In the last 30 years, scholars have gained access to the archives of the secret police, state institutions, media, and communist parties in the former communist states of Eastern Europe. These documents show how these states collected information on their populations, classified them, and deployed that knowledge to govern. Scholars have made valuable use of this information to show the complexity of life under communism. Archives and their contents, however, are never neutral. Some current governments in Eastern Europe are selectively utilizing archives to construct the historical memory for new nation states. Moreover, as several former communist states become more authoritarian, how we access information, particularly from media, is crucial to how we engage these countries and their societies.
This series address these issues through three live interviews and a roundtable with scholars and journalists on the issue of “information” in Eastern Europe from a multidisciplinary perspective.
Thursday March 7
Spies, Coups and National Liberation: Warsaw Pact Espionage in Africa During the Cold War
A live interview with Natalia Telepneva, University of Warwick
The Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact satellites were ideologically, materially, and geopolitically committed to aiding national liberation struggles in Africa during the Cold War. Communist states gave economic aid, provided weapons, and sent spies and military advisors. This live interview with Natalia Telepneva will explore the relationship between Soviet and Warsaw Pact policy and activities in African anti-colonial struggles, the role of espionage in the Cold War and the influence of Soviet and Warsaw Pact secret services on the development of state security in post-independent Africa.
Thursday March 28
Peering Under the Rug: Sources of Information about Russia
Mark Galeotti, Senior Associate Fellow at Royal United Services Institute
Maxim Trudolyubov, Vedomosti, Kennan Institute
Kevin Rothrock, Meduza
A popular meme about Russian politics is that it’s like “bulldogs fighting under a rug.” Namely, it’s opaque, shadowy, full of rumors, and driven by conspiracies. This image has become more common in the West over Putin’s long reign, and intensified since Russia’s interference in the 2016 US Presidential election. Where can we turn for clearer vision given the supposed murkiness of Russian politics? This moderated roundtable discussion with Mark Galeotti, Maxim Trudolubov, and Kevin Rothrock will explore media and human sources of information about contemporary Russia and its many promises and roadblocks.
Tuesday April 2
Shaping National Memory: Ukrainian Secret Police Archives and WWII
Jared McBride, University of California, Los Angeles
Following the Maidan Revolution, the Ukrainian government opened the former KGB archives after years of ambiguous policies. The impetus was mostly political: to show the Ukrainian nation as a victim of Russian/Soviet aggression and to valorize controversial Ukrainian nationalist movements. Former police archives, however, make for poor political props. This live interview with Jared McBride will discuss these archives, the ways scholarly work has often been at odds with the archive as a tool to remake civil society, and place of police archives in the larger contexts of post-Soviet Eastern Europe.