Chicago Tribune

Are we on 'The Road to Unfreedom'? Timothy Snyder considers this political moment through history's lens

Five years ago, Timothy Snyder began work on "The Road to Unfreedom," a book examining a modern political transformation: What happens when factual truth is upended? When wealth is concentrated? When battlefronts are online as well as on the ground? The Yale history professor had drafted the book - a book about Russia and Ukraine - by November 2016, but then Donald Trump was elected president.

Instead of submitting the book he'd planned, Snyder, perhaps best known up to that point for his critically acclaimed histories "Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin" and "Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning," published a slim, best-selling volume called "On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century." He continued work on "The Road to Unfreedom," expanding it to consider how ideas germinated in Russia in the early 2010s had spread through Ukraine and Europe to the United States.

"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. Snyder centers on the notion that the world may be lurching from a "politics of inevitability" - the notion, as Snyder writes, that a better future is ahead, "the laws of progress are known, that there are no alternatives, and therefore nothing to be done" - and a "politics of eternity," or the idea that time is "a circle that endlessly returns to the same threats

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune2 min read
Rex Huppke: Kobe Bryant's Death Shook Us Because It Shows How Swiftly A Life Can End
Kobe Bryant's death shook us. It's what happens when people larger than life - complete with their flaws and their failings - die suddenly. Too young. Too unexpected. Too much. The news of a helicopter crash in California broke Sunday on Twitter, and
Chicago Tribune1 min read
The Weekly Geography Quiz
GEOQUIZ: What is the capital of Eritrea? Answer: Asmara. The small African country sits on the Red Sea and is bordered by Ethiopia, Sudan and Djibouti. Visit Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Chicago Tribune5 min read
'City So Real' Review: At Sundance, Chicago Politics And Chicago Tribalism Comes Under Steve James' Microscope
Chicago: "never a lovely so real," as Nelson Algren wrote, and "never a city so real," as author Alex Kotlowicz revised Algren's sentiment about the beautiful woman with a broken nose. In a further revision of the phrase, this week "City So Real," th