The Road to Unfreedom

Russia, Europe, America
Narrated by: Timothy Snyder
Length: 10 hrs and 10 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (720 ratings)

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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

Critic Reviews

"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

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  • Overall
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    4 out of 5 stars

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.

13 people found this helpful

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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.

8 people found this helpful

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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

7 people found this helpful

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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.

15 people found this helpful

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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.

6 people found this helpful

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Must read

Few books are a must read, this is one of them. I thought by the title, the book would be full of hyperbole, not that all.

1 person found this helpful

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Timothy Snyder’s Mastery Continues

When I read Snyder’s “On Tyranny” my faith in the power of Democracy was reinvigorated and my hope restored. With writing that runs like water, Snyder captures what many would understand regard as a macabre subject with the brilliant hue of enlightenment. I intend on buying this book for everyone in my family.

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Great leaps and bounds

The authors read is done with nice inflection. It’s easy to listen to. His conclusions leave something to be desired as he makes broad generalizations and great leaps in logic and assumption at the same time criticizing others for the same. He repeatedly criticizes large groups of people (Americans, those of certain ideologies, Ukrainians etc) as unthinking, unseeing, naive, racist, etc and comes across as the expert or authority implying if one doesn’t agree with this point of view or supposition one is stupid, blind, asleep, racist etc. The book however seems well and deeply researched ( though I have not validated his statements of facts) and, taken at face value, it brings up correlations and ideas one would do well to use as a jumping off point to further research and pondering.

2 people found this helpful

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A must-read

A stunning, chilling book by one of our greatest American minds. Required reading for anyone who feels overwhelmed by political events of the past decade. It’s like putting on a pair of glasses, and suddenly the chaotic world surrounding us becomes clear...

2 people found this helpful

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Most Important and Gripping Book I Have Ever Read

If you think that America's future can only be as great as it's past then think again but only after you've read Snyder's book "The Road to Unfreedom". Because I read it, almost without stopping, I finally understand the real reason for this president's constant lying. He does not lie because he can't help himself instead he lies to help himself and his fellow oligarchs to our fortunes. Yet the more important reason to read the book is to understand what is happening to your freedom so that you will be equipped to choose the path away from unfreedom and toward the freedom our forefathers intended.

2 people found this helpful