A Conversation with Timothy Snyder

by Sarah Beth Hopton Issue: Spring 2018

I first met Dr. Timothy Snyder during a lecture given as part of the Appalachian State University Humanities Council Fall Symposium on Sustaining Democracy. Snyder specializes in the history of Central and Eastern Europe and the Holocaust. Snyder proved his mastery of both content and delivery by keeping a standing-room-only audience rapt for over an hour, while inviting them to contemplate an uncomfortable possibility—that America might become a fascist state.

Snyder’s argument that today’s political landscapes are strikingly similar to those that sanctioned the rise of Hilter, Stalin, and other fascists is persuasive. His book, On Tyranny, was written to offer those concerned about the historical moment in which we live 20 practical counterpoints to resist such an end for the United States.

Though a trained historian (he is a graduate of Brown, Oxford, and Harvard universities and speaks or writes 11 European languages), Snyder has mastered the conventions of New Journalism, which makes his nonfiction essays and his books—including the just-released Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America (2018)—as lively and accessible as they are timely.

I interviewed Dr. Snyder during a two-hour road trip back to the Charlotte Airport in 2017.

Sarah Beth Hopton: I wanted to start with a question that would explore a little bit of your backstory. How did you become an academic? Or was this something that you had always aspired to? How did you focus your academic career on European countries, specifically around ideas about tyranny? Just tell us a little bit about how you came to write On Tyranny.

Tim Snyder: I mean, what historians will always do is point out that the thing which happens at the end doesn’t explain the stuff that happened before it. I became a historian not because I was meant to but because I loved doing it, and then I was able to get paid for it. I’m from Ohio, and I went to Brown. I was interested there, in the late 80s, in the Cold War and Arms control. I thought I was going to become a lawyer, an arms control negotiator. But I was also interested in the history of ideas. I had the good fortune at Brown to have a professor, Mary Gluck, who taught wonderful classes on the history of ideas, and she happened to be, herself, from Hungary, so there was a Central European element to her teaching. I also had a class in the spring of 1990 from a serving American diplomat and historian, Thomas W. Simons Jr., who taught on post-war Eastern Europe. This was around ‘89-‘90, when Eastern Europe was emerging from Communism. Though there were only about a half dozen classes on Eastern European history offered in the United States, I was lucky enough to take one of them.

At that time, I felt that my interests in the history of ideas and contemporary power were coming together in some way, and that these Eastern Europeans who belonged to recognizable intellectual traditions were also people who were now going to be moving into power, and I found that very exciting. It was a little naive, but it wasn’t entirely wrong. What I thought I was going to do was become a diplomat, or maybe a journalist, but I applied for fellowships to the UK and I got one. My idea was to get a doctorate quickly over there--which would force me to learn languages (which I needed), and I thought that History was the best preparation for that kind of work. As I was doing it, I realized that I liked it.

It was thrilling to go to Poland and read archival material that other people hadn't been reading. It was thrilling to have these whole, big subjects in European History, which hadn’t really been done properly. The novelty of it was thrilling. And also just the sense of being on the edge of something— I wasn’t going to Marseille, and I wasn’t going to Dublin— I was going to places where historians hadn’t been able to go. I was figuring things out and there was this idea—which I still have—that all of European history would make more sense if we could figure out some of these problems in Eastern European history. So I was doing that and I was happy, it was an adventure, but I still thought at the end of getting this degree that I was going to become a diplomat.

Then it dawned on me—thanks largely to one of my advisors at Oxford, who basically took me aside in a very gentlemanly way, and told me that I was not actually as good at other stuff and I should probably be a historian. [Laughter] And I think he was right. I mean, I don’t think that being diplomatic is my strong suit. So he was probably right and he encouraged me to become an historian.

Now, I hadn’t followed the professional path for that, so I wrote a dissertation about a forgotten 19th-century Polish, Marxist sociologist at a time when biographies and Marxism were out of fashion. And I wasn’t in an American school where I was professionalized in an American way, so I didn’t get any job offers. I was in Europe for half a decade after I finished my dissertation, which turned out to be a really good thing because I learned more languages, and I made more friends in those territories, and those lands became more familiar to me.

Eventually I got a job—a lot of lucky things had to happen—but eventually I got the job that I have now at Yale. At Yale, I wrote other books, but the last couple of books that I worked on had to do with atrocities and mass killing, the politics of mass killing in Eastern Europe, specifically. So for about the last decade I’ve been thinking about those problems, and I wrote a couple of books and thought I had figured things out. For example, writing Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning helped me figure some things out. It’s in that context that I wrote On Tyranny, as an American whose main engagements have been in Europe.

In terms of writing about contemporary politics, I almost never wrote about the US. I generally wrote about Europe, but the Trump election caught me up. What I tried to do was apply the things I thought I understood in time [to affect change]. The concept is that history actually buys you time. It creates time for you, because if you have the history, then you see the patterns and you can figure out what to do and you don’t get caught up in ‘Oh, I don’t know what’s going on,’ or ‘This is all new,’ or ‘the institutions are going to save me,’ or whatever—you know, all that nonsense.

SH: History is, obviously, important to you, but it’s also just important generally. You made mention of several stories [in your talk] of friends, perhaps family, but people that you care deeply about who suffered great atrocity. You said that at some point this motivated your work. Would you share a story that particularly haunts you or motivated you? You know, we talk a lot about how it [tyrannical oppression] can’t happen here, but you know better than most that it can and it is happening here, and part of that knowledge stems from having witnessed friends in places where it happened to them. So can you speak to a story that stays with you and motivates your work in this particular area?

TS: You know, it’s not really like that—it’s not that I’m haunted by the individual stories, it’s more that the individual stories mount up and become, for me, a kind of normality. I just want to stress that the it—that it can happen—isn’t because I know one story from the past. It’s because I know thousands of them. It can happen to people like us. Like, yeah there are people that I’m close to in Eastern Europe who lived through Nazi occupation and lived through communism, and some of them are my friends, and some of them are just acquaintances or colleagues, but it’s more the accumulation. Like, okay, there are thousands and thousands of people with whom one could identify, who just had this life. That’s what makes it normal. That’s what makes it possible to imagine that people in America, as I see now, could slide in the direction of living under a one party state, or living under some type of tyrannical regime. In more recent times, it’s certainly true that when I see people who are unmistakably of my generation or have similar goals or similar tastes, who find themselves in situations where they have to make harder choices, that makes an impression on me, and that’s one of the lessons of the book—to learn from the past and other countries. It’s not that people in other countries do things better or worse, necessarily, but that people very much like ourselves have been or are confronted with things that we are going to be confronted with (or are confronted with and don’t know it yet).

I’ll start this in kind of a funny way. On Tyranny was performed in an experimental theater in New York by a Ukrainian novelist and poet who also heads up a ska band, which is called Sobaky v Kosmosi, Dogs in Space. That band performed On Tyranny as a ska song, with the lyrics in Ukrainian, but also borrowed the chorus and the melody from the Clash song, “Know your Rights.” Okay, that’s kind of cool.

So that guy, Serhiy Zhadan, heads up that band (and writes novels that will maybe one day win a Nobel prize for Literature)— is in Kharkiv in March of 2014 when Russians were overflowing the border. There were these staged attempts to take over the regional administration buildings, like the state capitals basically, and Kharkiv was one of those protestors. Russia organized these attempts to take over these state administration buildings, and Serhiy Zhadan was with a bunch of students who were trying to occupy these buildings physically with their bodies so that buildings wouldn’t be taken over. He was outnumbered, and he was surrounded, and there were a bunch of people in front of him and they were gonna make him run a gauntlet, and they said, ‘kneel in front of us.’ He said, ‘No, I’m not going to do that.’ So they broke his skull.

I was in touch with his friends when he went to the hospital, and I paid attention to him and his work, but it’s not like he’s my best friend in the world. I don’t want to claim that he and I are close buddies, or anything like that, but he’s somebody who’s out there in the world and I think I kind of understand some of the things he holds important in life, and we worry about similar things. I had read his work, and then there he was. Did he kneel or not? He didn’t. Those are the kinds of things I remember. I mean I could multiply these examples of people that I know of who have physically suffered (or worse) but, you know, that’s something that stays with me. You live this life, you do these things, you try to change the world through culture— good—and then you find yourself in this moment, and what do you do? Do you lie down or not?      

SH: There was one part of the book that, for me, was most challenging, and that was the section on being courageous. You had talked about Rosa Parks, and you talked about people who had taken food to Jews during the Nazi occupation, and now you’re talking about Serhiy Zhadan, and I guess my question to myself and to you is whether we know if we will have the courage to not to lie down until that moment is in front of us. I sort of felt with this last U.S. election—and said this to my family—that we were part of a historical moment; our votes mattered in this election, and it was our moment to be on the right side of history, or not; to lie down or not. Some of us made one choice and some of us made another. My question is, do you think you have it in you not to lie down, and do you have any advice to others on how to recognize whether they have it in them? Is this courage something you can cultivate, is it something you’re born with, or is it something that’s sort of a spontaneous emotion experienced in the moment, which has consequences, like getting your skull bashed in?

TS: First, I’m going to broaden this question because people are courageous in different ways. There are millions of Americans who voted for Mr. Trump, which I regard as a mistake, but there are also millions of Americans who voted for Mr. Trump who I’m sure would be courageous in other circumstances—and as we know, are. There are plenty of people who voted for Mr. Trump who do things which you and I would probably regard as ‘good,’ and there are plenty of people who voted for Mr. Trump who I would want to have beside me in a situation of true physical danger. I don’t want to say that it’s as simple as that, like, there’s just the courage or there’s not the courage.

The second thing I wanna say is that you don’t want to say to yourself, ‘I have to be willing to die, or else I can’t help anything.’ The reason people bring up examples of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., or of Ghandi, or of others who took authentic risks is not that we all have to be like them, it’s that that shows the outer horizon. You ask me, ‘would I have done the same thing in that circumstance,’ and I don’t know. You don’t know until you’re there, but the important thing is to recognize that people can be courageous and that it’s admirable, as opposed to ‘crazy.’ If you don’t think about the world that you’re in, then people who take risks will just seem… like, well, ‘why are they doing that? Nothing is really going on.’ If you start with ‘Nothing is really going on,’ then you start to marginalize those people in your own mind and in that way you’re taking part in the regime change.

A lot of my friends in Poland and the Czech Republic who are a generation older are people who sat in prison in the 70s and 80s as anti-communist dissidents, and at the time the regime’s whole move was to say, ‘well, these people, they’re just Jews, or they’re just Ukrainians, or they’re parents were Stallinists,’ or whatever they could say to put them on the margin, so the ‘normal people’ would see them as marginal, would see standing up for your beliefs, standing up for you country, in fact, as marginal, weird behavior. The Soviet Union in the 70s and 80s would put people in psychiatric prisons for basically being normal, or what we would hopefully see as normal. I’m not trying to say that we have to think of it in terms of ‘would you be willing to be crucified?’—that’s not my point. My point is that sometimes a lot of courage is necessary, (courage is a virtue), [and sometimes only a little is necessary].

When the risks are relatively small, train yourself. It takes a little bit of courage to take down a swastika. It takes a little bit of courage when someone is talking to you at a bar about something racist to reply. Right now, we’re not literally on the barricades, but if you don’t practice these little tiny courageous things, then you’re not going to have much of a chance later on. To put it in a different way, the little tiny courageous things that we do now, make a lot of difference, they make it much more likely that people won’t have to face these life or death choices.

SH: This leads to another question. I was watching the room as you were speaking and most everyone was rapt and engaged and convicted and wanted to participate. But, there were also two young people sitting behind me who were thinking and talking about other things. They were planning what they were going to do this coming Friday night. I didn’t feel they were conscious of the moment in which they were living or of the importance of what was happening around them then or historically. So I wonder: how do you impress that upon people, especially at this stage in our possible slide into tyranny when we do have to make incremental acts of courageousness. How do you make even the incremental acts of courage feel important? How do you impress upon people the importance of the historical moment we’re in?

TS: I’m doing my best. I guess one thing is that you have to be realistic. You’re never going to get everybody. With the younger people, the question is can you get into, like, from ⅓ of people who are aware they’re living in history to, like, ⅔, at which point, I think everything would be fine. If you can get the roughly ⅓ who vote to ⅔ then that middle third is composed of the people who realize, ‘okay, this moment is actually something special, I actually am living in history.’

As far as techniques, I have my limited range, which is to try to get them to identify with history, and to get them to see their moment in different ways rather than how they see it, and to bring them out of the small places into which they tend to escape. To confront the way the internet is a shield rather than a form of access to the world. To joke with them—everyone has their own limited range of techniques. But I think fundamentally what I’m after is a sense of belongingness and responsibility that, whether they see it or not, they’re a part of this much larger community and their actions make a difference. They’re part of this web and if they reach out, that makes a difference; if they pull back, that also makes a difference. I hope to give them a sense of responsibility, or really just power.

One thing I come across over and over again is this sense that our generation has built into them (and they’ve also built into themselves) that what they do doesn’t really matter, which is exactly the opposite of the truth. They could have swung this election; they should have swung this election. America would be a very different country than it is right now. But they chose not to. More than that, whether they like it or not, they were born at a time where a crucial moment of American history was going to arise just as they were hitting adulthood, and that’s just true. This moment is probably more important than the Vietnam war, for example. It’s probably more important as a definer of what America is going to be like than anything that’s happened in the lives of their parents or grandparents. But, you can’t just hit them over the head with that, you have to give them examples and that’s what On Tyranny tries to do.

SH: You mentioned Vietnam. As someone who has a deep affection for Vietnam, and does a little research over there, and has seen the new Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War— much like his one on the Civil War—can you speak on the ways in which this moment, in your opinion, is more important than the Vietnam War was for their parents’ generation?

TS: Well, is it their parents’ or their grandparents’?

SH: I guess it would be their grandparents’ [laughs], oh, God, I’m so old! But I guess it would be their grandparents’ generation, although they’d be very young grandparents.

TS: The reason that I said that is, I think, now the nature of the regime in the U.S. could change. We’re moving towards a one-party, kleptocratic, race-based [system of governance]. In Vietnam, passions were high on both sides, but there wasn’t the sense that elections weren’t going to be held the next time. One way to think about it is to compare Watergate to today. Nixon would have liked to have been in a situation where Democrats could never win again, but the scale of what he did to try to rig the election is minute by comparison to the scale of what just happened to us. We don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but there was a recognition of Watergate that this was a national ordeal that people were going to have to cross divides to get over, and I certainly don’t feel that now. Maybe we’ll get to that. It’s strange to say, but I think the stakes now are much higher.

SH: I don’t disagree. You have twenty lessons in your book. If you had to distill them into a top five or top three, or even a top one, what might they be, and why?

TS: The most important one is number one. On Tyranny is written as a list for a reason. It’s written that way so people can think, ‘okay, this is specific, I can do this.’ It also follows a certain arc where the lessons at the beginning are the lessons you have to do first and then they allow you to do the later ones. So number one is the most important. Number one is “don’t obey in advance.”

There are a couple of reasons that is the most important lesson. The first reason is that it speaks to maybe most important thing that historians have understood about the authoritarian regime changes in the 20th century, which is that they’re not all pyrotechnics, they’re not super villains coming in from off-stage. Regime changes require consent. So if the most familiar reference, is Hitler,1933, although he won an election, and although he was named chancellor, he needed the consent of Germans even after that if he was going to change the regime. He needed people to look away from the swastikas; he needed people to look away from the Star of David on Jewish shops; he needed people to accept that this was still Germany and this was still normal and nothing had really happened—which is what people did, for the most part. He needed some people to be in violent paramilitaries, but he needed a much greater number to see that as not being abnormal. He needed a few people to set up concentration camps, but he needed many more people not to say, ‘this is absolutely unacceptable and extraordinary and can’t happen in Germany.’ So he needed these forms of consent, and a lot of the good work of German historians has been about 1933 and 1944 and how that consent is given. That’s the historical reason not obeying in advance is so important.

Now, there’s a psychological way of talking about this too. We know that people when they’re confronted with a new authority will generally adapt to that new authority without realizing that they’re doing it. They’ll take their cues, they’ll change their behavior, they won’t have a conversation with themselves about why they’re doing it, they’ll just do it. So the psychological lesson is that you have to break that. There are moments in everyday life when you walk into a situation and have to say, ‘that’s not normal—I’m not going to adapt.,’ and then you have to react to it, and that’s sometimes true in politics, and Americans aren’t used to that. They’re very much used to four years and then there will be something else. Sometimes things happen that are just not normal and then you have to say to yourself, ‘okay, I’m going to define what I think is normal,’ and then once you do that it’s like you’re breaking away from a stream, you’re no longer drifting—you can decide what you’re going to do, you’re on land, you’re walking on your own two feet. It’s not that you then immediately change the world, it’s that you now have the possibility of doing something.

The other reason why “do not obey in advance,” is important is the moral reason. If you do obey in advance, if you just kind of drift and wait for signals and respond to them, then you become that person who didn’t do anything. Then you will use your brain to rationalize and explain why you didn’t do anything, and why it was impossible, and why it’s all okay. You see people doing this in the U.S. already. People who should have been much more concerned, I think, and explicit and active back in early 2017 or late 2016 are now publishing things about why it’s all fine and blah blah blah. That’s because they’re in this moral trap and at some level they know they should have done something, but they drifted. So if you don’t act in the beginning, it becomes harder with every month to change your mind. For that reason, number one is the most important, because number one enables you. There’s another reason, which is what we know about the timing of regime changes. Regimes have about twelve to eighteen months to firm up what they’re going to do. In the U.S. cycle, let’s say they have until the midterm elections. At that time, things are going to be decided most likely. So if you don’t act then, you risk losing your ability to act at all.

SH: You mentioned that all of what Hitler did seemed to be coordinated, concerted, full of effort, full of thought, cogent, and very powerful. You said during your talk yesterday that you felt Trump uses similar tactics borrowed from the Nazis, but quite unknowingly. Can you speak a little bit more about why you think that, what suggests that to you, and what may be some of the repercussions of his borrowing from Nazi tactics unknowingly? Does that give him a pass, does that make things better, or give us an opportunity to insert ourselves in more productive ways? 

TS: There are a couple of tracks, but one thing to say is that Mr. Trump does some of the things that he does because he’s not reflective about American history and our own connection to the far right and racism. He doesn’t see the problem in our history of the klan. He cites his father as his hero, but there’s not any reflection on his father being arrested at a klan riot. His main slogan is ‘America First’ and there’s not any reflection on ‘America First’ basically being ‘deutsch über alles’ in English. There’s no reflection on whether or not it was a good thing for people to say Americans are more like Nazi Germany than they’re unlike it, which is the basic idea of ‘America First.’ One can legitimately have a discussion about whether ‘America First’ made sense, you know, whether it made sense to go to war with Nazi Germany, that’s fine, but what I’m trying to say is that there’s no reflection about this. There’s no reflection when Mr. Trump talks about the confederate statues as beautiful monuments and memorials, or whatever he said. There’s no reflection there, he’s just saying this thing that he thinks is going to poll well.

What history requires of people is that they reflect on the past as opposed to just saying ‘well, whatever happened is fine.’ The whole post-war consensus in the U.S. and Europe is based on reflection about precisely fascism or Nazism. It’s different in the U.S. and Europe, but it’s all variations on the notion that that was worth going to war over and shouldn’t happen again. One sees no signs that Mr. Trump has reflected upon any of that or that lesson has come home to him in any way, and the result is that he doesn't have any hesitation about dipping into that pool of rhetoric. It doesn’t strike him as particularly wrong when people carry torches, as we’ve noticed. It doesn’t matter to him that in using a private security guard to throw out people from his rallies, he’s doing the same thing that Nazi’s did. It doesn’t matter to him that when he refers to journalists as ‘enemies of the people,’ he’s citing Joseph Stalin.

To switch politics for a minute, these things don’t matter to him because he’s just not reflective. So that’s one thing about him. The second thing about him is I don’t think he watches Hitler’s speeches and copies them, I just think that his oratorical gifts involve reaching out to people directly and saying, ‘I am your voice,’ which, by the way, is something Hitler said. That is how fascism works, where you say everything else is nonsense—the laws are nonsense, the institutions are nonsense, the parties are nonsense—everything is nonsense. Representation comes to mean personal representation of you, by me, and everything else is corrupt, or complicated, or both, or Jewish, but I will directly represent you, you are the people and everyone else is not really the people, and I am your leader. Trump’s oratorical gifts are like that, so he does things which look fascist if you are a student of fascism, and it’s not necessarily that he’s aware of that, it’s just that he’s not the type of person who would be aware of it. As far as he’s concerned, if it works, it’s fine, because he has no moral compass, whatsoever.

So, what does this mean for us? It means that we have to be much more historically aware, because whether Mr. Trump realizes this or not, he’s activated a whole set of associations. I think he’s half aware of it, it’s mostly that he doesn’t care, so we have to be much more historically aware of the signs, we have to remember the history, we have to have a sense of how fascism works (even if Mr. Trump doesn’t), and we have to work against it. That’s the point of On Tyranny.

Americans have spent a lot of time trying to figure out  ‘is he really a fascist? Is he not a fascist?’, or ‘is he mentally ill, or is he not mentally ill?’, or ‘is he a narcissist? How do we characterize his psychological disorder?’ I’m happy, in my weaker moments, to say all kinds of bad things about Mr. Trump, but the more important thing is how do we resist? The resistance is not about him, because he’s not going to change. The resistance has to be structural. We have to recognize how a character like him will weaken the structures. The analysis can’t be limited to his person. The analysis has to be: well, if you have somebody who doesn’t care about the lessons of the 20th century; only cares about himself and his wealth and is willing to delude white people using whatever language is most convenient (whether that’s Nazi language or fascist language or racist language); if you have that, then what do you have to prop up to resist it?

That’s what On Tyranny is about—it’s not about trying to pin him [Trump] down. Though, you know, his wife wrote in her memoirs that he had the text of Hitler’s speeches by his bed—maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but I doubt if he did that he read them. Even so, we’re not going to pin that down and, in a way, that’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is we’ve got someone at the center of power who doesn’t care about the system, and what we can learn from the past is how you can resist that. On Tyranny is not an attempt to mind-meld with Mr. Trump. On Tyranny is about taking the wisdom of anti-communists, anti-fascists, people who worked against these kinds of systems, and trying to translate that for the moment.

SH: Has Mr. Trump reached out to you, has he tweeted about you or On Tyranny, or has there been any communication? I mean, this is something he tends to do in the wee hours of the morning: attack people who openly speak out against him via Twitter.

TS: No, I think he’s too scared to do that.

SH: [laughter] Will that be a crowning achievement of the book or your career then when that happens? 

TS: No, because I almost think he’s too scared. One of his mistakes with the NFL was that he was tweeting about people who could be effective in the public sphere, which is not what he wants—he likes to bully. So he’s never going to tweet about me because he doesn’t want to give me more air time. If his administration tweets about me that’s more of me on TV, which they don’t want. That’s my guess anyway. The book has been a bestseller on the New York Times list for 30 weeks, so I know they’re aware of it. I think that’s the reason they don’t tweet about me—tweeting about me just means more of me. Personally though, I’d be very happy.

SH: [laughter] Have you thought about what you might tweet back to him or what you might tweet to Mr. Trump?

TS: Oh, yeah. We’re ready. We’re not afraid.

SH: One of the things that history can also teach us is that there’s still hope—whether or not we hope for the same things isn’t the question—the question is, is there anything about this history that you’ve studied that gives you hope? We may be in a very dark moment presently, but if we made some decisions differently and took small, courageous steps to resist, per your book’s instruction, then is there’s hope for some sort of a better future.

TS: Of course there’s hope, but there’s an important difference between hope and faith. Faith is in something, it’s not you, but hope involves you. Hoping involves doing. History doesn’t teach us about the way things have to be, it teaches us about the way things can be, and On Tyranny is trying to show how things can go wrong. History shows us what the structures are, what the limits are, shows us some of the ways we might be fooled some of the time, and thereby it shows us the room we have for action and the ways we can keep ourselves from being fooled. I mean, yeah, I have hope, or otherwise I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing, but I think hope goes together with activism. You see how things might be better and then you do something about it and that makes you feel like things might be better—you have to have both parts of that.

The frightening truth is that the possibilities are much wider than we think. There are many more things that could happen in America than we would think possible. Just the election of Mr. Trump is something that most Americans thought was impossible the year before, and now it’s reality. There are all sorts of things that have already happened in this administration that we would have thought impossible a year ago, and by we I mean most Americans, including most Republicans. So lots of things are possible that we don’t think are, and that’s worrisome. On the other hand, there are lots of avenues for action which we don’t see either. History helps you see what’s possible. Then it becomes your choice whether you do something about it or not.

Sarah Beth Hopton

Timothy Snyder is one of the leading American historians and public intellectuals, and enjoys perhaps greater prominence in Europe, the subject of most of his work. Among his publications are six single-authored award-winning books, all of which have been translated: Nationalism, Marxism, and Modern Central Europe: A Biography of Kazimierz Kelles-Krauz (1998, second edition 2016); The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1659-1999 (2003); Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist’s Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine (2005); The Red Prince: The Secret Lives of a Habsburg Archduke (2008); and Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (2010). His most recent book, Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning (2015) will appear in twenty-four foreign editions. It has been a bestseller in four countries and has received multiple distinctions including the award of the Dutch Auschwitz Committee. In a very special project, Snyder helped his friend, the distinguished historian and intellectual Tony Judt, to compose a thematic history of political ideas and intellectuals in politics, Thinking the Twentieth Century (2012). 

Sarah Beth Hopton is an Assistant Professor of Technical Communication & Professional Writing at Appalachian State University. She works at the intersections of environmental technical communication and stakeholder engagement in local and global contexts.