Bloodlands has ratings and reviews. Mieczyslaw said: I was raised amongst survivors of the great horror that was the War in Eastern Europe. My. Tim Snyder’s ambitious Bloodlands set out to place the murderous regimes of the Third Reich and Stalin’s Soviet Union in their overlapping European contexts. Int his deeply unsettling and revelatory book, Timothy Snyder gives voice to the testimony of the victims through the letters home, the notes flung from trains, the.

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Snyder proceeded from the central observation that the annihilation fantasies of Hitler and Stalin were to a large part played out in the same space: To be asked to review such anyder text nearly seven years after its original timthy is to an extent to be asked not only to consider the success of the book in meeting these fundamental aims, but its impact on a wider field and understanding of its subject matter. Snyder set out to change our understanding of the Bloodlands — so, to put it crudely, how far did he succeed?

In some senses, as Snyder acknowledges, Bloodlands was a history for its own time. It is, self-evidently, a post-Cold War project not least because in practical terms it has access to insights that were unavailable to scholars before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But perhaps more importantly it is a post-Holocaust analysis too. By which I mean it is an analysis cast after the Holocaust had been cemented within a wider historical consciousness. The attempt to set the Holocaust in a history of violence has for example been a consistent part of scholarship since even before the Second World War ended. All of these were efforts to timothh the Holocaust in a particular context. So, when Bloodlands set out to place the murder of Jews in a wider history of violence within Europe, it was following in a rich tradition.

The novelty was therefore not so much the aim of contextualisation but in the choice of context — in this case a geographical space. Snyder reasserted that European history of the Holocaust by putting Nazi anti-Jewish violence in the ssnyder of wider German violence against European populations, especially Poles, and also in the context of Soviet violence in the same spaces, for example in terms of the Holodomor.

For the non-specialist there is much to learn in the first part of the book about the terror-famine in the Ukraine which Snyder convincingly renders as a kind of self-fulfilling bureaucratic fantasy as well as a human tragedy. First, understanding the Nazi and Soviet dictatorships together is of course not in itself novel — such efforts had been a Cold War staple.

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin

But if we consider an extended geographical context, then it of course ignores the huge violence and population movements associated with the collapse of the multi-ethnic Empires in Europe and on its borders throughout the first part of the century. Or to put it another way, Snyder draws only geographical links between the two tragedies — he does not attempt to find even partially overlapping explanations or implications for them.


How do we join the dots between the events described? Yet we are given nothing to causally link these two approaches to food policy. This designation is striking, event singular not plural. It is also rather jarring — precisely because at times it is difficult to discern the causal or analytical framework in which we are being invited to understand this litany of violence in such a fashion.

The answer to the question what renders it a single event is unanswered. It is also striking that Bloodlands offers very little analysis of the actual geographies in which the violence took place, beyond the designation of the space. Perhaps the discovery of geography has come late to Holocaust studies, but we know, thanks to the work of scholars such as Tim Cole, that the landscape itself was an important protagonist in Holocaust history.

Such an analysis is not present here.

At the same time, it is also difficult to find an investigation of the people within the Bloodlands. Who carried out the 14 million murders that define this history; what motivated them? To put it bluntly why did they kill? There is little analysis to be found here, despite the voluminous and sometimes heart-breaking detail around some of the violence. For the most part, our perpetrators are the familiar leaders of this destruction.

If a thesis is put forward in Bloodlands at all, it is where Snyder suggests that Nazi and Soviet violence interacted.

Timothy Snyder – Bloodlands – Hardcover

At different times the twin totalitarian devils prepared the ground for one another. Hitler and Stalin co-operated in their violent campaigns against Poland — similarly targeting Polish leaders in an effort to effectively destroy the Polish nation. The Bloodlands were literally the lands between Hitler and Stalin and as such the most violence occurred in a struggle for supremacy over and within those lands.

The argument that it was in the interaction of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union that the most lethal violence occurred has two main implications for our understanding of the Holocaust according to Snyder. The first is in the rejection of the over-theorisation of Holocaust studies as he sees it — not least the idea that the Holocaust reveals in general terms something about the logic of modernity or as Zygmunt Bauman described it, that it revealed the truth of modernity.

For Snyder the very opposite is the case, Nazism and Sovietism were an attack on the European Enlightenment not a consequence of it.

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder

This is a theme that he recently returned to in his provocative history of the Holocaust entitled Black Earth which argues very clearly that the Shoah cannot be considered as a consequence of the development of the nation-state, perhaps the central story of modern European history, and the effort to remake such a state but in fact can only really be understood in terms of the absence of the state. It is clear Snyder can only go so far in his designation of the Holocaust as a part of European history.


He argues, in repetition of debates about decision making from the s, that the Nazi Final Solution emerged in revenge for Nazi perception of their failure to win the war in the Soviet Union.

For example he writes: Both Nazi snyeer Soviet regimes dreamed of empire, and both saw within empire the same possibilities — namely economic security and self-sufficiency. As such, the violence that underpinned both regimes and the struggle between them can be realistically understood as part of the general history of European imperialism. This is a welcome argument, notwithstanding the links between that imperialism and the Enlightenment, but it is a contextualisation that requires a history beginning long beforeand as such Snyder really only begins to ask the question about how we might situate these events within our understanding of the violence exported from Europe rather than finding any particular answers.

How far has Bloodlands shaped or impacted understanding either within the academy or in terms of a wider public? To deal with the latter first, this is timotjy almost impossible question to answer, but I can offer some speculations. Snyder was in timoghy motivated by what he felt were blopdlands limitations of a general understanding of the Holocaust in the 21st century despite the widespread acceptance of the importance of remembering these events. I would personally argue that the deficiencies in the general picture of the Holocaust that exist, for example in modern Britain, might be better understood as a consequence of that widespread memorialisation rather than despite it, but that is an argument for another day.

Auschwitz snyeer the central symbol of the Holocaust, for example, with little or no sense that the complexity of this institution is widely appreciated or the fact that before it began its operation the vast, vast majority of the victims of the Bloodlands had already been bloodlaands.

In terms of scholarship, it is perhaps best to reflect that Bloodlands asked several of the questions that continue to detain scholars of the Holocaust in particular, and of mass violence more generally. The question of the context in which we should understand the genocide of the Jews remains the central concern for scholars of this period, even if answers are often widely and politically differentiated.

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder – review

Similarly, we see a steady stream of scholars attempting to assert the wider contexts for Nazi violence — in terms booodlands the history of imperialism; the wider history of genocide or of inter-ethnic tensions beyond simply a history of German antisemitism. As such while Snyder did not provide many of the answers in Bloodlandshe did begin to ask the questions. Skip to main content.

Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. Professor Tom Lawson Northumbria University. Professor Tom Lawson, review of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalinreview no.