Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Timothy Synder's Quotations

Below are a few quotations from Timothy Synder's book, The Road to Unfreedom:  Russia, Europe, America.

"The adviser of the first pro-Russian American presidential candidate had been the advisor of the last Russian Ukrainian president."

"The politics of inevitability is the idea that there are no ideas."

"Life becomes a sleepwalk to a premarked grave in a prepurchased plot.

"Russia would be a centralized state as the fascist regimes of the 1930s had been.  There was one party too many.  Russia should be a zero-party state, redeemed only by a man.  Parties should exist, according to Ilyin, only to ritualize elections."

"Allowing Russians to vote in free elections, thought Ilyin, was like allowing embryos to choose their species."

"Rather than governing, the leader produces crisis and spectacle."

"Totalitarianism is its own true enemy, and that is the secret it keeps from itself by attacking others."

"Putin and his friends and allies accumulated vast wealth beyond the law, and then remade the state to preserve their own gains.  Having achieved this, Russian leaders had to define politics as being rather than doing."

"Hegel's was an appealing way of seeing our fractious world, since it suggested that catastrophe was an indication of progress."

"Nikolai Berdyaev found in Ilyin's work 'the nightmare of evil good.'"

"In the 1950s and 1960s, Soviet leaders agreed not to kill one another, which removed dynamism from politics."

"The Soviet Union that expelled Ilyin and educated Putin had a troubled relationship with time.  It lacked a succession principle and lasted only sixty-nine years."

"Workers were represented by the party, the party by the central committee, the central committee by its politburo, and the politburo usually by a single leading man."

"It was Brezhnev who proved to be Stalin's most important successor, because he redefined the Soviet attitude to time:  he buried Marxist politics of inevitability, and replaced it with a Soviet politics of eternity."

"The Bolshevik Revolution had been about youth, about a new start to be made after capitalism.  This image depended, at home and especially abroad, on the blood purges that allowed new men and women to rise through the party ranks."

"Once Soviet citizens expected no improvements from the future, nostalgia had to fill the vacuum left by utopia."

"The myth of the October Revolution promised everything; the myth of the Great Fatherland War promised nothing."

"What was, was normal.  To say otherwise in Brezhnev's Soviet Union was to be condemned to an insane asylum."

"Wild privatization was not at all the same things as a market economy, at least as conventionally understood.  Markets require the rule of law..."

"'Operation Successor,' as the challenge was known in the Kremlin, had two stages:  finding a new man who was not a known associate of Yeltsin, and then inventing a fake problem that he could then appear to solve."

"The ink of political fiction is blood."

"Democracy is a procedure to change rulers.  To qualify democracy with an adjective--'people's democracy' during communism, 'sovereign democracy' thereafter--means eliminating that procedure."

"The politics of eternity requires and produces problems that are insoluble because they are fictional."

"Human sexuality is an inexhaustible raw material for the manufacture of anxiety."

"That year it became a criminal offense to portray Putin as a gay clown."

"Russia's real geopolitical problem was China.  But precisely because Chinese power was real and proximate, consider Russia's actual geopolitics might lead to depressing conclusions."

"The West was chosen as an enemy precisely because it represented no threat to Russia.  Unlike China, the EU had no army and no longer border with Russia."

"Having transformed the future into an abyss, Putin had to make flailing at its edge look like judo."

"In 2012, Putin made it clear that he understood democracy as ritualized support for his person."

"Russia's own past became a foreign threat."

"In 2013, the Russian Federation proposed an alternative to integration under the name 'Eurasia:' empire for Russia, nation-states for everyone else."

"Rather than monopolizing law, the Russian state under Putin monopolized corruption."

"Because failure had to be presented as success, Russia had to present itself as a model for Europe, rather than the other way around."

"What the EU might describe as failures of governance were to be experienced as the flowering of Russian innocence."

"Using the odd word 'passionarity,' Putin evoked a special Russian ability to thrive amidst global chaos."

"Gumilev was born to an extraordinary family, and lived one of the most tragically and garishly Soviet lives imaginable."

"Joseph Stalin understood the Soviet project as self-colonization.  Since the Soviet Union had no overseas possessions, it had to exploit its hinterlands."

"One can record that these people [Ukrainian protesters] were fascists or Nazis or members of a gay international conspiracy or Jewish international conspiracy or a gay Nazi Jewish international conspiracy, as Russian propaganda suggested to various target audiences."

"Must any attempt at novelty be met with the cliche of force and the force of cliche?"

"Putin's direct assault on factuality might be called implausible deniability."

"In the Russian invasion, the strong used the weapons of the weak--partisan and terrorists tactics--in order to pretend to be the weak."

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