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  • The Road to Unfreedom

  • Russia, Europe, America
  • Written by: Timothy Snyder
  • Narrated by: Timothy Snyder
  • Length: 10 hrs and 10 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (66 ratings)

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The Road to Unfreedom

Written by: Timothy Snyder
Narrated by: Timothy Snyder
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Publisher's Summary

With the end of the Cold War, the victory of liberal democracy was thought to be absolute. Observers declared the end of history, confident in a peaceful, globalized future. But we now know this to be premature. 

Authoritarianism first returned in Russia, as Putin developed a political system dedicated solely to the consolidation and exercise of power. In the last six years, it has creeped from east to west as nationalism inflames Europe, abetted by Russian propaganda and cyberwarfare. While countries like Poland and Hungary have made hard turns toward authoritarianism, the electoral upsets of 2016 revealed the citizens of the US and UK in revolt against their countries’ longstanding policies and values.

But this threat to the West also presents the opportunity to better understand the pillars of our own political order. In this forceful and unsparing work of contemporary history, Snyder goes beyond the headlines to expose the true nature of the threat to democracy. By showcasing 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.

©2018 Timothy Snyder (P)2018 Random House Audio

What the critics say

"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 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 US presidential election." (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)

  • A New York Times Editors' Choice
  • Shortlisted for the 2019 Lionel Gelber Prize

What listeners say about The Road to Unfreedom

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Interesting.

good breakdown of the connections amongst russia, europe and america today. lots of nefarious activity indeed!

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important work

its impotant to read this book, as we can learn how we are controlled and treated as the people

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Essential Reading

Snyder weaves history with investigative journalism to illuminate the mechanisms of the resurgent fascist movement

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  • GEB
  • 2022-03-31

Most important book for human & political progress

Extremely informative on past and present issues involving manipulation of the human populace. Eye opening and truly worth the listen!

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An Excellent Overview

incredible context for the geopolitical issues of eastern Europe, how we arrived here and how it's being exported elsewhere

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  • Richard Keohane
  • 2018-04-08

A Key Understanding of Modern Politics

Would you consider the audio edition of The Road to Unfreedom to be better than the print version?

The Road to Unfreedom is a dense text, delving with deliberate action into history, philosophy, and politics. Listening can be mentally less taxing than reading.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

The book gives a comprehensive understanding of political narratives, and which ones are enticing but hollow and which ones aren't sexy but enrich nations and their citizens. It made me reconsider many of my political beliefs.

Which scene was your favorite?

The division of Identity Politics vs. Prosperity Politics made me rethink how I vote.

If you could give The Road to Unfreedom a new subtitle, what would it be?

The War Between Politicians Who Talk About Cultural Identity, Vs. Politicians Who Say What Can Be Done For Those They Represent

Any additional comments?

A must-read for those who wish to be informed about modern politics.

23 people found this helpful

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  • chiz f
  • 2018-06-30

The Most Important Book I've Read in Years

This book has changed my view of the current world and politics in the most important way: clarity, cogency, the importance of facts and research, and the tactics of manipulation used as psychological warfare on vulnerable uneducated human populations. America is not exceptional, America is not eternal, America is just a part of history and the sooner we focus on dealing with the realities of the present, the rule of law, social justice and governance for the benefit of all citizens and the welfare of the planet and life on it the better. The forces that work to destroy that evolution towards a higher consciousness of humanity are the real and constant threat to our potential humanity.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2018-04-14

Fascinating Exploration of Current Events

Anyone who has been trying to make sense of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the 2016 U.S. elections, and Russian actions more generally will likely find this of interest. It describes the ideological inspiration behind Putin and his cronies and their reasoning for interfering in other countries. By combining recent history, current events, and the philosophies of several important ideological figures with his own observations from long study of Europe, Timothy Snyder has done the best job so far of making sense of these events.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Steve Guillian
  • 2018-05-15

Fellow citizens

I beg you to read this book. I beg you to think about this book. I beg you to think about citizenry and the consequences of your seemingly mundane choices (like where you get your news) have on your impact as a citizen.

This book confronts home truths. The depth of that confrontation makes this a book you will probably have to breath through. If you you read this book, thank you for your courage, we will all walk out of this dark defining moment together, and along the way rediscover and recommit to the principles of western democracy

16 people found this helpful

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  • Jorge Santos
  • 2018-07-27

The definitive work on our current crisis

This text is simply excellent, and other than trouble with a few Russian names, the audiobook performance conveys the text clearly and enjoyably.
while the final quarter of the text deals with Trump in a manner that will upset his supporters, the author's analytical approach does not leave room for hand holding or false equivalency. Potential readers either want a serious scholarly treatment of the subject, with a major focus on the ideological roots of Putin's strategy and tactics at home and against Europe and the US, or they will not understand or enjoy Snyder's work.
One note of caution: this text/audiobook may be too dry/academic for some, but the level of detail reflects Snyder's training/profession, and makes his case more persuasive, if less accessable for some casual readers.
That said, I cannot recommend it more highly to anyone interested in the Russian roots of America's unfolding crisis.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Timothy E. Kennelly
  • 2018-04-20

Hatchet Job, Not a History

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Greetings,So, Timothy Snyder's book, "The Road to Unfreedom" is a not a history. It is a political hatchet job. There are only two possibilities: either Donald Trump will be impeached and removed from office or otherwise forced to resign, or the book is essentially bull****. I will not be reading another book by this author.PSI wrote a "one star" review for Amazon for the physical book and it looks like they refused to post. I have never had that happen before. I have been reviewing books for a long time. It is very odd and I wonder if this has anything to do with the content of the book and the review.

What was most disappointing about Timothy Snyder’s story?

It is a hatchet job pretending to be a history.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Dismay.

Any additional comments?

There is a fair amount of interesting material in the book, but the closing sections of the book are so partisan and obviously distorted that I am unwilling to take any of Snyder's claims seriously unless they are already known to me, or I do further reading on the subject. Every rumor about Trump is reported as fact, and an entire narrative of Trump's rise is invented by the author with the unbelievable assumption that Trump is and has always been understood to be a failed businessman in Russia who was simply propped up to be used for political purposes at a later date. "Trump the successful businessman" is said to be a Russian fiction that Putin and his buddies invented so that they could exploit Trump and the US. The book is a left wing pipe dream.

9 people found this helpful

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  • 4thace
  • 2020-04-08

If this is what really happened, we're in trouble

This book makes the case that many or most of the declines in openness and freedom over the last three decades in Western Europe and in the United States can be traced by a consistent effort by Vladimir Putin's Russia to spread strife to other nations which are seen as perpetual enemies. The author goes back to the first half of the twentieth century where a man I'd never heard of before, Ivan Alexandrovich Ilyin, put together the right-wing counterpart of the Russian Communist philosophies. Ilyin died in the 1950s but was brought back in the 1990s as someone who explained the misfortunes experienced by that country as a kind of contagion by the decadent and evil west which was determined to frustrate the realization of a united Eurasian empire inspired by the kingdom of Kievan Rus in the early Middle Ages centered. The rise of the class of oligarchs found themes in this philosophy which suited the kinds of things they were doing to enhance their personal wealth, much of it revolving around a narrative of endless struggle with outside nations which parallels the class struggle emphasized by the left.

The author then focuses on the years between 2010 and 2016 when Putin had consolidated his power as lifetime ruler and has gathered other oligarchical families in Russia and outside. The invasion of Ukraine is part military operation, part cyberwar, and a good deal psyops to the population of Russia. The presentation is not scholarly and there are no guides to primary sources here, so the careful reader would have to do a good deal of fact-checking on their own to verify the dozens or hundreds of incidents covered. There are a few names which recur over and over as fellow travelers with fascistic tendencies hoping to emulate the successes in their own governments. Towards the end of this section come the more or less direct attacks against the political systems of Poland, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. I got the impression that they must have been pleased with the amount of success they have had beyond their wildest dreams in foisting a kleptocratic structure modeled on the Russian oligarchy on America as punishment for our attempts to meddle in their affairs over the past century.

It is a horror story for a person who believes in the old myths about liberal democracy and about its inevitable spread among all nations. It made me angry and outraged that this whole scheme played out so perfectly to Putin's advantage and still somehow left him as something other than an utter pariah in public opinion. Of course the other world leaders do not have the freedom to shun such a dangerous character, and of course there are thousands of Ukrainians who know how the actions on the ground and the embrace of alternative facts came so close to dismembering their entire country, and yet it doesn't seem like there's an enormous reservoir of loathing among Western European and North American citizens at what he has orchestrated over all this time. There have been dangerous strongmen in the past which weren't greeted with a collective shrug. There have been sanctions, but beyond that, it seems like there has been no way to register the kind of revulsion these kinds of authoritarian moves cause in people who still believe in Enlightenment ideals.

I listened to the audiobook version of this and found it maybe even more gripping than it would have been in print. This is a case where the voice of the author add something to the experience of the work; it makes it easier to hear the alarm bells he's ringing, in my opinion. I found it an absorbing work that scared me out of my wits that I would recommend to anyone who would want to be shaken in the same way.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-08-29

propaganda

Mr Snyder confuses history with his own particular political taste, invents categories out of whole cloth. Some of the distortions are so blatantly obvious, that one must arrive at the conclusion that this is deliberate propaganda.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Linda Blake
  • 2020-11-27

Unfreedom

This book gives the best description of how the last thirty years came about and why we had a president Trump. Who knew we could provide so much entertainment to Putin and Russia with so much pain sorrow for America. I hope with President Biden that America will be more willing to help all of the people but somehow I don’t see that happening as the 1 per centers want it all. Unfortunately Republicans play by the Russian rules. At least with Timothy Snyder’s book I understand what is occurring and why.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Ember Rose Baker
  • 2020-07-21

Insightful, Thought Provoking, Enlightening

This is an important book. It presents a deep dive into the history of thought that seems to be guiding Putin in his aggressive assault on truth and facts in his own country and others' including the EU and the US. I found it hard to follow at first as he uses terms that have a more religious feel than a political one and he sites fascist authors I have never studied. It requires a careful listen. This is not a book you breeze through lightly. It would help greatly to read it with a friend so you could discuss it as you go. I really wish that more people, especially in the US would read and consider this book before the coming election. It sheds a great deal of light on what happened in the 2016 elections and what Russia is continuing to do to undermine western democracies. I will probably read this book again at least once, because it is helping me to find clarity and perspective as i try to make sense of our current reality. The author reads the audible edition competently, but my hunch is that the complexity of what the book presents would be easier to fully take in in written form. I thought I knew some things about Russia and the US, having grown up in the cold war, but I find myself re-thinking everything now. We, as a nation, should be re-thinking everything right about now. This book tells you why. It's a good investment of your time and energy.

5 people found this helpful