Cold War Eastern Europe provides access to thousands of files from the political departments of the U.K. Foreign Office responsible for dealing with and reporting on the Soviet Union and the socialist states of Eastern Europe during the Cold War. The files are sourced entirely from The National Archives, U.K., and their selection was guided by the Editorial Board, whose members specialize in Soviet, East European, Central European, and Cold War history.

Date Parameters

Cold War Eastern Europe is to be released in chronologically arranged modules. Module I spans the years 1953 to 1960.

In consultation with the Editorial Board, 1953 was selected as the ideal starting point for a resource on Eastern Europe in the Cold War. With Stalin’s death in March and the succession to power of Khrushchev in the Soviet Union and Eisenhower in the United States of America, the Cold War entered a new phase in 1953. Meanwhile on a regional level, Stalin’s death was followed by a period of relative reform and easing of political control within the Soviet Union, and a concurrent re-assertion of Soviet power across Eastern Europe, as the Soviet Union militarily intervened in uprisings in East Germany, Hungary and Poland. Module I provides in-depth coverage of all these developments and events, documenting the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the immediate post-Stalin years, up until the last year before the Berlin Wall cemented the Iron Curtain dividing East from West.

File Series

Cold War Eastern Europe: Module I comprises ca. 6,800 files and consists entirely of files from the following National Archives series:

FO 371: Foreign Office: Political Departments: General Correspondence from 1906-1966
FO 371 contains the correspondence of the Foreign Office’s Political Departments from 1906 up to 1966. This includes the correspondence files of the Northern Department, the Central Department, the Western Department, and the Southern Department, who together were responsible for monitoring and reporting on all socialist states of Eastern Europe between 1953 and 1960:

Northern Department: reported on the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia.
Southern Department: reported on Yugoslavia and Albania.
Central Department: reported on East Germany, Berlin, and West Germany.
Western Department: reported on East Germany, Berlin, and West Germany.

More information on the departmental structure of the Foreign Office can be found here.

For Module I, every FO 371 file dated between 1953 and 1960 and catalogued according to the following countries has been selected for digitization:

Baltic States
Soviet Union

As the U.K. did not recognise G.D.R. sovereignty in these years, files on East and West Germany are frequently intermixed in FO 371. Consequently, for Cold War Eastern Europe: Module I, all files dated 1953 to 1960 and catalogued as follows have been selected:

Germany (East)
East Germany

In addition, files catalogued as ‘Germany’ have been selected if they relate to East Germany, or if they relate to both East and West Germany, or if they relate to the potential unification of Germany. 

In addition, the following departmental files have been selected where any of the above Eastern European countries is the subject:

Central (General)
Northern (General)
Southern (General)
Western (General)

Finally, as FO 371’s Northern Department files also contains the papers of the Foreign Office’s Russia Committee for discussing policy towards the Soviet Union, all FO 371 files relating to the Russia Committee dating back to the Committee’s founding in 1946 have been digitized. Module I therefore provides a complete set of FO 371 Russia Committee meeting minutes and reports spanning 1946 to 1957, providing vital context to Britain’s Soviet policy in the early Cold War.

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