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Module Descriptions

Cold War Eastern Europe will be published in chronologically-arranged modules.

Module I

Module I covers the years 1953 to 1960, and consists of files selected from The National Archives series FO 371.

Series FO 371 (Foreign Office: Political Departments: General Correspondence from 1906-1966) contains the files of the Foreign Office’s Northern, Southern, Central, and Western Departments pertaining to each of the socialist states of Eastern Europe. Every file relevant to the region from 1953 to 1960 – a total of nearly 7,000 files – is included in this resource.

Commencing in the year of Stalin’s death, Module I provides unprecedented coverage of the "Khrushchev Thaw" and the process of "de-Stalinization". These years witnessed moderate reform and an end of political terror in the Soviet Union, but a contrasting reassertion of Soviet power across the Eastern Bloc, with the formation of the Warsaw Pact and the military suppression of uprisings in East Germany, Poland, and Hungary. Concurrently, the death of Stalin and the inauguration of U.S. President Eisenhower ushered in a new phase in Cold War international relations. Module I provides in-depth reporting on and analyses of East-West relations as they evolved, and key milestones in Cold War history, including summit meetings, leaders’ diplomatic visits, and crises.

Key events featured in the files of Module I include:

  • East German Uprising of 1953
  • Founding of the Warsaw Pact
  • Poznań Uprising in Poland
  • Hungarian Revolution
  • Khrushchev’s “Secret Speech”
  • Khrushchev’s visit to the USA
  • U-2 spy-plane incident

In addition, the full run of FO 371 Russia Committee files dating back to 1946 – totalling 41 files – has been included. These complete the set of FO 371 Russia Committee meeting minutes and reports dating up to 1957, and provide context to Britain’s policy towards the Soviet Union in the early Cold War.

Module II

Module II covers the years 1961 to 1966 and consists of over 3,300 files sourced entirely from The National Archives series FO 371. Every file from this series relevant to the former socialist states of Eastern Europe dated between 1961 and 1966 has been included.

The first half of the 1960s witnessed a series of international relations crises and realignments as Cold War tensions heightened, including the Cuban Missile crisis, the Sino-Soviet split, and the construction of the Berlin Wall, which solidified the divide between East and West. Module II provides insight into all of these major international events and more, in addition to in-depth coverage of life behind the Iron Curtain in a period of economic reform, space travel, and the rise to power of Brezhnev and Ceauşescu.

Key events featured in the files of Module II include:

  • The building of the Berlin Wall and escape attempts from East Berlin
  • Yuri Gagarin’s orbit of the earth
  • Detonation of the "Tsar Bomba"
  • John F. Kennedy’s "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech
  • The ousting of Khrushchev and rise of Brezhnev as leader of the U.S.S.R.
  • The Sino-Soviet split

Module III

Module III covers the years 1967 to 1975 and consists of over 3,400 files sourced from The National Archives series FCO 28 and FCO 33. Every file from these series relevant to the former socialist states of Eastern Europe dated between 1967 and 1975 has been included.

Series FCO 28 (Foreign Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Northern Department and East European and Soviet Department) contains the files of the Northern Department of the Foreign Office and its successor the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Eastern European and Soviet Department, pertaining to UK political and economic relations with the Soviet Union and the Baltic States, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Albania, and Yugoslavia.

Series FCO 33 (Foreign Office, Western Department and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Western European Department) contains files of the Western Department of the Foreign Office pertinent to UK relations with East Germany between January 1967 and October 1968, and its successor the Western European Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office dealing with East Germany from 1968 onwards.

The closing years of the 1960s saw attempted reforms and social change in Eastern Bloc members Czechoslovakia (in the Prague Spring) and Poland (in the 1968 crisis and protests of 1970) and the subsequent re-instatement of the Soviet model through suppression from security forces and military intervention by the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact members. The period of “Détente” from 1967 through the 1970s saw the steady easing of tensions between the East and West and growing co-operation in the Four Power Agreements on Berlin, Richard Nixon’s visits to Moscow, and the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe. Module III provides in-depth reporting on and analyses of these events, as well as the continued economic stagnation of the Eastern bloc countries.

Key events featured in the files of Module III include:

  • The Vietnam War
  • Polish Political Crisis, 1968
  • The Prague Spring
  • Warsaw Pact Invasion of Czechoslovakia
  • Sino-Soviet Border Conflict
  • Polish Worker’s Protests, 1970
  • Four Power Agreement on Berlin, 1971
  • Richard Nixon’s visit to Moscow, 1972
  • The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe

Module IV

Cold War Eastern Europe Module IV covers the latter Brezhnev years of 1976 to 1982 and consists of over 3,000 files sources from The National Archives, U.K., series FCO 28 and FCO 33. Every file from these series relevant to the former socialist states of Eastern Europe dated between 1976 and 1982 has been included.

The mid-1970s saw the continuation of the “Era of Stagnation” in the Soviet Union under the leadership of Leonid Brezhnev, characterized by steady economic decline across Eastern Europe. Decreasing industrial growth rates and the heavy-handed suppression of social reform led to popular acts of defiance such as the signing of Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia and the Solidarity movement in Poland, founded during the Gdańsk strikes in 1980. Tensions heightened as the period of “Détente” ended abruptly in 1979 with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The threat of nuclear war increased as the Cold War expanded internationally, with Soviet influence reaching to Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Events such as the non-ratification of SALT II and the Western boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics reflect the heightening tensions of the early 1980s.

Key events featured in the files of Module IV include:

  • Charter 77 signed, 1977
  • Visit of Pope John Paul II to Poland, 1979
  • SALT II agreement
  • Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
  • Death of Marshal Tito
  • Olympic Games of 1980
  • Polish Solidarity movement
  • Death and state funeral of Brezhnev
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