened in 1683.

  • Neglecting the Lithuanian Holocaust

    July 25, 2011

    In early July the words “Hitler was right” were painted on the memorial stone to the 72,000 Jews who were murdered at the Ponary Forest near Vilnius in Lithuania. On another monument close by, a vulgar reference was made to the compensation the Lithuanian government has made to the descendants of murdered Jews. No one seems to have noticed.

  • Hitler vs. Stalin: Who Was Worse?

    January 27, 2011

    In the second half of the twentieth century, Americans were taught to see both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union as the greatest of evils. Hitler was worse, because his regime propagated the unprecedented horror of the Holocaust, the attempt to eradicate an entire people on racial grounds. Yet Stalin was also worse, because his regime killed far, far more people—tens of millions, it was often claimed—in the endless wastes of the Gulag. For decades, and even today, this confidence about the difference between the two regimes—quality versus quantity—has set the ground rules for the politics of memory.

  • Brutality in Belarus

    December 21, 2010

    Independence Square in Minsk, Belarus’s sad capital, is one of the most terrifying public spaces in Europe. It is nothing but concrete, steel, glass and fearsome horizons—no benches, shelter, or anything for people who might wish to do something so normal as to assemble and speak together. Where anything vertical rises from the ground, it bears a video camera, ensuring that any gathering can be observed by the Belarusian KGB. And yet, when Aleksandr Lukashenko claimed victory by an improbably large absolute majority in the presidential elections on December 19, people came, in the tens of thousands, to protest the official results.

  • The Holocaust We Don't See: Lanzmann's Shoah Revisited

    December 15, 2010

    Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah, opening this month in New York twenty-five years after its original release, is one of the great works of art of the twentieth century.

  • Russia's Reckoning with Katyń

    December 1, 2010

    Why does it matter that the Russian parliament has just declared the Katyń mass murder of 1940 to be a Stalinist crime?

  • Who's Afraid of Ukrainian History?

    September 21, 2010

    Ukrainian historians who draw attention to Ukrainian national resistance to Soviet rule are finding themselves under pressure from the state.

  • Tony Judt: An Intellectual Journey

    August 31, 2010

    Tony Judt was, in effect, two historians: first, a Marxist from a working-class English-Jewish background educated at Cambridge and at the École Normale in Paris who wrote four excellent books on the French left, and then a grand New York scholar who wrote an unimaginably good history of postwar Europe as well as strikingly clear studies of leading European intellectuals, such as Albert Camus and Leszek Kołakowski.

  • Springtime for Stalin

    May 26, 2010

    Three and a half months after a Ukrainian court convicted Stalin of genocide against the Ukrainian nation during the famine of 1932–1933, a new monument in honor of the Soviet dictator has been erected in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhia.

  • Austria’s Hollow Center?

    May 5, 2010

    In Austria’s presidential campaign this spring, a basic question underlying democratic politics in postwar Europe was made startlingly explicit: is recognition of the historical reality of the gas chambers a precondition for becoming head of state?

  • A Fascist Hero in Democratic Kiev

    February 24, 2010

    The incoming Ukrainian president will have to turn some attention to history, because the outgoing one has just made a hero of a long-dead Ukrainian fascist. By conferring the highest state honor of “Hero of Ukraine” upon Stepan Bandera (1909-1959) on January 22, Viktor Yushchenko provoked protests from the chief rabbi of Ukraine, the president of Poland, and many of his own citizens. It is no wonder. Bandera aimed to make of Ukraine a one-party fascist dictatorship without national minorities. During World War II, his followers killed many Poles and Jews. Why would President Yushchenko, the leader of the democratic Orange Revolution, wish to rehabilitate such a figure? Bandera, who spent years in Polish and Nazi confinement, and died at the hands of the Soviet KGB, is for some Ukrainians a symbol of the struggle for independence during the twentieth century.

  • Ukraine's Past on Trial

    February 3, 2010

    Stalin is guilty. On January 13, four days before the first round of Ukraine’s presidential elections, a Kiev court condemned him and six other Soviet high officials for genocide committed against the Ukrainian nation during the famine in 1932-1933. All seven men, of course, are long dead—but the history at issue in the case is very much alive.

  • Europe's New Walls

    January 28, 2010

    I’m not sure if I was in Lithuania one recent evening—and it wasn’t the sweet Russian champagne. My wandering started in the village of Krasnogruda in northeastern Poland, home to the poet Czesław Miłosz’s mother, and only about a mile from the Lithuanian border. As the full moon rose and the pines turned blue under their weight of snow, I might have crossed into Lithuania. Or perhaps not. Not so very long ago this invisible border was the western frontier of the Soviet Union, perhaps the most heavily guarded in the world. When I first came to eastern Europe in 1990, it was triply patrolled: by a Poland just emerging from Communism, by a Lithuania not quite yet independent, and by a Soviet Union that still in some measure existed. Today Poland and Lithuania are both democracies within the European Union, and their shared border, unmarked for almost all of its length, is all but invisible.

  • He Welcomed the Nazis and Saved Jews

    December 21, 2009

    Imagine for a moment that there was a Catholic archbishop who protested to leading Nazis about the Holocaust, instructed his flock that to murder Jews was a great sin, and personally saved the lives of many dozens of Jews. Surely such a figure would be known to us, and would appear in every discussion of the role of Catholic institutions in the Holocaust? And surely such a figure would by now be recognized as one of the Righteous Among Nations by Yad Vashem, and canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church?

  • 1989: Poland Was First!

    December 9, 2009

    We call the revolution of 1789 the “French Revolution” and the revolution of 1917 the “Russian Revolution,” but it seems unlikely that we will ever call the revolution of 1989 the “Polish Revolution”—even though that is essentially what it was.

  • Love and Truth: Václav Havel in Bratislava, Twenty Years After 1989

    November 24, 2009

    It can’t happen often that citizens of one country gather to honor someone who was the president of two other countries, all the while claiming him as their own. But so it was on November 18, 2009, twenty years after student protests in Prague that began the Velvet Revolution led by the playwright Václav Havel. Now the former president of both Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic had come to Bratislava, the Slovak capital, to talk with Slovak students about the events of 1989. Although these young people remember neither those events nor the dissolution of Czechoslovakia that followed three years later, they greeted him with standing ovations and sincere expressions of respect.

  • How Václav Klaus Blocks European Union

    October 23, 2009

    The Czech Republic is a country where everything seems to work, except for the political system. I once lived here, but hadn’t returned for eleven years. Almost everything looks better than it did in 1998, and almost everything looked better in 1998 than it did in 1989, the year of the Velvet Revolution. The Czech Republic joined the European Union in 2004, culminating a remarkable transformation from one-party Communist rule to liberal democracy. Yet despite all of this, the Czech Republic has been suspended these past few days in a bizarre political crisis.