Timothy David Snyder (born August 18, 1969) is an American author and historian specializing in the history of Central and Eastern Europe, and the Holocaust. He is the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University and a Permanent Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.
Snyder was born on August 18, 1969, in southwestern Ohio, the son of Christine (Hadley), a homemaker, and Estel Eugene Snyder, a veterinarian. Snyder graduated from Centerville High School. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in history and political science from Brown University and his Doctor of Philosophy degree in modern history in 1995 at the University of Oxford, supervised by Timothy Garton Ash and Jerzy Jedlicki. He was a Marshall Scholar at Balliol College, Oxford, from 1991 to 1994.
Snyder has held fellowships at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique in Paris from 1994 to 1995, the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen in Vienna in 1996, the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University in 1997, and was an Academy Scholar at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University from 1998 to 2001.
He has also been an instructor at the College of Europe Natolin Campus, the Baron Velge Chair at the Université libre de Bruxelles, the Cleveringa Chair at the University of Leiden, Philippe Romain Chair at the London School of Economics, and the 2013 René Girard Lecturer at Stanford University. Prior to assuming the Richard C. Levin Professorship of History, Snyder was the Bird White Housum Professor of History at Yale University.
Snyder can speak and write French, German, Polish, and Ukrainian in addition to English, and read Czech, Slovak, Russian, and Belarusian. He is a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Snyder has written five books and co-edited two. One of the latter, Thinking the Twentieth Century (2012), was written with Tony Judt while Judt was in the late stages of his illness with ALS disease.
Snyder has published essays in publications such as the International Herald Tribune, The Nation, New York Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, The New Republic, Eurozine, Tygodnik Powszechny, the Chicago Tribune, and the Christian Science Monitor.
Snyder says that he has a reading and/or speaking knowledge of eleven European languages. This enabled him to use primary and archival sources in Germany and Central Europe in researching his book, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (2010). Bloodlands got a positive reception.
Snyder says that knowing other languages is very important:
If you don't know Russian, you don't really know what you're missing. ... We can only see as much, and we can only go as far as our languages take us. I wrote this book in English, but there are very important conversations that are happening in German, Russian, Polish and so on among those historians, and the book is addressed to all of them.
|Ukraine: From Propaganda to Reality, Chicago Humanities Festival, 57:35, November 14, 2014|
Bloodlands has been translated into 20 languages.
Snyder published Black Earth in 2015. The book received mixed reviews, with several harsh reviews.
Snyder is a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Modern European History and East European Politics and Societies.
In The Road to Unfreedom, Snyder argues that Vladimir Putin's regime in Russia is authoritarian, and that it uses fascist ideas in its rhetoric. In December 2018, during a discussion with a fellow historian of Eastern Europe, John Connelly, Snyder referred to this as schizo-fascism:
...fascist ideas have come to Russia at a historical moment, three generations after the Second World War, when it’s impossible for Russians to think of themselves as fascist. The entire meaning of the war in Soviet education was as an anti-fascist struggle, where the Russians are on the side of the good and the fascists are the enemy. So there’s this odd business, which I call in the book “schizo-fascism,” where people who are themselves unambiguously fascists refer to others as fascists.
His view was questioned by Marlene Laruelle, Research Professor at The George Washington University: "Contrary to [Snyder's] claims, the Kremlin does not live in an ideological world inspired by Nazi Germany, but in one in which the Yalta decades, the Gorbachev-Yeltsin years, and the collapse of the Soviet Union still constitute the main historical referents and traumas." Laruelle accused Snyder of "distortions, inaccuracies, and selective interpretations."
[H]istory does not repeat. But it does offer us examples and patterns, and thereby enlarges our imaginations and creates more possibilities for anticipation and resistance.
In a May 2017 interview with Salon, he warned that the Trump administration would attempt to subvert democracy by declaring a state of emergency and take full control of the government, similar to Hitler's Reichstag fire: "it’s pretty much inevitable that they will try." According to Snyder, "Trump's campaign for president of the United States was basically a Russian operation."
Snyder teaches a two-part lecture course at Yale covering the history of Eastern Europe pre- and post-1914, a critical turning point in world affairs. In the past he has also taught an undergraduate seminar on communism in Eastern Europe.
Since 2005, Snyder has been married to Marci Shore, a professor of European cultural and intellectual history at Yale University. Snyder and Shore have two children together. Timothy Snyder is fluent in Polish language and reads also his lectures in Ukraine in Ukrainian language.
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