Bloodlands is as apt a title for a history of Poland, Belarus and the Ukraine under Stalin and Hitler as it is for one of modern Cambodia or Rwanda. Timothy Snyder focuses on the horrific mortality among civilians in the vast area between Germany and Russia: Ukrainian peasants in the collectivisation of 1929–33, Jews between 1941 and 1945, Poles between 1939 and 1945, and Belarusians from Stalin’s ‘Great Terror’ in 1937 to the retreat of the Germans in 1944. The six million Jews annihilated by the Holocaust is the most familiar figure, followed by the 22,000 Polish officers shot by Stalin, and between three and seven million Ukrainians starved to death by him. What fewer readers will be aware of are the sufferings of Belarusians: of nine million inhabitants, one and a half million were murdered and another three million deported (many to their deaths) – figures emulated in our times only by Pol Pot.
Snyder has used countless monographs, articles and archives in German, Russian and Polish; his use of Polish sources makes this book almost unique for English-language readers. As for Germany and the USSR, he builds on the work of previous historians, from Robert Conquest to Daniel Jonah Goldhagen and