Timothy Snyder - The Red Prince
English | MP3 64 kbps 44 KHz Stereo | 18 MP3s | 306 MB
From the palaces of the Habsburg Empire to the torture chambers of Stalin's Soviet Union, the extraordinary story of a life suspended between the collapse of the imperial order and the violent emergence of modern Europe.
Wilhelm Von Habsburg wore the uniform of the Austrian officer, the court regalia of a Habsburg archduke, the simple suit of a Parisian exile, the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and, every so often, a dress. He could handle a saber, a pistol, a rudder, or a golf club; he handled women by necessity and men for pleasure. He spoke the Italian of his archduchess mother, the German of his archduke father, the English of his British royal friends, the Polish of the country his father wished to rule, and the Ukrainian of the land Wilhelm wished to rule himself.
In this exhilarating narrative history, prize-winning historian Timothy D. Snyder offers an indelible portrait of an aristocrat whose life personifies the wrenching upheavals of the first half of the 20th century, as the rule of empire gave way to the new politics of nationalism. Coming of age during the First World War, Wilhelm repudiated his family to fight alongside Ukrainian peasants in hopes that he would become their king. When this dream collapsed, he became, by turns, an ally of German imperialists, a notorious French lover, an angry Austrian monarchist, a calm opponent of Hitler, and a British spy against Stalin.
Played out in Europe's glittering capitals and bloody battlefields, in extravagant ski resorts and dank prison cells, The Red Prince captures an extraordinary moment in the history of Europe, in which the old order of the past was giving way to an undefined future - and in which everything, including identity itself, seemed up for grabs.
The Red Prince is subtitled The Secret Lives of a Habsburg Archduke, but this is a biography of far more than one individual. This able work by Timothy Snyder does much to illuminate the history of Ukraine and Central and Eastern Europe during the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
When Wilhelm von Habsburg was born in 1895 he was a minor member of a minor branch of the Habsburg Dynasty, which had been a dominating force in European politics for 500 years. Wilhelm's immediate family were not in the main line of succession and thus lived out of the public eye as much as was possible for people known as Imperial and Royal Archdukes and Archduchesses. Wilhelm's father seems to have originated a family streak of rebelliousness, when he apparently began to make plans to establish himself as King of Poland before that country had even regained its independence. Wilhelm, as his father's youngest son, had to go further afield to rebel, and he chose the province of Ukraine, a region divided between Russia and Austria-Hungary. Before and during World War I Wilhelm was an advocate for Ukrainian independence and for some surprisingly left wing politics, and during the tumultuous period after World War I at one point seemed poised to become the country's King. Conflict between Poland and the Soviet Union put an end to hopes for Ukrainian independence, and Wilhelm was relegated to the life of a playboy in Paris, enjoying love affairs with both sexes until a financial scandal forced him to return to Austria. Then during the 1930s and 1940s Wilhelm dabbled in right wing politics, switched to anti-Nazi activities during World War II, and then in the early years of the Cold War apparently worked with Western countries spying on the Soviet Union. This led to his arrest and imprisonment by the Soviets, and he died in prison in 1948.
However colorful his life, Wilhelm von Hapsburg would not have merited a biography solely on his own account. He apparently left few letters or other written records, and there seem to be very few photographs as well. What makes The Red Prince so important is the good coverage Snyder provides of the complicated history of Ukraine. The region slipped back and forth between Austria-Hungary, Poland, and the Soviet Union until finally gaining independence in 1991. Snyder draws many excellent parallels between the nationalist politics pre- and post- World Wars I and II, the political turmoil that has plagued the former Soviet Union and its satellites since the end of the Cold War, and the kind of universal supra-nationalistic politics practiced by the Habsburgs and now by the European Union. The coverage of the Orange Revolution of 2004, when Ukraine took a decisive turn away from dictatorship towards democracy, is especially interesting.
Although Wilhelm himself seems to have left few written records, so that readers will not feel they know much about him personally, Snyder was able to recreate the lives of his parents, siblings, nieces and nephews and other relations. He reveals them to have been interesting and intelligent people with independent views, a far cry from the habitual stereotype of the Habsburgs as insufferably inbred mediocrities. Snyder also gives some fascinating portraits of some of Wilhelm's associates like Trebitsch Lincoln, who deserves a biography of his own, though it would probably be considered too bizarre to be true.