Vera & Donald Blinken Open Society Archives
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Background Reports
The collection contains digital copies of 18,224 special studies and thematic research papers produced by Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) research units from 1952 till 1992. The bulk of the collection consists of English-language Background Reports, initiated in 1956 together with Situation Reports and Press Survey publications, covering different topics mainly related to the domestic and international affairs of Communist countries, but also trends and developments in the Communist movement worldwide.
Early RFE analysis of East European and Soviet affairs was conducted in New York (1952-1956), until the introduction of systematic English-language research reports in Munich. Background Reports were intended as special studies to provide perspectives on current events and trends in the Communist world, and included three types of paper: (1) short descriptions and assessments of new or unexpected developments, prepared as quickly as possible to ensure an immediate response from RFE/RL, distributed through the Central News Room and often used directly as the basis for broadcast scripts; (2) longer interim studies describing, analyzing and forecasting trends and events in the Communist world, prepared to brief RFE/RL management and broadcasting units on future developments; and (3) in-depth research papers focusing on one single subject, which aimed to provide fact-based perspective, context, framework, and synthesis. In addition, the collection also includes ad hoc research papers produced on request, as well as the Weekly Record of Events, produced from the mid-1970s until 1992.
Background Reports concerned not only East European countries in which RFE broadcasted (Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania), but also provided information and in-depth analyses of developments and major events in other countries of the Communist world. Items were grouped by RFE/RL according to Country Series, as well as the Foreign Relations Series (including the related sub-series: Agriculture, Czechoslovak Crisis 1968; East-West Relations; Eastern Europe; Economic; and Sino-Soviet Dispute). A separate World Communist Movement series was created to cover developments across the Communist world, with the largest sub-section concerning Western Europe, again organized by country.