Cold War International History Project “e-Dossiers” present new and important accessions to the CWIHP Digital Archive. New documents are added to the Digital Archive and introduced by leading scholars of Cold War history, who provide background and context for this new archival evidence. The views expressed in these introductions are the authors’ own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Cold War International History Project. The e-Dossier series is made possible by generous support from the Blavatnik Family Foundation.
Diary kept by American journalist detained during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution released in full
Newly released documents tell the story of Radio Free Europe journalists who entered Hungary at the beginning of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Three of these RFE journalists were detained for over a week by the Soviet military before the US Department of State intervened to ask for their release.
For historians of the Cold War, 1956 rings with special significance. It was the crossroads of the 20th century, a meeting place of its many uncertain trajectories. The Soviet Union had mostly recovered from the devastation of the Second World War; its new leader, Nikita Khrushchev, beamed with confidence at the bright prospects of socialism, carried on the wings of Soviet science.
Bilateral relations between China and the closest European allies of the Soviet Union (Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, and Poland) tended to reflect the state of Sino-Soviet relations. After the Sino-Soviet split, China began to distinguish socialist states based on their degree of autonomy from the USSR, a policy referred to as a “differentiated” (qubie duidai) approach toward the socialist community (Document No. 1.1 and Document 1.2).
In CWIHP e-Dossier No. 64, “CIA Covert Book Program: Book Programs in Poland,” author Paweł Sowiński traces the CIA covert book program that funneled forbidden literature from West to East between 1956 and 1990. Sowiński focuses on the intermediaries, distributors, and smugglers who carried this contraband across borders.
CWIHP e-Dossier No. 61 – Continuing Debate: Ceauşescu’s Appeal for Joint Warsaw Pact Action on 19 August 1989
Debate continues about Romanian’s support for military invasion of Poland in 1989. Mark Kramer presents two new Soviet documents.
CWIHP e-Dossier No. 60 -Did Nicolae Ceaușescu Call for Military Intervention Against Poland in August 1989?
Larry Watts and Adam Burakowski debate the contentious issue of Romanian advocacy of military intervention in Poland in August 1989.
CWIHP e-Dossier No. 59 – Cold War Broadcasting
This e-Dossier contains translations of documents from Central/East European and Soviet archives concerning Western broadcasting during the Cold War. The documents show that the Communist regimes perceived “enemy” broadcasts as a serious threat to the systems they ruled and were prepared to take extensive countermeasures to limit the impact of the broadcasts.
For over half a century, debate has raged over whether the Chinese played a role in influencing Soviet decision-making regarding the armed suppression of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 and, if so, what kind of role it was. According to the official Chinese version of events published during the Sino-Soviet disputes of 1960, “at the end of October 1956, when the counterrevolutionary terror in Hungary had spread throughout almost the whole country, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, with Comrade Khrushchev at its helm, were preparing to withdraw Soviet troops from Hungary. At this point we informed the CPSU CC of our opinion that it was necessary to repel the attack by the imperialists and counterrevolutionaries against the great socialist family. At first the CPSU CC objected to our opinion, and only after much vacillation did they come to concur with us.” The Soviet response, by contrast, called the Chinese position incomprehensible. Although the Chinese version of events is that Chinese had compelled the CPSU CC to take a stand on the Hungarian unrest, the Soviets maintained that “the Chinese comrades have groundlessly appropriated for themselves the direction of Soviet actions in the suppression of the Hungarian counterrevolutionary uprising.
Crimea was part of Russia from 1783, when the Tsarist Empire annexed it a decade after defeating Ottoman forces in the Battle of Kozludzha, until 1954, when the Soviet government transferred Crimea from the Russian Soviet Federation of Socialist Republics (RSFSR) to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (UkrSSR). The transfer was announced in the Soviet press in late February 1954, eight days after the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet adopted a resolution authorizing the move on 19 February. The text of the resolution and some anodyne excerpts from the proceedings of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet meeting on 19 February were published along with the very brief announcement. Nothing else about the transfer was disclosed at the time, and no further information was made available during the remainder of the Soviet era.
Central Europeans, and the region itself, were an important part of the Sino-Soviet alliance of the 1950s, with Czechoslovaks, Poles, Hungarians, East Germans, and others eager to travel to China and contribute to the socialist bloc advising program there. The shared task of reconstruction in the wake of war, with the help of the Soviet Union, was a common topic throughout the bloc, as Document 1 illustrates. Like the Soviets, the Chinese especially valued Czechoslovak and East German industrial technology, at that time the most advanced in the socialist world. Chairman Mao Zedong was well aware of the weaknesses of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in matters of industrial, economic, and administrative training and expertise, evident here in his exchange with a Czechoslovak delegation in 1957 (Document 8). The behavior and activities of the advisers themselves, however, frequently disturbed the Chinese authorities. The advising program was marred by the inefficiencies of socialism generally, and included accumulating instances of adviser misbehavior, incompetence, arrogance, drunkenness, and so on. Document 2 is a letter from a Soviet embassy official in Beijing, V. Akshinskii, to Ambassador Pavel Yudin, in which he worries about the consequences of adviser misbehavior in Shanghai. Yudin subsequently brought the matter to the attention of Nikita Khrushchev.
The removal of Soviet control was a central goal of Romanian communist elites at least since the death of Stalin. It drove, for instance, the campaign begun in 1955 for the withdrawal of Soviet troops and advisers. And it was the motivating factor behind the bid for economic independence that began even earlier with the closure of Soviet-Romanian joint ventures. By 1963 Romanian efforts to exercise full sovereignty in their own country had shifted from the largely-accomplished removal of the more ostentatious instruments of that control to the rooting out of its less overt forms, specifically Soviet clandestine networks and the direct recruitment of individuals by the KGB and GRU.
This is a selection of the most interesting documents produced by the Embassy of the Polish People’s Republic in Bucharest from 1968 to 1977. The first date is a watershed, as in 1968, due to the developments in Czechoslovakia and the position of the Romanian leadership on the events, the Embassy greatly intensified its activity and began to prepare more detailed reports. The year 1977, on the other side, is important because of the internal collapse in Romania, exacerbated by a giant earthquake in Bucharest, the emergence of an organized democratic opposition and the mass strikes of miners in the Jiu Valley.
On 2 December 1989, George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev gathered off the coast of Malta for their first meeting following Bush’s inauguration the prior January. Uncertainty was the theme of the day. Communist regimes throughout Eastern Europe were collapsing. The Berlin Wall had opened barely three weeks earlier on 9 November, and tentative steps toward German reunification had begun on the eve of the Summit with Helmut Kohl’s Ten Point Speech on 28 November. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union continued reducing its military presence in Eastern Europe in accordance with Gorbachev’s 7 December 1988 United Nations (UN) address, and American and Soviet policymakers faced the prospect of contentious arms control talks in this fraught environment. Bush and Gorbachev clearly had much to discuss.
e-Dossier No. 38 – Romania Security Policy and the Cuban Missile Crisis
By Larry Watts
CWIHP is pleased to announce the release of ten new documents translated into English for the first time. Larry L. Watts introduces the documents and explains how the Cuban Missile Crisis was critical in reorienting Romanian foreign and security policies in a manner that caused significant shifts in the nature of the Cold War regionally and globally.
e-Dossier No. 37 – KGB/Stasi Cooperation
Walter Süß and Douglas Selvage
CWIHP is pleased to announce the addition of 9 new document to its online Digital Archive. Released in cooperation with the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records, the new translations feature meetings between the highest levels of the Stasi and the KGB.