Anne Applebaum

From the Pulitzer-prize winning, New York Times bestselling author, an alarming account of how autocracies work together to undermine the democratic world, and how we should organize to defeat them.

We think we know what an autocratic state looks like: There is an all-powerful leader at the top. He controls the police. The police threaten the people with violence. There are evil collaborators, and maybe some brave dissidents.

But in the 21st century, that bears little resemblance to reality. Nowadays, autocracies are underpinned not by one dictator, but by sophisticated networks composed of kleptocratic financial structures, surveillance technologies, and professional propagandists, all of which operate across multiple regimes, from China to Russia to Iran. Corrupt companies in one country do business with corrupt companies in another. The police in one country can arm and train the police in another, and propagandists share resources and themes, pounding home the same messages about the weakness of democracy and the evil of America.

International condemnation and economic sanctions cannot move the autocrats. Even popular opposition movements, from Venezuela to Hong Kong to Moscow, don’t stand a chance. The members of Autocracy, Inc, aren’t linked by a unifying ideology, like communism, but rather a common desire for power, wealth, and impunity. In this urgent treatise, which evokes George Kennan’s essay calling for “containment” of the Soviet Union, Anne Applebaum calls for the democracies to fundamentally reorient their policies to fight a new kind of threat.

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Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism

Anne's newest book The Twilight of Democracy explains, with electrifying clarity, why some of her contemporaries have abandoned liberal democratic ideals in favor of strongman cults, nationalist movements, or one-party states.

Across the world today, from the U.S. to Europe and beyond, liberal democracy is under siege while different forms of authoritarianism are on the rise. In Twilight of Democracy, prize-winning historian Anne Applebaum argues that we should not be surprised by this change: There is an inherent appeal to political systems with radically simple beliefs, especially when they benefit the loyal to the exclusion of everyone else.

People are not just ideological, she contends in this captivating extended essay; they are also practical, pragmatic, opportunist. The authoritarian and nationalist parties that have arisen within modern democracies offer new paths to wealth or power for their adherents. Describing politicians, journalists, intellectuals, and others who have abandoned democratic ideals in the UK, U.S., Spain, Poland, and Hungary, Applebaum reveals the patterns that link the new advocates of illiberalism and charts how they use conspiracy theory, political polarization, social media, and nostalgia to change their societies.

Anne Applebaum

Anne Applebaum is a staff writer for The Atlantic and a Pulitzer-prize winning historian. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and the Agora Institute, where she co-directs Arena, a program on disinformation and 21st century propaganda.

A Washington Post columnist for fifteen years and a former member of the editorial board, she has also worked as the Foreign and Deputy Editor of the Spectator magazine in London, as the Political Editor of the Evening Standard, and as a columnist at Slate as well as the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs. From 1988-1991 she covered the collapse of communism as the Warsaw correspondent of the Economist magazine and the Independent newspaper.

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Red Famine Book Cover

Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine was published in October 2017. It received the Lionel Gelber Prize as well as the Duff Cooper prize in 2018.

Her previous book, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956, described the imposition of Soviet totalitarianism in Central Europe after the Second World War. Iron Curtain won the 2012 Cundill Prize for Historical Literature and the Duke of Westminster Medal, and was a National Book Award finalist.

She is also the author of Gulag: A History, which narrates the history of the Soviet concentration camps system and describes daily life in the camps, making extensive use of recently opened Russian archives as well as memoirs and interviews. Gulag won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction in 2004 and was also a National Book Award finalist.

Iron Curtain, Gulag: A History and Red Famine have all appeared in more than two dozen translations, including all major European languages.

Anne Applebaum is also the co-author of a cookbook, From a Polish Country House Kitchen, and a recently re-published travelogue, Between East and West: Across the Borderlands of Europe, which describes a journey across Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine made in 1991, just before the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Over the years, her writing has also appeared in The New York Review of Books,  The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the International Herald Tribune, Foreign Affairs, The New Criterion, The Weekly Standard, the New Republic, The National Review, The New Statesman, The Independent, The Guardian, Prospect, Commentaire, Die Welt, Cicero, Gazeta Wyborcza and The Times Literary Supplement, as well as in several anthologies.

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She has lectured at Yale, Harvard, Stanford and Columbia Universities, as well as Oxford, Cambridge, London, Heidelberg, Maastricht, Zurich, Humboldt, Texas A&M, Houston and many others. In 2012-13 she held the Phillipe Roman Chair of History and International Relations at the London School of Economics. She received honorary doctorates from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service and Kyiv-Mohyla University.

Anne Applebaum was born in Washington, DC in 1964. After graduating from Yale University, she was a Marshall Scholar at the LSE and St. Antony’s College, Oxford. Her husband, Radoslaw Sikorski, is a Polish politician and writer. They have two children, Alexander and Tadeusz.

Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944–1956

At the end of the Second World War, the Soviet Union unexpectedly found itself in control of a huge swathe of territory in Eastern Europe. Stalin and his secret police set out to convert a dozen radically different countries to a completely new political and moral system: communism. Iron Curtain describes how the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe were created and what daily life was like once they were complete. The book describes how political parties, the church, the media, young people’s organizations – the institutions of civil society on every level – were eviscerated, how the secret police services were organized, how ethnic cleansing was carried out – and how some people were forced to collaborate while others managed to resist.

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Red Famine: Stalin's war on the Ukraine

In 1929 Stalin launched his policy of agricultural collectivization—in effect a second Russian revolution—which forced millions of peasants off their land and onto collective farms. The result was a catastrophic famine, the most lethal in European history. At least five million people died between 1931 and 1933 in the USSR. But instead of sending relief the Soviet state made use of the catastrophe to rid itself of a political problem. In Red Famine, Anne Applebaum argues that more than three million of those dead were Ukrainians who perished not because they were accidental victims of a bad policy but because the state deliberately set out to kill them.

Applebaum proves what has long been suspected: after a series of rebellions unsettled the province, Stalin set out to destroy the Ukrainian peasantry. The state sealed the republic’s borders and seized all available food. Starvation set in rapidly, and people ate anything: grass, tree bark, dogs, corpses. In some cases, they killed one another for food. Devastating and definitive, Red Famine captures the horror of ordinary people struggling to survive extraordinary evil.

Today, Russia, the successor to the Soviet Union, has placed Ukrainian independence in its sights once more. Applebaum’s compulsively readable narrative recalls one of the worst crimes of the twentieth century and shows how it may foreshadow a new threat to the political order in the twenty-first.

Gulag: A History

GULAG: A History is a narrative account of the origins and development of the Soviet concentration camps, from Lenin to Gorbachev. Based on archives, interviews, new research and recently published memoirs, the book explains the role that the camps played in the Soviet political and economic system. It also describes daily life in the camps: how people lived, worked, ate, slept, fought, died and survived.

GULAG: A History won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction, as well as Britain’s Duff-Cooper Prize. The book was a finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the LA Times Book Award and the Samuel Johnson Prize. It has appeared or is due to appear in more than two dozen translations, including all major East and West European languages.

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