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The Road to Unfreedom

Narrated by: Timothy Snyder
Length: 10 hrs and 9 mins
Categories: History, 21st Century
5 out of 5 stars (152 ratings)

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Summary

Random House presents the audiobook edition of The Road to Unfreedom, written and read by Timothy Snyder. 

The past is another country, the old saying goes. The same might be said of the future. But which country? For Europeans and Americans today, the answer is Russia.

Today's Russia is an oligarchy propped up by illusions and repression. But it also represents the fulfilment of tendencies already present in the West. And if Moscow's drive to dissolve Western states and values succeeds, this could become our reality, too.

In this visionary work of contemporary history, Timothy Snyder shows how Russia works within the West to destroy the West: by supporting the far right in Europe, invading Ukraine in 2014, and waging a cyberwar during the 2016 presidential campaign and the EU referendum. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the creation of Donald Trump, an American failure deployed as a Russian weapon. 

But this threat presents an opportunity to better understand the pillars of our freedoms, confront our own complacency and seek renewal. History never ends, and this new challenge forces us to face the choices that will determine the future: equality or oligarchy, individualism or totalitarianism, truth or lies.

The Road to Unfreedom helps us to see our world as if for the first time. It is necessary listening for any citizen of a democracy.

©2018 Timothy Snyder (P)2018 Random House Audiobooks

Critic reviews

"A brilliant and disturbing analysis, which should be read by anyone wishing to understand the political crisis currently engulfing the world." (Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens and Homo Deus)

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One of the few times I wish there was a sixth star

I finished this in just two sessions. Thank God for holidays, as it meant the peace to give this the attention it deserves.

Within 30 minutes of starting it, I had recommended it to a friend.

A relatively complex topic, explained with great clarity and precision.

A truly excellent book.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Great thesis

Comprehensively argued thesis of two forms of politics and how they apply to Russia, Europe and America. Russian exportation of their politics to the US and how same worked to undermine American politics. Excellent. Much new for me on the Trump / Russia story.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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From Russian communism to Russian fascism & chaos


Essential and a must read, the best nonfiction book of 2018

A nation that has never had actual freedom grows to create a culture that distrusts the very idea of democracy and individual rights; it has no place in its soul or in the very institutions that hold it together, and such a nation has been an empire it sees this very fact as a successful formula, a reason to conquer to dominate.

This book is the best book I have read about modern Russia aspirations and the philosophy that propels fuels its motivations. It will appear entirely alien to a western mind as it grows out a totalitarian logic and has been rumbling better minds than mine from the beginning of the century. We have never understood the power of a culture too reshape an ideology into its own soul and how that influence acts like a prism that separates and reconfigures the source. Marx had an idea, and it was implemented in Russia, and it mutated by Russia and its imperial past into a nightmarish totalitarian view that we in the west call Stalinism, but it was Russian communism; lamentably it was the only example of communism that spread through the world with the same nightmarish consequences. Now we have a Russian version of fascism inspired by the motherland and by Ivan Ilyin and put to practice by Putin, some of you will have spotted the similarities to the old Russian Soviet similarities and thought that you were looking for a continuation; the only continuation here is the Russian justification to grow in power and the nationalistic need to impose it.

The book deals first with the philosophy and the adoption of it into Putin's new Russia; we move into the history of it's in implementation and how it has been utilised in various military conflicts and how it has developed into an asymmetric form of warfare with the west and its institutions. The penetration of the American model and the destabilisation of Europe are discussed and explained in chronological order.

Russia does not need to win a conventional war if it can destabilise our nations from within by supporting the extremes and the growth of conspiracy theories that make impossible, ordinary logical discourse or understanding of reality, the examples and proof have all been provided in smaller conflicts and are described in greater detail, including cyber attacks to entire nations that have been very effective.


9 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Well worth the time spent

I loved the clarity of Snyder's argument. Sad state of affairs but we must be aware of what's going on around us. Or we will be sleepwalking into a disaster.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Worrying Stuff

A difficult but rewarding book that combines two main approaches to its subject matter.

On one hand it is a work of political philosophy and intellectual history charting the growth of the oligarchic Russian state, its relation to the work of religious and political philosopher Ivan Ilyin and the rise of Putin as a neofascist self-proclaimed political messiah who will save Russia from a homosexual West, all framed within the author's distinction of the 'politics of inevitability' vs the 'politics of eternity’. The former is akin to Fukuyama's "End of History"; in the latter we live in a postmodern world where all politicians are lying, everything is fake news, people's faith in facts is undermined and the 'truth' becomes what is most convenient and useful for the state to want us to believe. This is all highbrow stuff and takes some concentration and re-listening to follow.

On the other hand the book is a journalistic work charting Putin's history and rationale behind interventions in Ukraine, his attempts to undermine the EU, and his role in the US presidential election. This latter is now the subject of a number of recently published works that, whilst providing further evidence and greater detail, lack the gravitas and context that Snyder provides.

[ I must confess though that I am still pondering the author's claim that Britain has never been a nation state despite the beliefs of its citizens and the role that this played in Brexit. ]

The author's delivery is a little wooden and it might have been better read by somebody else, but overall I enjoyed it immensely, learnt many new things and came away with plenty of food for thought and some considerable concern about where this is all going to end up.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating and informative

We are probably all aware that nations are influencing other nations. In the past through lobbying and espionage. Now through much more subtle and effective methods like social media and other automated processes. Snyder is giving a factual insight in Russian influence. And not just from a recent perspective, but he goes back in history and reviews how this has developed. Very interesting and insightful.

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    5 out of 5 stars

Terrifying, illuminating, riveting, worrying.

Brings a level of understanding of the forces shaping modern society that left me stunned. Ties global forces to local outcomes with ease. A must read ... well for anyone that wants to live in a democratic society.

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The final chapters are essential reading/listening

I listened to this via Audible. Some chapters were dry and closer to typical history texts. The final chapters, where the author gathers all the strands of earlier chapters together and brings it towards the conclusion, were as compelling as any espionage novel and one of the most illuminating and engaging non-fiction texts I have purchased in years.

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A must read books

If you were to read 5 books this year, this should be one of them in my opinion.

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An important case well presented

The author explains the recent change in America's trajectory and its likely destination. The middle chapters are quite hard going but the summary is excellent. An important read.

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  • Christian R. Unger
  • 15-05-18

Very dense but also accessible

A rather complex but accessible web of the way Russia attempts to exert influence around the world through disinformation. Clearly well researched, thoughtfully presented and just downright fascinating. The one thing that I keep pondering is how many are unwillingly made to carry out this agenda vs who is aware.

Well performed although some of the German words were clearly off but not that many in here and it did not grate.

Very interesting and very well presented.