‘Now we will live!’… the hungry little boy liked to say … but the food that he saw was only in his imagination.” So the little boy died, together with three million fellow Ukrainians, in the mass starvation that Stalin created in 1933. “I will meet her … under the ground,” a young Soviet man said about his wife. Both were shot in the course of Stalin’s Great Terror of 1937 and 1938, which claimed 700,000 victims. “Two hundred thousand Polish citizens were shot by the Soviets or the Germans at the beginning of World War II.” “Only Tania is left,” a little Russian girl wrote in her diary in besieged Leningrad, where the rest of her family and nearly one million other Leningraders starved to death. “I am saying good-bye to you before I die. I am so afraid of this death because they throw small children into the mass graves alive,” a twelve-year-old Jewish girl in Belarus wrote to her father. “She was among the more than five million Jews gassed or shot by the Germans.” So begins Bloodlands, a genuinely shattering report on the ideology, the political strategy, and the daily horror of Soviet and Nazi rule in the region that Timothy Snyder calls the bloodlands. In 1933, when the murderous madness began, the bloodlands were made up of independent Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as (within the Soviet Union) Belarus, Ukraine, and some of Soviet Russia’s western provinces. A glance at a map of the same area in 1941 shows that in the intervening years the bloodlands had become two countries: the German Reich and the Soviet Union. Acting in harmony, these two countries swallowed the region’s other countries.

more from Istvan Deak at TNR here.