A Cold War Hotspot

A Cold War Hotspot: The Superpowers and the “Alps-Adriatic” Region 1945-1955

Mon. Nov. 16 2015
12:00pm — 1:30pm
4th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center

The border region between Austria, Italy and Yugoslavia has been the focus of ethnic strife as well as political and diplomatic debate for much of the twentieth century. All countries comprising this unique area had differing interests and international ambitions. The settlements of 1945 and the Cold War shaped the “Alps-Adriatic” region and made it a hotspot of the early Cold War. While Italy quickly gained the status of a key strategic partner of the West, Austria was hampered in its policies by quadripartite occupation and an uncertain future. Yugoslavia, starting off as the Soviet Union’s best disciple, was isolated after the Stalin-Tito split in 1948, turning to the West in subsequent years. Thus, while “from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an Iron Curtain” descended across Europe, the three countries dealt with in these two papers were all part of the larger Trieste region.

The papers presented address questions concerning the positioning of Austria, Italy and Yugoslavia towards conflicts arising during the first decade following World War II. By doing so, it will be possible to determine how much the fields of conflict were interconnected and how this interconnection shaped the fate of the countries involved. Thus, the analysis will show that although the countries involved were not in a position to determine Great Power policies, they had, nevertheless, an important margin of maneuver and played a key role in shaping the fate of Cold War Europe. At the center of analysis and comparison will be not only international, but also transnational factors. This approach will demonstrate the importance of the “Alps-Adriatic” region in the context of European and Great Power politics in the early stages of the Cold War.


Karlo Ruzicic-Kessler: Trieste: An international and transnational approach
Maximilian Graf: Austria and Trieste: Interconnected histories of the Early Cold War

Maximilian Graf PhD, wrote his doctoral thesis on “Austria and the GDR 1949-1990” at the University of Vienna (2012). He is currently a research fellow at the Department of Contemporary History of the University of Vienna. Graf’s selected publications include: “Ein verdrängtes bilaterales Verhältnis: Österreich und die DDR 1949-1989/90”, Zeitgeschichte 39:2 (2012); (co-ed.), Das Burgenland als internationale Grenzregion im 20. und 21. Jahrhundert (2012); “A Masterpiece of European Détente? Austrian–Hungarian Relations from 1964 until the Peaceful End of the Cold War,” in Zeitgeschichte 41 (2014) 5, 311-338.; “The Rise and Fall of ‘Austro-Eurocommunism’. On the ‘Crisis’ within the KPÖ and the Significance of East German Influence in the 1960s”, Journal of European Integration History 20:2 (2014. November/December 2013 he was chercheur associée at the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin. In 2014 he received the Karl von Vogelsang Prize – Austrian State Prize for the History of Social Sciences.

Karlo Ruzicic-Kessler PhD, wrote his doctoral thesis on “The Italian Occupation of Yugoslavia 1941-1943” at the University of Vienna (2011). He is currently a research fellow at the Department of East European History, University of Vienna. Recent publications include: “Italy and Yugoslavia: from distrust to friendship in Cold War Europe”, in: Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 19:5 (2014); “Togliatti, Tito and the Shadow of Moscow 1944/45-1948: Post-War Territorial Disputes and the Communist World, in: Journal of European Integration History, 20:2 (2014); Yugoslavia and Its Western Neighbours, 1945-1980, in: Zeitgeschichte 41 (2014); (co-ed.), Das Burgenland als internationale Grenzregion im 20. und 21. Jahrhundert (2012). February-June 2015: Research Fellowship at the Austrian Historical Institute in Rome.

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