Putin's massive crackdown on speech is akin to Stalin -- but also 'a sign of desperation': Yale historian
Kremlin photo of Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin

Russian strongman Vladimir Putin's crackdown on speech as he invades Ukraine is worse in some respects than Soviets faced under General Secretary of the Communist Party Joseph Stalin, argued Yale historian Timothy Snyder during a Tuesday interview on MSNBC with "The Beast" host Ari Melber.

Snyder said Putin is "preventing people from expressing themselves at all."

"Now in Russia, you can get 15 years in prison just for saying the word war," he said. "People standing outside carrying blank pieces of paper and Bible verses are being arrested and thrown in jail. There has not been this much repression of speech in Russia in any time since Stalin. In fact, some of these repressions of speech are more strict than anything that existed in the Stalinist regime."

"It signals intense defensiveness and also signals utter disregard for the norms of civil society and freedom of expression that we would care about. It's not a sign of success, it's a sign of desperation that Mr. Putin has to move things this far and this fast," he said.

Melber asked the professor to expound on his thoughts contrasting Putin and Stalin.

"Under Stalin, you could use the word war and you wouldn't be sent to the gulag for 15 years. People did get sent for saying things, but a 15-year sentence for saying the word war is quite extreme. We are now in a position where freedom of speech at least in Russia is being constrained in ways that it's very hard to find historical precedence for," he explained.

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Timothy Snyder www.youtube.com