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.
Yale history professor Snyder (On Tyranny) buttresses his denunciation of Donald Trump as a nascent authoritarian with a fascinating, detailed exploration of how recent events in Russia presaged Trump's administration. Beginning by discussing the obscure early-20th-century Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin, who regarded "fascism as the politics of the world to come," Snyder traces Ilyin's influence on Vladimir Putin's aggressive efforts to return his country to superpower status. Those included the 2014 invasion of Ukraine, which Snyder considers "the warning that went unheeded" of Russia's willingness to interfere with other countries' political systems, as later seen during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He relates Ilyin's belief that strong rulers favor self-serving myths over empirical evidence to numerous examples of the Putin regime's propaganda. In perhaps its most audacious PR coup, Russia's downing of a Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine was spun so successfully that well over 80% of Russians believed their country wasn't to blame. This instance of "alternative facts" will resonate with many Trump opponents, as will Snyder's dissection of the leadership style of oligarchs, both Russian and American. His work achieves its stated goal of conveying the relationship among "interconnected events in our own contemporary world history" and will be a must-read for those concerned about democracy's safety in the 21st century.)