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The most important value: 10 theses about freedom by Timothy Snyder in the framework of Book Arsenal in Kyiv


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An online lecture by an American historian and journalist Timothy Snyder “Why freedom means more than anything else” took place in the framework of the 11th International Book Arsenal festival. It was based on his new book he’s been working on for five years. Here are 10 of the most important theses about freedom defined by Timothy Snyder during his lecture:

Freedom is the highest value since only it makes it possible for all other values to function. Honesty, loyalty, patriotic feeling and universalism are possible only granted that the society possesses freedom.


The statement “nothing is important” is a way to tyranny and to an absence of freedom. This is exactly what is exemplified in Russia or Belarus now. Russian propaganda asserts that all values are mere fabrications and it makes no sense to believe in them. Russia contends that it alone holds value.


Freedom not only makes it possible for values to exist, but it also enables the combination  of  them or provides the ability to choose  between them. Everyone can find  the set of values that resonates with  them. As paradoxical as it may seem, this is both honest and natural.


To give up freedom for safety is a mistake and a misguided notion. Freedom and safety are interdependent. This is evident on the territories that are liberated by the ZSU (the Armed Forces of Ukraine): these territories have become safe because they are free now, and vice versa.


Understanding freedom as an absence of coercion is a mistake. While eliminating coercion is essential, it is not sufficient. True freedom requires the ability to envision the future and have the agency to shape it.


Seeing freedoms as the chance to do whatever you like is a misconception. A free person makes daily choices that builds their character. Paradoxically, it is  exactly this character that leads to a feeling that you have no choice (when the president Zelensky said he had no choice whether to stay or leave the country on Feb. 24 2022). This is the feature of a free person, and it can only take shape within the framework of a democratic society.

For democracy to exist, individuals must consciously choose it. For democracy to exist we need free people who believe in freedom. The war in Ukraine is important for world democracy, serving as an exemplification of a commitment to democracy and trust in its principles. It demonstrates that democracy depends on freedom, and freedom, in its turn, depends on values and bravery of Ukrainians.


One often has to choose between honesty and loyalty. The same applies to many other values, such as patriotism and universalism. This diversity and the necessity to make choices lead to pluralism.


Values are quite real and are necessary for building democracy. They are the fifth dimension and are not less real than time and space.


The Book Arsenal is a brilliant example of freedom. It takes part in the time of war, not forgetting about the war, but not dedicating itself to it completely either. The Book Arsenal lives despite the war without denying it.


Read also: The Book Arsenal Festival opened in Kyiv