Methodologies of Working in Cold War Archives. Facts, Values and Archival Ecologies
October 14-16, 2021

BURKUSH, Kateryna (European University Institute, Florence)

Invisible, Uncontrollable, Inconvenient: Who is the Seasonal Worker of the State Soviet Archive?

The production, collection and conservation of state documents are operations of power, which participate in the creation of the meaning of what becomes a “source” for historical research. The emergence of seasonal migration and seasonal work as a “subject” in the Soviet state archive in the post-World War II decades are examples of how power structures documentary evidence. In my presentation, I will trace the changes in the Soviet state’s approach to seasonal migration in the 1950s through 1980s. I argue that the shifts in economic and demographic concerns affected the higher authorities’ interest in seasonal migration and resulted in the production of statistical data and case studies.
Before the mid-1960s, “unorganized” seasonal workers not recruited by the state agencies remained, borrowing James Scott’s metaphor, “invisible” to the state; they made only sporadic anecdotal entrances into the state official documentation. In the late 1960s and through the 1970s, seasonal migration became a subject of investigation and an object of targeted regulation. As seasonal migrants became conceptualized as misplaced labor reserves that should be re-directed into the centrally-planned economy, state agencies, namely the Labor Resources Administration and the Committee of People’s Control, were tasked to study the scope and geographical localization of the phenomenon. The documents that these two agencies produced are now the main written sources on the history of seasonal work in the USSR. In my presentation I address these documents’ style, language, focus and location within the archive to show how they shape the image of seasonal migration as a social problem rather than a neutral social phenomenon. This raises methodological problems: how useful are these documents for reconstructing the history of seasonal work in the late Soviet Union? Which questions can be posed to them? And whose story do they tell?


FELCHER, Anastasia (OSA)

What is a Monument in the Cold War? Assigning Categories to Cultural Heritage in the Counter-archives on East-Central Europe

The paper critically reflects on archival taxonomy and value attribution in archival holdings and documents on the postwar East-Central Europe. The paper focuses on a single category and/or term, which, however, informs on an extremely broad spectrum of phenomena – the term “monument.” By analyzing rich and extensive archival holdings of the Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Research Institute, held at the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives in Budapest, the paper intends to reflect on several theoretical problems. First, which material objects were defined as “monuments” by media and the internal RFE/RL RI reports from 1944 to 1989? Of what kind of political action linked to monuments do the archival holdings most frequently inform about (from occupation to commemoration)? To what extent does archival evidence reflect on political dimension of heritage preservation movement in the region (starting from the 1960s)? Finally, which aspects were defining in removing the communist monuments from urban fabric after 1989?
The paper focuses on the multi-ethnic region where since 1944 the national histories and their manifestations in the public space have long been concealed or reshaped. In East-Central Europe, conflicting potential of monuments was shaped by the context of their appearance and/or destruction, of which archival documents in the focus of this paper were sensitive about.



Noise in the Archives: Studying the Cold War through Sound Descriptions

The proposed workshop paper analyses the process of information gathering and knowledge production during the Cold War through the perspective of noise. Starting with the industrial scale systematic jamming of foreign radio stations in the Soviet Union in the late 1940s and the 1950s, noise was endowed with meanings in propaganda skirmishes.
Across the Iron Curtain, radio engineers employed for the purposes of the propaganda war measured sound quality of radio broadcasting in the ether. Using listening and technical skills, those Cold War participants transcribed intensity of radio jamming drawing political speculations. Intensity of noise was associated with security concerns about an electromagnetic war, efficient propaganda censorship, or simply with unfavourable meteorological conditions, while absence of jamming gave hopes for political relaxation for employees at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The paper traces how acoustic information about noise was transcribed in words and discussed at the famous western radio station. Drawing on archival collections such as Encrypted Telex Communication and files from the RFE/RL Research Institute, the paper demonstrates how a historical analysis of sound description preserved in the archives could serve as a methodological approach for studying Cold War archives.


GORDEEVA, Irina (Leibniz Center for Contemporary History)

Exploring Archives of Transnational Movements of the Cold War Period: Experiences and Challenges

Thanks to the Visegrad Scholarship I spent 2 months at Blinken OSA in 2012 (the theme Nonviolence and Peaceful Methods of Protest in the Public Thought and Historical Experience of Soviet Opposition). My archival findings were great and unexpected for me. The documents I copied these two months are still serving me. I published about 8 articles based on the materials of OSA. However, it took me about 2 years to conceive that in 2012 in Budapest for the first time I met a big fragment of the extremely specific archive - an archive of the transnational movement. Following the transnational and even transcontinental traces, I have found at least 7 archives with the same or very resembling documents in Europe, Canada, and the USA (and almost nothing of this sort in Russia). All of them contain a lot of materials on the history of the Soviet independent peace movement. As a result, I re-formulated my theme to the “Transnational solidarity and independent peace movement in the USSR in the 1980s”.
The aim of my presentation is to demonstrate how the understanding of the transnational nature of the independent peace movement changed my archival practices. I also have a target to describe a network of the archives of transnational movements with parallel materials I revealed. Finally, I would like to compare these archives with the archive of the Soviet official peace movement, which I can call semi- or quasi- transnational movement.


GRADSKOVA, Yulia (Stockholm University)

Studying women’s rights and solidarity with women from the Global South through the documents of the WIDF in the Soviet archives

The presentation is aimed to discuss how the material from the Soviet archives can be used for studying the Women’s International Democratic Federation (further, WIDF) and its work with the female activists from the Global South. I explore the use of the archival materials preserved in Moscow, in the fond of the Anti-Fascist Committee of the Soviet Women (further AFCSW) at the State Archive of the Russian Federation, GARF. The WIDF’s official publications offered an incredibly positive picture of the work of this organization, including its work in countries of Africa and Asia as well as of emancipation of women in the Soviet Union and other countries of Eastern bloc (see, for example, the WIDF’s journal Women of the Whole World that was published in several languages). However, I think that the archival materials, including those from the Soviet archives, allow to find complexities and contradictions in the organization’s transnational work, despite the ideological construction of the archive itself. Thus, I will show that revealing the logic of the archival structure contributes to understanding of the power hierarchies inside of this organization and between different women (the rank-and-file and leaders, Soviet and foreign, those coming from the countries that were friendly and from those that were not, etc.).
In the first part of my presentation I will discuss the place that the documents of the WIDF have in the archive of the Soviet, state-managed women’s organization. The second part of my presentation is dedicated to the analysis of the different meanings of “women’s rights” that were created by the WIDF during its history.
In my analysis I pay special attention to the truth value of the classified correspondence preserved in one of the subdivisions of the collection – correspondence between the Soviet representative at the WIDF’s headquarter (in Paris and after 1951, in East Berlin) and Moscow. When using documents from the archive of the AFCSW, I consider it important to pay special attention to the intentions of the authors of these documents, to the context where these documents were created, as well to the possible reasons for their preservation in the archive. I find it useful to pay attention to the personal position and motivations, as well as the (self-)censorship’s restrictions the individual women – Soviet and international – who were the authors of classified and non-classified letters.


IACOB, Viviana (Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich)

East European Theater Revisited. The Archives of International Organizations and the Cold War

The history of Eastern European theatre during the Cold War is still limited to a national perspective. Although in recent years archival resources pertaining to the period have been employed increasingly by historians approaching this history, memoirs, oral history, and secondary sources still dominate the landscape of resources being used. Moreover, the role played by international organizations in this story is completely overlooked. However, the cultural diplomacy of state socialist regimes was centred on the internationalization of their theatre culture. The main avenue to achieve such transnational circulation was Eastern European countries’ involvement with international organizations. The networks created through such theatre encounters and mobilities, significantly reshaped local theatre landscapes. Moreover, they also brought national cultures and their communities of practitioners in Poland, Romania, or Czechoslovakia to the status of global players in international theatre contexts. I argue that the exploration of the projects and activities developed by the International Theatre Institute (ITI) or the International Union of Puppet Theatre (UNIMA) during the Cold War is essential if we are to understand the evolution of Eastern European theatre cultures and their recognition across borders and ideological divides during the Cold War.
The archives of international organizations have the potential to reveal forgotten stories of circulation that allowed the integration of national milieus within broader geographical and cultural frameworks. These resources show for instance that Eastern European theatre experts contributed to the shaping of international epistemic communities as much as their Western counterparts did. Moreover, both groups were equally invested in knowledge transfers to and in implementing development projects in the Global South.
In my presentation I will focus on the methodological impact of combining the study of Eastern European history with the evolution of the International Theatre Institute (ITI), a UNESCO NGO, in terms of revisiting the trajectories of socialist theatre during the 1960s and the 1970s. I will make use of several archival collections amassed by both the ITI headquarters and some of its East European centres in order to discuss how they are organized and how they can be employed if we aim to write a global history of Eastern European theatre during the Cold War.


JOVCHEVSKI, Perica (OSA); SZILÁGYI, Csaba (OSA & University of Amsterdam)

Metadata is political: Revealing 'tacit narratives' in post-Yugoslav archives

While not every archive is an archive of violence by its content, every archive is a potential place for manifestations of various forms of epistemic violence (Spivak, 1988) that originate in an objective and a subjective factor: the nature of the archival work itself and the archivist’s engagement with the records throughout the archival workflow. Inflicting epistemic violence is manifested in (un)intentional acts that take various forms from silencing to misrepresentation of individuals or groups in the records. Notwithstanding, it is also within the archivist’s agency to mitigate the effects of epistemic violence by addressing asymmetries in power through (counter)archival intervention. By rethinking current archival practices and curatorial methods and introducing liberatory archival descriptions, the archivist provides a context for empowerment of those marginalized in the records by creating multiple access points for user engagement/representation and puts socially relevant issues present in the documents in sharper focus.
This workshop proposes “a sensitive and informed rereading” (Hamilton et al, 2002) and refiguring of existing archival records by mapping and exploring three distinct, yet inseparable spaces of inflicting, mitigating, and reflecting on violence in (relation to) those records. During the workshop we will use Blinken OSA’s photo collection on commemorations of the Srebrenica genocide and we will walk participants through their processing and description, concentrating on these three spaces of (inflicting) violence which the archivist necessarily encounters during the archiving of such material.
The first space focuses on the geographic location of record creation during the Yugoslav Wars and the formative years (1991-1999) of the post-Yugoslav statehood(s), where we will concentrate on alternative historical reconstructions of violence inflicted and human rights violations that occurred during the wars. In the archival space, the archivist, to turn “the sense of responsibility into a practice of hospitality” (Harris, 2014), embraces multivocality and offers points of contestation of dominant narratives in the records of violent past(s). Her/his archival intervention leaves identifiable imprints on the annotations, keywords, events, names, and places that s/he records, which can be used to mitigate various forms of epistemic violence in the records. Lastly, we look at the emotional-behavioral landscape of “the individual archivist and the archivist as an individual” (Gilliland, 2015) to reveal how emotional engagement, nostalgia and imagination are reflect in and influence the creation of new meanings, and account for gaps and silences in the archives of violent past(s).


KAPALÓ, James A. (University College Cork)

A Feast for the Senses: Secret Police Archives as Sources for the Study of Lived Religion during Communism

This paper will address the challenges and opportunities that secret police archival sources present for the study of lived religion during Communism. Through the presentation of a series of brief examples draw from research on Romanian state security files as part of the Hidden Galleries European Research Council Project (no. 677355), I illustrate how alternative readings emerge when data on religion is taken seriously and not discounted simply as a reflection of the ideological vision of the regime. The hybrid nature data we find presented in the files (Vățulescu 2021), invites us to question its evidential status, both at the time, as evidence of criminal or anti-state activity, and for the scholar of religion as evidence of religious practice, meaning and agency. I argue, that when viewed through a material lens and situated within a broader appreciation of the religious lifeworld and cultural context, the texts and images in the archives reveal aspects of the transmission of religion in the underground that remain under-explored and little analysed.
Although not qualitatively the same as ethnographic sources, I view the reports and images composed and compiled by agents and informers, as “surrogates” of the performances that led to their creation (Taylor 2003) allowing the researcher today to access material, spatial and somatic aspects of religion that are often overlooked in readings of secret police files. The dominance of constructivist approaches has resulted in only extremely limited attempts to recover lost or marginalised voices for the archives, despite the wealth of examples from scholarship on colonial archives that has come to recognise that archives always disclose more than their compilers intended. Due to the performative nature of religion as lived tradition, and the secret police’s own obsession with the material dimensions of religious life, archival sources contain unexpected or unruly traces of the past lives they sought to dominate or expunge. Scholars of religions I argue here have some useful tools in their disciplinary tool-kit that when applied to secret police materials allow them to speak in surprising ways.


LABOV, Jessie (CEU); Tamas SCHEIBNER (ELTE, Budapest); Piotr WCIŚLIK (CEU, Polish Academy of Sciences); LJUBOJEVIC, Ana (University of Graz); COSOVSCHI, Agustin (University of Paris)

Digital History as a Collaborative Practice: experiences from the CEU SUN course “Cultures of Dissent in Eastern Europe”

From January 18-February 26, a methodological experiment in Cold War history took place during the CEU Summer University course (postponed to winter due to the pandemic) “Cultures of Dissent in Eastern Europe (1945-1989): Research Approaches in the Digital Humanities - Online. This was a collaborative project with the NEP4DISSENT COST Action, virtually hosted by the Blinken Open Society Archives. The primary goal was to bring together a group of 19 participants who all work closely with archival materials from the Cold War period and help them imagine or further develop digital history projects. A secondary goal, which represents a greater methodological shift, was to explore how their projects might be linked by collaborating in a shared data modeling environment – in this case Nodegoat.
Inspired by the ongoing cooperation between the leadership of the COURAGE Connecting Collections Horizon2020 grant and NEP4DISSENT, this group presentation would demonstrate how we can create meaningful resonances between digital history projects that draw from similar collections, or tangential or contiguous historical contexts.
The two directors of the SUN course (Jessie Labov and Piotr Wciślik, also from NEP4DISSENT) and one faculty (Tamás Scheibner, also from COURAGE) from the SUN course would explain our approach: how we can leverage and-or enrich linked open data sources with entities gleaned from Cold War archives, and how working in shared data environments like Zotero and nodegoat have led to new ideas and approaches. We will demonstrate with examples from the RFE background reports and the RFE/FEC Telexes, and with a shared bibliography project between the two research groups.
Two participants from the course would present their projects in Nodegoat, and explain how they have developed them in this framework.

LJUBOJEVIC, Ana (University of Graz)

Life in Between: Memories of post-WWII displaced persons in Austria

Following the theoretical framework of memory studies my project lays focus on the relations, impacts and causalities of a triangle connecting state(s) authorities, local (host) and DPs' communities. The project explores, tracks ad maps Yugoslav DPs from the camps in the British occupying zone of Austria from the macro (national and transnational), meso (group) and micro (individual) level of analysis. In the focus is a specific group of DPs consisting of Axis powers' collaborationists, their sympathizers, and civilians.
The project analyses repercussions of post-war displacement on collective and individual memories through the analysis of the official narratives and media frames (macro), which are subsequently compared to the DPs ego documents and personal files (micro level of analysis). Moreover, methodological tools of digital humanities are used to conduct a visual analysis of groupness via relational database. The meso level is visualized both in space and time with the data management tool Nodegoat ( My idea is to connect individuals (whose personal data would be collected through CM/1 and Yugoslav personal dossiers) to their places of arrival, transit, stay and departure. To that, I will merge diverse layers of memories (of space and communities) extracted from the ego-documents, media, and official reports. Large quantitative set of data1 would allow me to search for groupness within specific campsites. Preliminary relational data model consists of “persons” (DPs), “locations” (pre-camp residence, camp(s) and departure residence) and “sources” (ego documents, reports, personal files). Connecting names of persons and camps can give us a visualization of the movement. However, it can also reveal hidden groupness: for example, inclination of a group to settle in Austria, irrespective of the DPs pre-camp categories like ethnicity or ideological preferences, or decision to follow other members of choir2 to a future country of immigration. In a similar vein, connections between persons and documents can expose a spectrum of contested narratives and memories.
My main idea behind the MeDA project is to operate with both “classic” qualitative methodological tools such as frame and discourse analysis, and visualization through large set of data. While the first excels in tracing the life stories of the individuals and media reports, the second uncovers the group dynamics and social life of the post-WWII DP camps.

COSOVSCHI, Agustin (University of Paris)

Managing Data from Dissident Archives with Nodegoat

The project Dissinvent (University of Paris Nanterre - University of Paris) aims to identify archival collections created by Eastern European dissidents who settled in France during the Cold War. In this talk, Cosovschi will give an overview of some of these collections and discuss how the use of Nodegoat facilitated data management for the project and contributed to opening new research questions.


LÁSZLÓ, Szabolcs (Indiana University)

Interlocking Truth Regimes. Internationally Mobile Scholars as Targets of Cold War Agendas

Archival documents created by governments and institutions that were engaged in the Cold War reflect a paradigm of global rivalry and, if used uncritically, overly determine the way we conceptualize the post-1945 period. Most of the archival traces linked to interactions of an international nature imply a struggle that involved all geopolitical areas of the world, suggesting a totalizing and systemic antagonism that framed participants as competitors and foreshadowed a discourse about winners and losers in the period after 1989/1991.
In my research, I focus on one category of non-state actors that was presented, both during and after the Cold War, as having a decisive role in the systemic opposition: elites and scholars from state socialist Eastern Europe who participated in cultural exchanges and scholarship programs initiated by “Western” countries, especially the U.S. Such scholarships were given by the Ford Foundation, the Inter-University Committee on Travel Grants (IUCTG), and its successor, the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX), the State Department, but also more regional institutions, like the International Writing Program in Iowa City. I follow the participants and their interactions through the lens of various archives in both the sending country (taking socialist Hungary as my case study) and the receiving country. In both contexts, these actors were instrumentalized as vehicles for geopolitical and cultural diplomacy state agendas, their conspicuous mobility being framed by top-down expectations and fears born of the systemic antagonism. Policymakers in the U.S. encouraged the invitation of elites from behind the Iron Curtain supposing that, once exposed to an “affluent and free” society, the “guests” will be impressed to the degree of “conversion.” After returning home, they would become “spokespersons” for the superiority of the “Western way of life” and thereby gradually, but effectively undermine state socialist regimes from within. U.S. archival documents related to facilitating these scholarship programs reflect the preparation and assessment of this projected transformation, underpinning post-Cold War triumphalist narratives. Hungarian authorities allowed the country’s elites to travel abroad expecting that, through their exemplary behavior, they would perform the superior values of the socialist way of life. At the same time, the authorities considered elite travelers as liabilities since their potentially flailing vigilance could allow them to be won over and entrapped by their hosts. Hungarian archival documents depict trans-Atlantic interactions as confrontations, and issue warnings, articulate tasks, and examine outcomes from this vantage point.
Considered together, these Cold War projections reveal two truth regimes that were not isolated and mutually incompatible, but interlocking and complementary. The hegemonic hopes of the global center matched and mirrored the fears of the semi-periphery, setting the agency of participants in scholarship programs on a narrow course. Attempting to verify the validity or impact of these projected conversions would confine one within the legacy of Cold War truth regimes. Instead, I explore how we can conceptualize an outside or alternative to the zero-sum geopolitical paradigm suggested by archival sources, and how research can reclaim forms of agency in the face of such epistemic limitations.



Not Every “Controversy” has Two Equally Valid Sides. A Plea for a Non-Symmetrical Reading of Archival Ecologies

My paper will investigate the complexities of writing truthful narratives about dissidence in post-socialism by resorting to interlinked and yet opposed archives: those of the former secret police and those of US backed agencies providing alternative information. Local scholars versed in poststructuralism, archival turn and discursive theories might opt for downplaying issues regarding the moral superiority of Radio Free Europe’s archives over the communist ones and argue for a perspectival approach, merely counterpoising propaganda to counter-propaganda, or dissidents’ oppression to the advocacy chambers of the Western lobby groups (backed or not by the CIA). Other scholars having expertise in global Cold War issues might endorse such approach, based on their knowledge of US’s very problematic military and informational support for dictatorships and counter-terrorism. Another line of inquiry might synthetically opt for the investigation of an interactive and co-productive process whereby dissident figures were not necessarily disputed in enmity, but co-constructed rhetorically and conceptually through common references to “truth.”
I would go for a doubly reflexive type of inquiry which will try to assess the very consequences of the perspectival and de-constructivist approaches within contexts of reinforced authoritarianism and intensified culture wars in which scholarly approaches seem to dangerously converge with political attacks on the liberal dissident cultures of the early 1990s. I will take into consideration the convoluted trajectories of 3 Romanian dissidents which have not only underwent the sort of legitimate critical re-assessment within local historiographies, but were subjected to a sort of denunciatory public scrutiny close to an anti-elitist diatribe in scholarly works, court rulings and media campaigns.
How can historiographic narratives in Eastern Europe (and beyond) re-capture an ethical standpoint of dissident cultures without succumbing either to relativism or moralistic anti-communism? I would like to investigate this conundrum by addressing certain routinized approaches to archives [of insurgency and counter-insurgency] which, despite their reflexivity about the sources concerned, more obscure than highlight phenomena from the past, by flattening truth regimes or by de-constructively dismissing the relevance of certain sources over others.


MĂRGINEAN, Mara (George Barițiu Institute of History, Cluj-Napoca)

Planning, Provisioning, and Struggling with Definitions: Assessing Well-Being in the 1950s Romania

Fructifying the vast archival holdings researched during my OSA fellowship, my contribution questions the means behind the process of making food into a nutritional concept, documenting, thus, the specific forms that scientific knowledge had acquired in postwar Romania and what such models tell us about the developmental agenda of the state. It further advocates for reading food to both convert knowledge into organizational structures and actions and articulate social hierarchies. Thus, the paper pursues two purposes. First, to highlight the emergence of an area of expertise on nutrition and its medical and social uses, thus stressing how local actors, practices, and processes have become involved in the creation, dissemination, and transformation of an international body of knowledge. Second, to flesh out the bureaucratic implications of the “scientization of the social” in early socialist Romania by looking at how such knowledge has been transposed into planning and distribution policies. More concretely, it addresses three overlapping questions: What was the function of nutritional standards in the post-war Romanian society? How did such knowledge about planning and redistribution of food resources impact upon centralized economy? To what extent were “informal bureaucratic actions” influenced by various forms of knowledge about food consumption and population everyday practices?
In addition to critically engaging with innovative theoretical frameworks on various regimes of knowledge production and circulation, my contribution problematizes how issues pertaining to well-being have acted as a catalyst for administrative information management practices inside and outside Romania. Given that any archival document initially had a well-defined utility for the functioning of the structures that created it, my contribution compares the content of the state archives with the alternative ones (OSA) to bring to the fore the means of institutional self-representation in place in the early Cold War years. On the one hand, it details the state’s mechanisms of data archiving; mapping the domestic archival content fleshes out the visibility of various categories of experts (physicians versus social scientists) in the decision-making process and provides important insight about the relationships between professionals or between specialists and the state authorities.  On the other hand, it seeks to articulate the discourse of well-being in the archives of Radio Free Europe; mobilizing an alternative knowledge fund potentiates the program of the socialist state and outlines new analytical spaces regarding the compatibility between the meanings that the socialist state attributed to well-being and those valid beyond the Iron Curtain.


MATUS, Adrian (OSA, European University Institute, Florence); Robert PARNICA (OSA)

The power of the Telexes: Curating Transatlantic Radio Free Europe Internal Cold War Communication

Created in the Cold War, Radio Free Europe emerged as essential information and ideological tool promoting western values and attitudes toward the countries behind the Iron Curtain. To achieve this goal, RFE headquarters in New York was in intensive daily communication with its European headquarter in Munich via encrypted TELEX messages. Initially classified as secret information, the digital series consists of 56.000 files, primarily written in the English language. These documents represent a particular form of trans-Atlantic communication between various intermingled and often competing circles of Cold War networks. Besides being a channel of transmitting daily information, telexes represent a form of information gathering and knowledge production from the socialist countries, for the RFE radio broadcast when information about this geographic region was scarce. Because of its unique nature, the collection possesses multilayered values. The original archives were physically destroyed, but they are still preserved on the digitized versions of the photographic reels.
Our paper will discuss several issues. Firstly, we will discuss the materiality of the RFE archival records. The project gathered various researchers, curators, IT specialists, and archivists who processed this unique material. This process demanded a new reflection on digital processing. A recurrent question posed was: how the archivists/historians gave sense to the source throughout digitization? How much intervention is needed and possible if any at all?
We will compare the evolution of the Telex messages sent between the Radio's headquarters with the evolution on an institutional level. Our focus is to explain the transnational role of this channel. We shall look at the reflections and critiques to operational standards and truthfulness inside RFE brought upon by the events in Hungary and Poland in 1956.  Finally, we will explain how the intricate relationships between various institutions appear in the digitized collection by revealing the case of GEMA. This institution regulated music copyright use in western Germany. Since RFE broadcasted music, it often had to comply with the West German copyright law system. This micro-history analysis aims to reveal the tacit narratives of the institutional side of Radio Free Europe.


MAZURKIEWICZ, Anna (University of Gdansk)

Searching the Cold War Era Archives for Traces of Exile Agency within US-led “Winning Hearts and Minds” Campaigns

In 2010 I had the privilege of conducting research at OSA as a Visegrad Fund Fellow. At the time I was working on the monograph related to the story of transnational organization of political exiles from nine East Central European countries (1954-1972) – the Assembly of Captive European Nations. Rather than reconstructing internal debates and describing the views of this regional representation of anti-Communist politicians supported by the Free Europe Committee I tried to find a way to assess their impact. The project begun in 2006 and only now, in 2011 has the result of my research been published by DeGruyter: “Voice of the Silenced Peoples in the Global Cold War.”
The reason it took me so long was that in order to see the story of the ACEN in the context of the Cold War, and to answer the question: “so what?” I had to look beyond the exile organization (archives at the Immigration History Research Center in Minnesota, my query there 2007/8), the sponsor – Free Europe (my research at Hoover, 2007, 2017-18), the state-private network (research at National Archives at College Park, multiple visits),  state security archives (IPN and ABTL) as well as many individual collections (from Columbia University to Wrocław). While my research at OSA involved multiple collections, for the book I found particularly useful the collection of Claire de Hedervary and oral histories with FEC staff (Fekete Doboz).
During the workshop I would like to engage in a discussion of how to write Cold War history looking from manifold perspectives: institutional (organizational) and private archives (not forgetting about individual stories), looking from the West and from the East, but mostly into re-constructing state-private networks in the global confrontation that could be abbreviated to WHAM – winning the hearts and minds. ACEN serves an excellent example of doing just that and I would be delighted to discuss employed methodologies (also based on my other book that was published in 2016).,Uchodzcy-polityczni-z-Europy-Srodkowo-Wschodniej-w-amerykanskiej-polityce-zimnow.html


MORIVAL, Yohann (University of Lille, Sciences Po Paris)

Contributions of an Entry through Disorganized Archives of an East-West private Economic Club (1978-1989)

This proposal aims to contribute to the methodological debates on the Cold War through the study of unedited archives of the International Vienna Council (IVC), a private East-West club. Founded in 1978, the IVC brought together CEOs of large European and American firms and banks (Fiat, Pepsi, or Crédit Lyonnais) and economic leaders from several countries of the then Eastern bloc (USSR, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, GDR). The IVC had the ambitious objective of bringing together, according to its statutes, "businessmen" from East and West during the Cold War to improve the then extremely limited East-West economic co-operation. Its archives contain minutes of meetings, private correspondences, budgets, and activity reports. As these archives could be useful to study East-West economic co-operation through the lens of economic elites, they also tend to exaggerate it. Thus, it risks giving a distorted view of East-West Co-operation. This proposal develops two methodological precautions to make the most of these unique archives.
First, the archives of the IVC raise concerns about the political construction of issues, here the making an East-West economic network. As the IVC is a club dedicated to the promotion of East West co-operation, the porosity of the iron curtain is amplified by its archives. There is a need to find the right balance between what the archives tell us about co-operation and the importance of not obliterate the opposition of the Cold War. In Foucault's understanding, the Archive is not only a “mass of things said,” it is also “the law of what can be said.” To control this bias, this paper will propose to pay particular attention to all the small elements in the archives that signal the existing divisions within the organization. Second, it seems necessary to study the effects of an entry through incomplete and unsorted private archives. If state or police archives could have been organized to promote a specific truth regime, the archives of the IVC have not been sorted or filed. They were not supposed to become studied. Documents were gathered by the actors of the time to support their activities and are sometimes incomplete, with no possibility to find missing information. It is also worth questioning the effect of these unsorted archives on the historical work that tend to focus on activities carried out to the detriment of failures and unfinished projects. In a sense, archives, especially when they are not classified and sorted, could help to deconstruct the discourse that the IVC produced about itself and the Cold War.


PHILLIPS, Victoria (London School of Economics)

Awash in Information: Strategies for Cross-reading Digital Archives with Physical Materials

With the cultural turn in Cold War studies and the opening of national archives after 1991, archival cross readings allowed historians to understand the fluidity of propaganda battles over time. Rather than a bi-polar and monolithic analysis, historians who had language skills and travel budgets could write more nuanced stories of push-me/pull-you propaganda projects that became reflexive both in reaction to domestic and international trends or events. Thus even with a biographical or topical approach, choosing the lens of a person, artistic genre, or concept from childhood to food or the senses, change over time revealed the complexity of the Cold War both ideologically and geographically. With the first turn at the end of the Cold War, which opened Eastern bloc archives sometimes more fully than their Western counterparts, I argue that the second turn became manifest with the 2020 COVID crisis when historians had to depend on digital resources to continue their work. Although these resources had been growing side-by-side with the internet, traditional methodologies reigned with historians determined to follow the established path of touching each page in a file folder. The methodology cannot be left aside: papers can be misfiled, mislabelled, and often the most significant findings can be found in the “etcetera files,” or the folders that archivists have placed papers with no nameable import, but are chock full of clues. Given the richness of past practice, it took a global event to shake professional approaches. Forced to digital collections, a new wealth of possibilities emerged with cross-readings de rigueur as practice. With nothing but time, a single event could be circled in the archives and examined from multiple perspectives through translation packages and search services that are freely accessible.
This paper compares cross-archival research processes pre-pandemic and mid-pandemic through a grounding in geography and biography. While writing Martha Graham’s Cold War, I utilized the Open Society Archives on-line, but otherwise studies for chapter five and Eleanor Dulles in Berlin in the 1950s were conducted within the United States (on-location in MA, NY, DC, MD, KS), as well as in Germany, and with an on-site archival partner in Berlin. During the pandemic, I conducted research about Dulles only on-line at OSA and with archives located in MA, NY, DC, CA, and was able to access granular findings that were both specific and yet also contained gaps. Rather than one on-site assistant, cross-national advice could be accessed via zoom. What does this experience demonstrate about new archival practices in the digital age, both the advantages and the pitfalls, and how do new insights refocus our work as historians before we enter physical archives. How do we approach the archives for new work? Do we enter with a topic, knowledge of secondary sources, or do we follow Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow and let the archives create the paths? How does archival curation and funding feed outcomes both in physical and digital forums? These questions and others haunt this study.


PINTILESCU, Corneliu (George Barițiu Institute of History, Cluj-Napoca)

Cold War Hermeneutics: RFE and Securitate Narratives on Urban Systematization in Ceaușescu’s Romania

During the mid-1980s, the Western newspapers used to illustrate their articles about Ceaușescu’s Romania with apocalyptic images of the mass demolitions within the city centre of Bucharest. Entire picturesque neighbourhoods have been erased in order to provide the open space for the planned “new socialist city centre”. This megalomaniac project was part of the “systematization” of the urban and rural administrative divisions, a policy of radical reshaping the national territory. The first significant act of opposition against these policies took place in 1977, when the Directorate of Historic Monuments opposed the demolition of the Enei church in Bucharest. During the early 1980s, these initiatives continued with letters of protest sent to state authorities by several intellectuals. Due to the state authorities’ lack of reaction, two letters of protests signed by Romanian intellectuals and a detailed documentation about the demolitions were sent to Radio Free Europe in 1984 and 1985 and other similar letters followed in the late 1980s. At that time, RFE already used to broadcast almost monthly on this topic. From 1980 to 1987, the Romanian writer Bujor Nedelcovici took photos of demolitions of several historic monuments and more than sixty of them were smuggled to the West in 1987. Some of them have been intensely mediatised and became a landmark of how the West perceived Ceaușescu’s regime. The paper aims to inquire into how a preservationist movement originating in the technocratic milieus administering restoration sites in communist Romania turned into political dissent after RFE labelled some of its initiators as “dissidents”. It also analyzes the Securitate narratives about these networks promoting a preservationist agenda concerning historic heritage in Ceaușescu’s Romania and the way RFE reported about these groups. The presentation aims to deal with the following research questions: What channels did RFE use to gathered information about the opposition to “systematization” in Romania? How these channels framed the image of these activities? How this data was selected and interpreted? In which manner RFE reflected the goals and counter-narratives of these opponents? How the RFE discourse on the topic was perceived by the Securitate and how the Securitate’s narratives analyzed and evaluated the content of the RFE broadcasts and their impact among the Romanian population.


RIPKA, Vojtěch (Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Prague)

Beyond Comparison and Reliability: Key challenges Using the Sociological Surveys by the RFE/ RL and by the Czechoslovak Authorities and Ways Forward

To what extent are records of the RFE/RL, namely the audience research, able to contribute to the knowledge of Central Eastern Europe’s societies and their moods of 1970s and 1980s? I would like to revisit my initial, provisional approach to the way the sociological data produced by the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Research Institute. I have critically used these along the non-public sociological surveys produced domestically under the supervision of the Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Communist party and other types of sources such as mass media and reports of the dissenting movement on welfare policies. Unlike previous attempts by Eugene Parta or other scholars close to the RFE/RL itself, I have attempted not to simply corroborate the findings of the non-public domestic sociological data and the semi-public data gathered by the RFE/RL researchers, but also to take the intent and some of the production conditions on both sides.
In retrospect, the interpretational frame calls to be revisited and strengthened, also as the research question moves from periphery of “auxiliary sciences of history” to the forefront. This shift means not only deepening the understanding of the conditions of production and seeking the level of credibility and representativeness, but also the meaning and adequacy of the concepts I have used vis-a-vis the concepts used by the researchers domestically and at the RFE/RL Research Institute. This questioning should include the very use of concepts of public moods or opinions by the actors themselves and searching for the level of adequacy using the theory of preference and their falsification as proposed by Timur Kuran. The paper builds on the findings of Melissa Feinberg, who has analysed the set of assumptions that shaped the interviews with refugees and their interpretations by RFE/RL and beyond during Stalinism. However, it looks at different type of data (sociological surveys) produced in a less heated phase of the Cold War. The other difference that should also account for alternative approaches and promises different results compared to Feinberg's findings is the fact that both the Czechoslovak and RFE/RL researchers actively adhered to the established methods of sociological surveys.


SAFTA-ZECHERIA, Leyla (West University of Timișoara)

How Representational Transformations of Care Homes for Children with Disabilities around the End of the Cold War Shape Present Day Memory Landscapes in Romania

In late autumn 1985, on a visit to Romania a German citizen becomes acquainted with the living and dying conditions in care homes for the elderly and children. He publishes an article exposing this situation in the magazine Menschenrechte. The reportage is translated into Romanian and broadcasted by Radio Free Europe leaving its trace in the OSA archive. Two years later, December 1989 similar conditions in care homes for children become the subject of a veritable trans- and international genre of humanitarian reporting. In June 2017 and 2018 US American and Western European humanitarian reports about inhuman treatments in care homes for children with disability were being incorporated into practices of judicialization and criminalization of the state socialist past by the Institute for the Investigation of the Crimes of Communism and Memory of the Romanian Exile (IICCMER).
In my paper, I explore shifts in the transnational humanitarian construction of Romanian ‘orphanages’ from the 1980s to the present time. I do this by bringing together material collected at the OSA archives, online repositories containing humanitarian films, files put together by the IICCMER, as well as strongly localized materials such as personal archives surrounding an institution for children with disabilities, life history accounts of survivors of children’s institutions and ethnographic data collected around one such care home for children with disabilities.
I argue that a flow of information across the Iron Curtain surrounding human rights infringements in care homes in Romania existed before December 1989. The ‘discovery’ of violent treatments and neglect in Romanian ‘orphanages’ by Western European and US American volunteers thus appears as a function of the reconfiguration of power relations between Western and Eastern Europe after the end of the Cold War and not as a historic ‘fact’. The myth of the ‘discovery’ of Romanian ‘orphanages’ by Western volunteers, nevertheless served to associate Western and US American volunteering in Eastern Europe with transformation towards less violent practices and thus created a binary historical division in the history of care homes in Romania. By building on ethnographic interviews with survivors of a care home, I show how violent practices continued well into the 1990s with the occasional but nonetheless relevant participation of Western volunteers. In a next step, I show how the binary periodization of communism and violence on the one hand and post-socialist change on the other, travelled into present practices of judicialization and criminalization of the state socialist past set in motion by the IICCMER. The inherited binary served to obscure the connection between systematic necropolitical practices and pseudo-scientific disability related categories describing children as ‘unrecoverable’ and thus legitimizing their neglect. Finally, I argue that for a transformative politics and ethics to emerge around the past of care homes for children with disabilities, binaries around the end of the Cold War should be abandoned, and continuities in violent practices surrounding oppressive disability related categories should be centered.



Going Live: Perestroika-Time TV and Transformation of Soviet Media Landscape

With the coming of perestroika, Soviet media landscape, previously under strict censorship, experienced dramatic changes. One of the most radical innovations in the highly controlled media landscape was the emergence of live broadcasts on urgent political questions of constitutional reform, democratic elections, freedom of speech, national conflicts, and many others, the discussion of which was previously missing from the media landscape. The presentation will examine the ways by which the program transformed the controlled televised media performances of late socialism and will address how today, from over 30 years temporal distance, these records may serve as primary sources for understanding broader social and political transformations and the emergence of new medial communicative scripts. I focus on Vzgliad, the most popular TV program in the perestroika, which was first aired in October 1987 with journalists Oleg Vakulovskii, Dmitri Zakharov, Vladislav Listiev, and Aleksander Lyubimov as hosts. It was produced by the USSR State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting (1987-1990) and TV company VID (since October 1990) and remained one of the most popular TV programs on Russian TV throughout the late 1980s-early 1990s.


ȘERBAN, Mihaela (Ramapo College of New Jersey)

Archival Legal Discourses and the Construction of Truth Regimes

The Romanian law on archives (Law 16/1996) restricts access to certain types of documents, such as legal, notary and criminal affairs, for 90 years after their creation. The Communist Party archives are mostly not restricted, while The National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives has its own legal framework. Archival personnel, moreover, interpret these legal provisions differently, which can result in contradictory results: research on the Holocaust can be impeded if the material is classified as “legal” or “criminal,” yet material that ought to be restricted under Law 16 is open to researchers if classified in an unrestricted category (for example, if administrative courts are not classified as part of the judiciary for archival purposes).
Based on my research in the Romanian archives on communist law practices in housing and criminal law, and on the Holocaust in Romania (specifically Banat), I examine in this paper the types of truth regimes that are produced by post-communist archival legal discourses and archival practices. If truth is “a system of ordered procedures for the production, regulation, distribution, circulation and functioning of statements” (a legalist, formalist definition in itself), as Foucault described it in his 1976 interview on the political function of intellectuals, then archival laws and legal/archival practices are constitutive in the production of historical truth. How do these archival truth regimes shape collective memory and our understanding of the past, and especially of difficult or controversial topics? How do archival gaps, silences, and erasures, interpretive roadblocks, and statutory restrictions shape the production of historical truth? Finally, how are truth and ethics questions shaped by these types of archival practices and archival legal discourses?


ȘINCAN, Anca (Gheorghe Șincai Institute, Romanian Academy)

Confessions and Pastoral Letters in Secret Police Archives: The Ethics of Archival Research

The archives of the secret police preserve an important number of religious texts collected in surveillance operations and property searches from the underground religious communities. In their effort to curtail the practice of religion in clandestinity, the secret police created one of the most important collection of religious literature of religious minorities that, in many cases, is only preserved in these archives. Laura Engelstein terms them “archives of eternity” (Engelstein, 1999) since, paradoxically, the institution charged with the destruction of these underground religious communities ended up preserving their history, documents about these minorities rarely being preserved in other state archives.
This presentation investigates how communities relate to this treasure trove that can be found in surveillance files and how researchers could (should) engage with the religious text. Selecting two controversial types of religious texts (confessions and responses to confessions) that in classical church/ religious archives would not be accessible to the lay researcher and in most cases would not even exist (confessions have an oral form and not a written one) I am questioning the ethical implications for both researcher and religious community in making them accessible to the public.


STRÖHLE, Isabel (Independent researcher)

How to Investigate Identical Conclusions of Opposed Truth Regimes: Albanian Disloyalty in “Yugoslav” Archives, Ilegalja “Counter-Archives” and Beyond

Before declaring independence in 2008, Kosovo – home to the country’s biggest non-Slavic minority, the Albanians - was an integral part of former Yugoslavia for the largest part of the last century. Despite its small size, the multiethnic province also played a significant role in stability and demise of the socialist federation of South-Slavic nations. Albanian resistance against the Yugoslav partisans retaking power in Kosovo at the end of World War 2, and the 1948 Tito-Stalin split, led Yugoslav communist authorities impose centralized rule over the province and hermetically seal the Cold War border to neighboring Albania, which supported Yugoslavia’s expulsion from the Cominform, until at least 1966. Subsequent decentralization and expansion of nationality rights were reversed after the violent crackdown on demonstrations in 1981, and the reinstatement of Serbian centralist rule in 1989. Particularly the state security apparatus deemed the region at threat of the potential disloyalty its national minority, closely surveilled any expression of Albanian national identity, and targeted those who engaged in small clandestine, militant organizations striving for Albanian national self-determination. Although the state security and Yugoslav/Serbian Communists implored the ghost of Albanian separatism to justify its securitization of the southern province, it was a small fraction of the Albanian populace, which was active in Ilegalja, the dissident Albanian underground movement. Inverting prior moralities, in post-war Kosovo, political legitimacy has been derived from claims of membership in, not only the Kosovo Liberation Army in the 1990s, but also underground organizations opposing the Yugoslav regime, prior to 1989.
This paper investigates (the Yugoslav struggle against) Albanian disloyalty. In a first step, it explores the diametrically opposed “truth regimes” of the Yugoslav authorities, and state socialist archives, in juxtaposition to the knowledge preserved in dissident “counter archives” and produced by Ilegalja’s successor organizations, such as the Association of Former Political Prisoners. In Kosovo and among the formerly politically persecuted state archives are seen as manifestations of its “colonized history.” Nevertheless, in post-independence Kosovo former activists have been publishing a flood of court files and other official documents as evidence of their sacrifice for the national cause, as part of contemporary moral economies. While diametrically opposed in their notions of legality and legitimacy, both sides seem to suggest that Albanian separatism was indeed a pervasive phenomenon.
This contribution critically inspects this suggestion, by discussing:
i) (methodological) issues attached to the available source materials, such as court files;
ii) challenges imposed by the fragmentation of relevant archives during the violent Yugoslav dissolution, and the impact of the latter on current regimes regulating access to certain collections; iii) alternative sources and methodological approaches to further nuance understanding of the issue. This paper includes in the discussion ethical and epistemic challenges, navigating the relevant institutions of social memory and contested narratives as a female, German researcher by providing a reflexive autoethnography.


SZEMETOVÁ, Luca (University of St Andrews)

Archiving on the Screen – Remediating Private (Counter)Histories through Hungarian Documentary Cinema

The historical documentary can use the archive to negotiate and reconstitute the past across seismic political shifts and, in so doing, bring into focus the politically-motivated connections between historical preservation and creative practice (filmmaking). The proposed research investigates the remediation of amateur archive footage in Hungarian documentary films across two distinctive political regimes: socialism and post-socialism. To understand how private records of the past fundamentally shape and structure the histories told over the following years, it is crucial to assess their curation to archival objects and their consequent artistic recycling. Through the analysis of the short documentary film Private History (Gábor Bódy and Péter Tímár, 1978), the Private Photo and Film Foundation (1982- ), and Péter Forgács documentary film series Private Hungary (1999-2002), the research centralises the changing role and the use-value of the private archival holdings. These three connected case studies bring out tensions between private and public as well as irrelevant and relevant histories, which are often compromised to political agenda. Thus, the study is driven by three interrelated layers: politics (changing governments), archives (institutional practices and expectations), and documentary film (the role of nonfiction media) in Hungary.
The research employs a new critical method – “archiveology” – to assess the dialogues between historical preservation and appropriation in filmmaking, foregrounding the ways in which storage, preservation, restoration, and access are repeatedly shaped by the politico-economic context. (Russell, 2018). Relying on Dagmar Brunow’s (2015) understanding of memory as a mediation, which can be either perpetuated or subverted by archives, this research considers filmmakers as archivists, agents, and curators of history. Examining the (re)use of private film collections, which traverses different political regimes, provides a fresh, and critically-neglected, means of understanding filmmaking as an archival practice, an intervention to how cultural memory is established and challenged on the screen. The research thus uses Cold War archives, specifically their private media collections, to decode the meanings and communicative contexts of both the original amateur footage and documentary films that remix them. Footage that we hold to have a particular truth value is revealed as creative and capable of not just upholding but re-signifying mediated memories. Overall, this research aims to illuminate connected and far-reaching issues surrounding the transmission and reworking of (private) mediated memories, especially since this can also lead to producing counter-narratives to authoritarian regimes.


TOPOUZOVA, Lilia (University of Toronto)

The Voice of the Witness in Secret Police Files

In the last week of August 1953, a “strictly confidential” report was delivered to the desk of Bulgaria’s Assistant Minister of the Interior, Major-General, N. Tzachev, authored by Lieutenant Colonel V. Kusovski, head of the Ministry’s camps and prisons division. In four terse pages the report addressed a major crisis that had just occurred on the territory of Belene Island, the country’s main forced-labor camp and prison complex. On August 20, two inmates from the men’s section had tried to escape the remote and closely guarded site, situated on the Danube River, nearby the Romanian border. Kusovski’s report meticulously laid out the details of how the attempted escape was successfully thwarted. At 1:30am, just as the moon had faded, two border guards spotted the fugitives floating on a plank some 30 meters into the river. The guards fired flares to illuminate the scene and after a warning, they shot fifty bullets in the direction of the water. Though a week later their bodies were not retrieved, camp authorities concluded that the two inmates were dead.
To convince state leadership that the escape was foiled, the report contained a remarkable amount of precise but untruthful information. Contrary to Kusovski’s conclusions, the two inmates made it not only out of the camp but of the country. The testimony they provided became crucial for Western intelligence agencies who collected evidence about camps and life behind the Iron Curtain. In fact, much of the information on the Bulgarian gulag recorded in Radio Free Europe (RFE), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and British Foreign Office (FO) files was based on the escapees’ statements. One of the men who fled, S. Kavrukov, became a broadcaster with the Bulgarian Service of the Voice of America.
In what follows, I present a microhistory of the escape from the Belene camp and its aftermath through an archival thread of eastern and western Cold War files. I juxtapose declassified secret police files from Bulgaria’s former Ministry of the Interior (AMVR) with records from RFE (HU OSA 300-), CIA, and the British FO. I trace how intelligence agencies framed the voice of the witness, in this case the former camp inmates, and I scrutinize how their testimony was turned first into evidence, then into archival and later historical knowledge. I am not concerned here with which archival file presents a more truthful account of the camp escape. Instead, I am interested in how truth and lived-experiences were appropriated and reconfigured according to the political imperatives of the institutions that produced the respective files. This case study presents a methodological opportunity to transcend Cold War binaries and reflect on the production of both archival and historical knowledge that extends beyond the archival holding. I thus conclude my study with the conversations and email exchanges I had with the sons of S. Kavrukov in 2021. And to the archival record of the Cold War agencies, I add this layer of verbally recorded family narrative that both interrupts and re-constitutes how we come to the understand the camp escape.
I situate my analysis within a broader discussion on the possibility of historical reconstruction through archival sources in the aftermath state violence (Katherine Verdery on post-communist Romania, Kirsten Weld on 21st century Guatemala) and I consider the patterns mapped out in these studies and reflected in recent theoretical scholarship on the archive as a site of knowledge production in the colonial (Ann Stoler on the Dutch Indies) and post-slavery (Saidiya Hartman on 20th Century US) contexts.


VUKOV, Nikolai (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences)

Archives as Biographies: Documenting the Landscape of Political Immigration during and After the Cold War Era

A major prerequisite in contemporary studies of institutions, archives including, is the understanding of their correlation with the cognitive worlds of human beings, with their interpretative potential and biographical trajectories. Following the proposition made by Mary Douglas, institutions can be viewed as thinking, with biographies of their own, pursuing a certain interpretative stance, as well as dependent on their own cognitive anxieties. Whilst relevant to the understanding of archival units and institutions in general, such a vision about the correlation between institutional and human biographies encounters new interpretative dimensions when posed at the background of archival collections of political immigration created during the Cold War and that have acquired new meanings and reflective frameworks after the end of communist regimes in Eastern Europe. Such collections do not only show the complexities of coming into being during years of ideological battles between East and West or the efforts of constructing documentary narratives on the communist world across the ideological divide, but also the turbulences after the dissolution of this opposition and the new discursive contextualizations after the fall of the communist regimes in 1989. They reflect in a peculiar way both the uncertainties of the human existence in gathering documentary evidence and making sense in the conditions of ideological polarization, but also the fragility of constructed worlds and the new layers of legitimation that evolved with the end of the Cold War.
The current paper will focus on the biographical trajectory of an archival collection of materials on Bulgarian political immigration to the United States and Canada and will discuss the transformations in the contextual positioning of political immigration during and after the Cold War period. Created during half a century, the collection does not merely show the emergence of an immigrant network in these countries, but also the formation of a documentary fund because of the efforts and dedication of separate individuals, who have turned the archival repository into a life project. The paper will seek to trace the establishment behind this largest of its kind archive of Bulgarian political immigration and the reflection of the Cold War in this archival and biographic project, which entered a new epistemological regime after 1989. Partly irrelevant as an archive of political immigration from a small East European country, the collection was transported to Bulgaria at the wish and expenses of its main initiator and established as an institution dedicated to Bulgarian political immigration during the Cold War period. It has not been recognized by the Bulgarian state as deserving state attention and official status, and this reflects in a curious way the changed place of the Cold War topic in present-day political and epistemological contexts. Concentrating on the dilemmas surrounding the institutionalization and use of this archive, the paper will discuss the fate of such collections that have come to life and have gained their momentum during the Cold War, but have undergone relativization and partial delegitimation in the conditions beyond the previous East-West divide.