Filed under: Communism, Europe, Foreign Policy, History, Military, Politics, Russia, Socialism, Terrorism, The United States | Tags: Eastern Europe Again, The Essential History, Timothy Snyder's "Bloodlands"
Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin is the essential history to current events. We tend to think of World War II as “the good war,” celebrated in movies and fading memory. It was good in the sense that it was a war waged against true evil, but it was a desperate war in which the whole world was threatened. But we tend to forget the Cold War, a time when kids hid under their desks, and people built fallout shelters. Before World War II even began, America’s wartime ally Josef Stalin had killed millions of his own citizens—and kept killing them during and after the war. Before Hitler was finally defeated, he had murdered six million Jews and nearly as many other Europeans. At war’s end, both the German and the Soviet killing sites fell behind the iron curtain, leaving the history of mass killing in darkness.
Bloodlands is a new kind of European history, presenting the mass murders committed by the Nazi and Stalinist regimes as two aspects of a single history, in the time and place where they occurred: between Germany and Russia, when Hitler and Stalin both held power. Assiduously researched, deeply humane, and utterly definitive, Bloodlands will be required reading for anyone seeking to understand the central tragedy of modern history.
Timothy Snyder has done a series of articles for the New York Review of Books about the current crisis. Worth your time: “Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine,” “Ukraine: The Haze of Propaganda,” and “Crimea: Putin vs. Reality.“
Filed under: Communism, Europe, Freedom, History, Russia, Socialism | Tags: Eastern Europe Again, The Bloodlands, The Ukraine Erupts
Ukraine seems to be caught once again between the West and Russia. The European Union has wanted to establish a more modern policy towards Eastern Europe through the proposed association with Ukraine. The highlight of Friday’s Eastern Partnership Summit was supposed to be the formal signing of an agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, instead put the deal on hold.
Ukraine is a huge country torn between a western portion that looks towards Europe and Brussels and an eastern region that remains highly influenced by Russia. Kiev erupted with massive and bloody protests as hundreds of thousands of protesters poured into the Independence Square. But it is not just about Ukraine’s relationship but with Europe’s relationship with Russia, the sensitive former world power. Ukraine was once a part of the Soviet Union, and although few remain who lived through the Holodomor, when the Soviets deliberately starved Ukraine in the 1930s, the national memory is strong.
President Yanukovych was elected promising to smooth relations with the Russians, but had intended to sign the agreement with the EU. EU member states like Poland want to direct the EU’s influence toward the east, in part as protection against Russia. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin plays power politics. The EU has its own financial crisis, as does Russia, but Russia is promising to give Ukraine billions in loans, but without guarantees.
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso rejected Russian interference, saying “What we cannot accept is a condition on a bilateral agreement to have…a possible veto of a third country.”
Russia once lorded it over the entire Eastern bloc, but for the last 25 years has had to sit back and watch as one country after another has turned its back on Russia, and looked towards the West. The Soviets gave them good reason to turn their backs on Russia, but it must be humiliating for the Russians. Putin wants to stop what he sees as the West’s advance all the way to Russia’s borders. Lots of sticky problems here. Russia is well-provided with natural gas, and has threatened to blackmail a Europe that is flush with expensive alternative energy that is far more costly than anticipated. Yanukovych is widely regarded as corrupt, and has complained about the International Monetary Fund’s refusal to simply give him billions in loans without conditions.
Police responded violently, leaving many of the 500,000 protesters bloody and beaten, but officials from both Russia and the West were taken aback by the scale of the protests. The battle is now between the street and Yanukovych.
In some ways this is just the continuation of an old story. For the background, I highly recommend Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder. A new kind of European history, presenting the mass murders committed by the Nazi and Stalinist regimes as two aspects of a single history. Required reading for anyone seeking to understand the central tragedy of modern history.