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on 8 February 2015
There is, at present , a paucity of serious studies of the horrors perpetrated against the peoples of the East. The war of extermination against the Jews is well documented, but the casual violence, terror and murder of slavs by both Stalin and Hitler has yet to be fully interpreted.

Snyder does provide further information by mining central and eastern european archives and this is all for the good. The Rassenkampf by Hitler seems to reveal how vague Nazi notions were of racial ideology, and Stalin's class war or assaults upon the Ukrainians defies comprehension. Belarus is described as the most dangerous place on earth in Snyder's book, and the enormous horror of what occurred there does really defy rational interpretation.

it is a very well written book and highly readable. It makes a further contribution to the study of the very important area that, as I have said before, needs much more detailed examination, and once this occurs, perhaps we can put the Holocaust and the 'Race War' in the east in a better mutual understanding and intertwining context
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 10 October 2010
Timothy Snyder defines the Bloodlands in today's terms as Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States, Petersburg, the western rim of the Russian Federation, and most of Poland. Between 1930 and 1945, the region saw the murder of more than 14 million people. The famine associated with farm collectivisation took more than three million lives, mostly in Ukraine. The Great Terror (/Purge/Yezhovshchina), also pre-war, took 700,000. The Nazis and Soviets then invaded Poland and the Baltic States, and both set about eliminating the educated classes; 200,000 dead. Hitler invaded the Soviet Union and starved to death a million or more Leningrad residents and three million prisoners of war. More than five million Jews living in Poland, the Baltic States and the occupied Soviet Union were shot or gassed. After the tide of war turned, the Soviets encouraged partisans to harry retreating German troops (but gave them little support) and a further half million civilians were killed in Belarus and Warsaw.

As the 700 plus entries in the bibliography of this volume demonstrate, there is a vast scholarship that falls within or overlaps this subject area. Timothy Snyder's achievement, and it is very considerable, is to bring it all together, presenting data, narrative and a selection of first-hand accounts as a coherent and digestible whole. The horror and the scale of the slaughter are hard to comprehend - staggering numbers of people rounded-up, transported, killed, and bodies disposed of in very short spaces of time, even a single day, or night. They are also hard to take, especially when a few last words reach us from a victim, such as from a child who knows she is about to be killed, and how.

But Timothy Snyder has a bigger purpose than merely to shock us. After rather more than 300 pages detailing the crimes, the last two chapters become extended essays addressing wider issues, invoking and seeking to take further the analyses of commentators such as Vasily Grossman, Hannah Arendt and Anna Akhmatova. He pleads with us not to fall into the moral trap of dismissing the Nazis or the Soviets as inhuman, for that is how they viewed the people they killed. Like their victims, they were indeed human, and we must persist in endeavouring to understand them.

One `by-product' of the book was entirely new to me and, as such, particularly interesting - Nazi plans for the newly-conquered territories post-war. Additional to total removal of the Jews (not necessarily by killing them), a large proportion of the indigenous population was to be starved to death, or terrorised into fleeing East, beyond the Urals. The rest were to be enslaved in a purely agrarian economy presided over by immigrant German farmers. Existing cities and towns were to be razed and a new network of small (German) towns established. When capitulation of the Soviet Union was not immediately achieved in autumn 1941, Generalplan Ost was largely put on hold. Jews were in any case virtually eliminated from the occupied territories and millions of Slavs starved to death, but those actions were not directly in fulfilment of the plan.

The book is well written, and there are only a couple of points where the American English might obscure the intended meaning for the user of British English. Some repetition, especially of lists of locations and numbers, suggests the book is expected to be prescribed to students one chapter at a time, and not necessarily sequentially, but the occasional re-cap can be helpful and does not become irritating. The book is well supplied with useful maps illustrating changing boundaries and the locations of key events, and well indexed.
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on 19 October 2014
The bloodlands are defined by the author as that part of central Europe – Poland, Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic states, which suffered grievously from 1933-1945 under both Soviet and Nazi rule. The author narrates a relentlessly gruelling tale of terror against civilians – from Stalin’s collectivised famines of the early 1930s, the Great Terror of 1937-38 and then the deaths in the Second World War – this, of course, is where the Germans “excelled”, though the Soviet Union also played a nefarious part, in the killing of Jews, Poles, Ukrainians, Belarusian and Baltic peoples. Snyder, a respected historian of this region, unfolds this litany of human misery, and also explains and analyses the perverted reasoning that justified the taking of some many millions of lives by these regimes. It is easy to lulled by the immeasurable weight of numbers in any such study – so that, as an example, an action in an obscure town of Belarus which kills a few hundred people seems to be nothing much in the overall scheme of the atrocities; but Snyder attempts to maintain the focus and understanding that each one of these 14 million or so deaths was the life of a person, just like the reader of the book and this review. After the War, Snyder analyses the expulsion of ethnic Germans from the bloodlands to Germany, as well as discussing how the Soviet Union controlled the national memory of these atrocities to show, incorrectly, how Russians were the overwhelming sufferers of the Great Patriotic War, whereas the truth is that non-Russian nations and peoples were the worst afflicted.
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on 19 October 2014
a reputable book to read and informs of the mass killing, millions, that happened between Hitler and Stalin.
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on 9 August 2014
terrifyingly great
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on 25 July 2014
In reviewing the waves of atrocities committed in the lands between Russia and Germany, Snyder is determined to get the facts confirmed and in proportion. He does not want over- or under-estimated claims used for propaganda. Much of the book is therefore a fairly relentless catalogue of crimes, detailed, attested, and quantified. It’s a tale of old-fashioned holy war morphing into modern crusades of ideological and ethnic self-defense, with every killer claiming to be an avenging victim. As Snyder warns, it’s a problem that has reared it’s head again over recent decades, and that’s why this look at the common humanity of war criminals and murder victims needed to be written.
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on 24 October 2016
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on 6 July 2013
Big history book, very important for understanding the going in Europe in the early 1900's but not an easy to read. Would recomend for History hard-core junkeis ...
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on 18 December 2012
This is a well written and,given the frequently monotonous style of many other well researched accounts, highly readable historical work.I found the linking up of events by epoch and geography rather than the usual national/ethnic approach to the events described enlightening. Another good feature is the author success in keeping the wider picture in focus and resisting the temptation to swamp the book with a mass of horrifying detail.
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on 19 January 2014
Bloodlands is an important history that focuses on the state sponsored mass murder that took place mainly in what is now Poland, Ukraine and Belarus, at the hands of Hitler and Stalin between 1933 and 1945. There are numerous excellent histories of the period and the horrific crimes of both the Soviet and the Nazi regimes, both of which created incalculable suffering and carried out murder on an unimaginable scale. Timothy Snyder's account adds little that is new to the collective knowledge of these events, but he very successfully illustrates how these regions were subjected to successive waves of horror over the 12 year period in question and tells the story from the level of international politics right down to the level of the personal tragedies of individual men, women and children. In this respect this is a worthwhile and important narrative. He corrects common myths and misunderstandings, such as: the tendency to underplay or marginalise Stalin's occupation of his western neighbours; the frequent error on the part of westerners who grossly underestimate the scale of the suffering in this area, particularly when compared with the (relatively much smaller scale) suffering in Western Europe from 1939 to 1945. He points to the common belief that all Nazi Concentration Camps were the same, whereas even though they were all horrific, the nature and purposes of them varied; for example Dachau was primarily a prison camp, Sobibor was an extermination camp, and Auschwitz was a unique hybrid. But I found myself being frustrated by flaws in this book. Firstly, it would benefit enormously from being revised by a first class editor; the narrative frequently jumps around from sentence to sentence and there is considerable repetition. Secondly, and more importantly, I found some of Snyder's propositions to be odd, bordering on the bizarre. One example relates to the Nazi - Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of August 23rd 1939 and results in Snyder describing Hitler as "betraying his ally" Stalin, whereas Hitler was in fact duping and manipulating his sworn enemy as a merely temporary tactical expedient, one can argue that it's a moot point, but it seems to me an important historic distinction. The book also contains puzzling contradictions, for example, at one point he states there is no evidence that Stalin deliberately held up his advance on the Vistula to allow the tragedy of the Warsaw Uprising to play out to his advantage, but then immediately proceeds to explain in considerable detail how that was precisely what Stalin did indeed do. Some claims I merely find surprising and arguable, such as the idea that Hitler only ordered the ultimate destruction of the Jews because he realised he was losing the war, whereas his attitude to the Jews was clear long before he came to power and the "Final Solution" was launched when he was still confident of victory. Then there is the bizarre, examples of which include, "... people who had collaborated with the Soviets in 1939 - 1941 knew they could cleanse themselves in the eyes of the Nazis by killing Jews." And even more extraordinary: "Stalinism was a moral as well as political system, in which innocent and guilty were psychic as well as legal categories and moral thinking was ubiquitous." This book is well worth reading, it provides a valuable and important perspective on what is arguably history's most tragic period in one particular geographic area; it's final two chapters are worthy as standalone essays in their own right. But it really does need a revised second edition before it can attain the status it deserves.
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