Sunday, November 13, 2022

Putin v. Snyder

Hilariously, Vladimir Putin has sanctioned Timothy Snyder, the spellbinding Yale professor who teaches History 247, The Making of Modern Ukraine now being streamed on YouTube. (The first lecture has been watched more than 859,000 times.) 

The sanctions do make a kind of sense. Putin's entire reason for invading Ukraine in 2014 and again this year was to erase the idea of Ukraine as a country, with the result that he succeeded in making that nation even more of a country than it was. Its Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelensky, whom Putin unblushingly calls a "Nazi," was a native Russian speaker, who adopted the Ukrainian language as a result of the war, like millions of Ukrainians. (The same was true of Mr Snyder, who could read the language but didn't speak it naturally until he had to interview Mr Zelensky this past summer.) And the sanctions aren't without a sting: Mr Snyder's professional life is partly based on his ability to study Russian archives, which now are closed to him.

Snyder's blog post is very much worth reading: Of sanctions and silencings: Russia's war as cultural suicide. While you're there, you should subscribe to the blog. He's rather proud of himself; that comes out in his lectures, along with occasional cheap shots at the country that has enabled him to prosper as a writer, teacher, and historian. His students enjoy this stuff, and so will you if your house is fronted by virtual-signaling yard signs; but not so much if, like me, you're grateful for the privilege of living in America.


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