The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America. By Timothy Snyder. Tim Duggan Books; 360 pages; $27. Bodley Head; £25.
IT IS a long way from the stranger corners of Russian philosophy to the bloody events which began on the streets of Kiev in early 2014. Yet Timothy Snyder, a Yale historian and prolific writer on central Europe, sees an intimate connection. “The Road to Unfreedom” documents a determined effort by Vladimir Putin’s Russia to undermine liberal, law-based democracy. But it also examines the ideological underpinnings of that effort.
His narrative flashes from protests in Kiev, the Russian takeover of Crimea and the Russian-backed “uprising” in eastern Ukraine to the ideas pumped out by Russian officialdom, including Mr Putin himself, to justify the Kremlin’s actions. The Russian president’s favourite thinker is Ivan Ilyin, one of the intellectuals the Bolsheviks deported on one of the “philosophers’ ships” in 1922. An ideologue of the Russian diaspora, Ilyin admired Italian fascism, though he fell out with the German Nazis under whom he lived in the 1930s. He thought a monarch, rather than laws or constitutions, should be the supreme authority in Russia.