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Lea Ypi grew up in one of the most isolated countries on earth, a place where communist ideals had officially replaced religion. Albania, the last Stalinist outpost in Europe, was almost impossible to visit, almost impossible to leave. It was a place of queuing and scarcity, of political executions and secret police. To Lea, it was home. People wer…
 
On 17 July 1975 the first manned international space mission, carried out jointly by the United States and the Soviet Union. Millions of people around the world watched on television as a United States Apollo module docked with a Soviet Union Soyuz capsule. The project, and its memorable handshake in the heavens, was a symbol of détente between the…
 
Now, what do you think of when you hear the name Leonid Brezhnev who ruled the Soviet Union for 18 years from the 1960s to the 1980s? An old guy waving weakly from the Lenin mausoleum? Well, think again! We speak with Susanne Schattenberg, the author of a new biography that systematically dismantles the stereotypical and one-dimensional view of Bre…
 
Fred Weir was a third-generation red diaper baby from Toronto and a long-time member of the Communist Party. His uncle, trained at the Lenin School in Moscow in the 1920s as an agent of the Communist International, the Comintern and spent many years in the USSR. Fred had visited a few times, had studied Russian history up to the graduate level, but…
 
For almost half a century, the hottest front in the Cold War was right across Berlin. From summer 1945 until 1990, spying was part of everyday life in both East and West Berlin. I speak with historian Bernd von Kostka of the Allied Museum in Berlin-Dahlem who has co-authored with Sven Felix Kellerhoff the book Capital of Spies: Intelligence agencie…
 
In 1985, an eighteen-year-old named Riho Terras arrived at the Soviet armed forces’ large conscript assessment facility in Tallinn obeying his conscription orders. Little did he know that 26 years later he would be a NATO General. Riho shares his experiences in the Soviet Navy with us in some detail. We hear about his service on the Soviet frigate …
 
I talk with the writers and editors of Terrorism in the Cold War a new two volume book that uses a wide range of case studies including Polish Military Intelligence and Its Secret Relationship with the Abu Nidal Organization and Gladio – Myth and Reality: The Origins and Function of Stay Behind in the Case of Post-war Austria. The book sheds new li…
 
Emanuela Grama was born in the mid-1970s’ in a small provincial town in Eastern Romania. She provides us with a great insight into life in the Romanian provinces during the 1980s. Emanuela lived in a small two-bedroom flat and tells of her parents working in a factory while her grandparents looked after her. Her father listened secretly to Radio Fr…
 
Pete Curran served with BRIXMIS, the British Military Liaison Mission in East Germany. Their operation was established by a post-WWII Allied occupation forces' agreement, where British, US and French missions had relative freedom to travel and collect intelligence throughout East Germany from 1947 until 1990. Pete’s story starts with details of his…
 
Frank Olson was an American bacteriologist, biological warfare scientist, and employee of the United States Army Biological Warfare Laboratories. In 1953 at a meeting in rural Maryland, he was covertly dosed with LSD by his boss Sidney Gottlieb, who was the head of the CIA's MKUltra mind control program. Nine days later, Olson plunged to his death …
 
Squadron Leader John Robinson AFC (ret’d) was an RAF pilot who was tasked to fly into the mushroom clouds of nuclear bomb tests to capture samples at Operation Buffalo at Maralinga in 1956, and Operation Grapple, at Christmas Island in 1957. He tells of his recruitment into RAF, initial training and his cloud sampling missions as well his experienc…
 
We hear of Joanna's heartbreak when her visa is refused, preventing her from marrying Yuri. However, using an ingenious method she manages an emotional reunion and eventual marriage as the Soviet Union begins to dissolve. Details of the book giveaway are here https://coldwarconversations.com/episode200/ Part one is here and part 2 here Joanna’s boo…
 
Joanna is questioned by the KGB and the FBI, falls in love with Yuri and starts to smuggle the bands' music out of the Soviet Union to produce the album. Details of the book giveaway are here https://coldwarconversations.com/episode199/ Part one is here and part 3 here Joanna’s book, Red Wave written with her singer/songwriter daughter, Madison, in…
 
Joanna Stingray was only 23 years old when she first set foot in the USSR and started meeting now-legendary musicians and artists of the Soviet underground. By 1985, she was writing and recording with them, and smuggling their music to the West in order to produce the groundbreaking album Red Wave: 4 Underground Bands from the USSR. This is her tes…
 
Over the past, nearly two decades, the Stuck in the 80s podcast has emerged as the go-to for all aspects of 1980s nostalgia from a North American point of view. And, much like Cold War Conversations, Stuck in the 80s is an award-winning podcast. Recognizing that decade’s popular culture was heavily influenced by the Cold War, co-host Peter Ryan org…
 
I speak with Aden Magee who operated as the commander of a highly specialized Counterintelligence (CI) unit in West Germany during the last decade of the Cold War. We talk about his book The Cold War Wilderness of Mirrors - Counterintelligence and the U.S. and Soviet Military Liaison Missions 1947–1990. This is a rare book that details some never-b…
 
Ron Knight served in the Royal Marines on HMS Belfast during the Korean War of 1950-53. He was a gunner and describes the shore bombardments and how his gun was used in anti-aircraft defence. We also hear Ron describe life aboard the Belfast during this period Ron also served with the Royal Marine Commando during the Malayan Emergency which was a g…
 
Igor Gouzenko exposed Soviet intelligence's efforts to steal nuclear secrets as well as the technique of planting sleeper agents. The "Gouzenko Affair" is often credited as a triggering event of the Cold War, with historian Jack Granatstein stating it was "the beginning of the Cold War for public opinion" and journalist Robert Fulford writing he wa…
 
Rick Shreve was a USAF F111 pilot based at RAF Lakenheath in the UK. We hear about his early USAF career as a fighter pilot, then we move onto his transfer to the F111 and how he was trained to carry out nuclear as well as conventional missions against the Warsaw Pact forces in Europe. He describes his low-level training missions to attack targets …
 
This week it's the 60th anniversary of the flight of Gherman Titov on Vostok 2. The forgotten 2nd cosmonaut overshadowed by the exploits of his friend Yuri Gagarin. Titov’s 25.3 hours and 17 orbits flight was much more ambitious than Gagarin’s and more dangerous. It was also a very political flight, intending to distract the world from the building…
 
Evan McGilvray has written a number of books on Poland as well as biographies. He is well versed in Poland and Polish society and away from the usual locations of Krakow and Warsaw. Evan first visited Poland in 1986, 5 years after the declaration of martial law which triggered the suppression of the free trade union Solidarity in December 1981. He …
 
On November 18, 1965, U.S. Navy pilot Willie Sharp ejected from his F-8 fighter after being hit while positioned over a target in North Vietnam. With a cloud layer beneath him, he did not know if he was over land-where he would most certainly be captured or killed by the North Vietnamese or over the Gulf of Tonkin. As he ejected, both navy and air …
 
The French Forces in Berlin were the units of the French Armed Forces stationed from 1945 until the end of the Cold War-era in West Berlin according to the agreements of the Yalta Conference and Potsdam Conference. The troops were the French counterparts to the United States' Berlin Brigade and the United Kingdom's Berlin Infantry Brigade in the ci…
 
We continue Drea Hahn’s story with her family’s escape to Austria and the realities of being a refugee. In 1986, under the pretext of a “ski trip” to Yugoslavia Drea’s family escaped to Austria. We hear about the sadness of being unable to tell anyone they were leaving and how her relatives were summoned to the police station to be detained for que…
 
Drea Hahn was born in Czechoslovakia in 1980 in Teplice. Her mother was a secretary and her father was an engineer but refused to join the communist party and this was a source of tension in Drea’s family. She was partly raised by her grandparents and her grandmother shared stories about growing up in “the Protectorate”, the name given to the area …
 
Ben Brown is the writer of A Splinter of Ice, a play that portrays the meeting in Moscow in 1987 of one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century, Graham Greene and his old MI6 boss, Kim Philby, one of Britain's most notorious spies... and a traitor. Graham Greene never divulged any details of the meeting and Ben’s play imagines what might have…
 
We return to the 2nd part of Tom Favia’s story with the US Military Liaison Mission which the Soviet Union permitted to operate in East Germany, ostensibly for monitoring and furthering better relationships between the Soviet and Western occupation forces. The British & French also had missions as did the Soviets in West Germany. Part 1 is here htt…
 
Ethel Rosenberg is a controversial figure and generates polarising views varying from an innocent mother caught up in Cold War hysteria to a willing and ruthless accomplice to her husband’s Cold War espionage betraying secrets to the Soviets. Anne Sebba’s new book “Ethel Rosenberg – A Cold War tragedy” (“An American tragedy” in the US) provides a m…
 
Tom Favia served with the USMLM, The US Military Liaison Mission which the Soviet Union permitted to operate in East Germany at the end of World War 2 for monitoring and furthering better relationships between the Soviet and Western occupation forces. The British & French also had missions in East Germany and the Soviets has theirs in West Germany.…
 
This is the third and final part of Ralph Hänel’s story of his life in East Germany. In this episode, we hear his time in the Stasi prison in Cottbus which with its dark red brick façade was often referred to as the ‘Red Misery’. It’s a chilling insight into Stasi prison conditions and the brutality that the political prisoners endured from the oth…
 
In this second part of Ralph Hänel’s story of his life in East Germany. We hear of Ralph’s arrest by the Stasi and subsequent interrogation for 10 months. Ralph describes in some detail the arrest and his early days of imprisonment. He also details the techniques used to try and make him break and the pressure the Stasi also put on his mother. It’s…
 
We speak with author Giles Milton about his new book Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown that Shaped the Modern World. In 1945 at the end of World War 2 the Soviet Red Army captured Berlin. For the next four years, a handful of charismatic but flawed individuals – British, American and Soviet – fought an intensely personal battle over the fu…
 
This episode is sponsored by MUBI, a curated streaming service with an ever-changing collection of hand-picked cinema. From new directors to award-winners. From everywhere on earth. Beautiful, interesting, incredible films — with a new one added every single day. Right now on MUBI, you can watch STATE FUNERAL, an astonishing archival vision of the …
 
We speak with author Tim Tate about his new book the Spy who was left out in the Cold: The Secret History of Agent Goleniewski Michal Goleniewski remains one of the most important, yet least known and most misunderstood spies of the Cold War. Even his death is shrouded in mystery and he has been written out of the history of Cold War espionage - un…
 
Ralph Hänel tells some unique, strange and funny short stories about childhood and youth in East Germany. We talk about the experiences of his parents in the closing stages of World War 2, his schooling, and how he became a DJ, winning a trip to the Soviet Union. Ralph is a great raconteur with virtually endless stories about his life in East Germa…
 
Adrian Jones was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Irish Army in 1983. As a 23 year old officer he served in the United Nations Peacekeeping Force UNIFIL in Southern Lebanon from 1987 to 1988. The Irish battalion consisted of 580 personnel which were rotated every six months, plus almost 100 others in UNIFIL headquarters and the Force Mobile Rese…
 
In August 1960, a Soviet colonel called Oleg Penkovsky contacted the West to offer to work as a 'soldier warrior for the free world. MI6 and the CIA ran Penkovsky jointly, in an operation that ran through the showdown over Berlin and the Cuban Missile Crisis. He provided crucial intelligence, including photographs of rocket manuals that helped Kenn…
 
70 years ago today would have been the middle of a desperate battle by outnumbered British forces at the battle of the Imjin River in Korea. The Korean War was among the most destructive conflicts of the modern era, and one of the few times when the Cold War turned hot. There were approximately 3 million war fatalities and a larger proportional civ…
 
John Matisonn is a South African journalist who grew up in the suburbs in Johannesburg. In 1979 he was sentenced to jail for refusing to reveal his news sources. Matisonn describes life as a journalist in apartheid South Africa as well as his meetings with some of the key South African personalities of that period. He met with several South African…
 
9.07 a.m., April 12, 1961. A top-secret rocket site in the USSR. A young Russian sits inside a tiny capsule on top of the Soviet Union’s most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile and blasts into the skies. His name is Yuri Gagarin. And he is about to make history. We speak with Stephen Walker author of “Beyond” a new book that tells the thri…
 
In April 1966, a state-of-the-art Soviet aircraft, the Yak-28P crashed into the British Sector of West Berlin. This intelligence gift to the Allied forces resulted in a tense confrontation with the Soviet forces We speak with historian Bernd von Kostka of the Allied Museum in Berlin-Dahlem who has researched this story for his upcoming book Capital…
 
We speak with Chris Summers who as a 22 year old was sent by his employers to East Germany in a Ford Escort to install British factory machinery. He provides us with interesting insights into life in the provinces of the GDR. Long term listeners of the podcast will recognise one of Chris’s colleagues was Tim, husband of Antje who was our guest in e…
 
Soviet Tours is a Berlin-based tour operator focussed on off-the-beaten-path destinations across the globe. Their core area, as the name suggests, lies mainly in and around the former USSR. From the mystic forests of Central Siberia to the austere peaks of the High Caucasus, from the scorching deserts of the Soviet Stans to the windswept steppes of…
 
Our conversation with Rob Forsyth continues with his posting as a Lieutenant Commander or second in command to HMS Repulse, a Polaris nuclear missile. We hear in detail the challenges of command on these boats, their launch procedures and the conversations Rob had with his captain about the circumstances when they might refuse to launch the missile…
 
Rob Forsyth joined the Submarine service in 1961. By March 1962 as a young officer, he joined HMS Auriga a 1945 vintage diesel submarine. Within 7 months the 22-year-old was loading live torpedoes and preparing for a war mission during the tense days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Robs tell of many fascinating incidents in his career including under-…
 
Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp was a protest camp established in 1981 to protest against the deployment of USAF controlled Ground Launched nuclear armed Cruise Missiles at RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire, England. On the eve of International Women’s’ Day 2021 I talk with Jan Castro-Fraser who chose to challenge the existence of nuclear weapons…
 
The events of 1949 in China reverberated across the world and throughout the rest of the century. That tumultuous year saw the dramatic collapse of Chiang Kai-shek's 'pro-Western' Nationalist government, overthrown by Mao Zedong and his communist armies, and the foundation of the People's Republic of China. I talk with author Graham Hutchings who h…
 
Acclaimed author and journalist Simon Kuper, has written The Happy Traitor, the story of British spy and Soviet Union double agent George Blake, the last major British traitor of the Cold War. In 1961, Blake was sentenced to forty-two years imprisonment – at the time, the longest sentence in modern British history. He had betrayed all the western s…
 
Germany has been at the heart of the British Army's story since 1945. After the Second World War, the Army helped rebuild a devastated and divided nation. It provided protection during the Cold War, and later used Germany as a base from which to deploy troops across the world. Foe to Friend is a major exhibition at The National Army Museum in Londo…
 
Commodore Eric Thompson MBE is the author of the book “On Her Majesty’s Nuclear Service. He is a career nuclear submarine officer who served from the first days of the Polaris missile boats until after the end of the Cold War. He joined the Navy in the last days of Empire, made his first sorties in World War II type submarines, and went on to becom…
 
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