Tag Archives: Cold War

Culture on the Battlefields of the Cold War


The CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) was “a major player in intellectual life during the Cold War — the closest thing that the U.S. government had to a Ministry of Culture. This left a complex legacy. During the Cold War, it was commonplace to draw the distinction between “totalitarian” and “free” societies by noting that only in the free ones could groups self-organize independently of the state. But many of the groups that made that argument — including the magazines on this left — were often covertly-sponsored instruments of state power, at least in part. Whether or not art and artists would have been more “revolutionary” in the absence of the CIA’s cultural work is a vexed question; what is clear is that that possibility was not a risk they were willing to run. And the magazines remain, giving off an occasional glitter amid the murk left behind by the intersection of power and self-interest. Here are seven of the best, ranked by an opaque and arbitrary combination of quality, impact, and level of CIA involvement”:

From, and more: https://theawl.com/literary-magazines-for-socialists-funded-by-the-cia-ranked-93e65a5a710a#.wmnc741ah

More Reading Writing Spying:

Literature as a Weapon

“Words matter. A society’s books and movies impact the world. Books, in particular were often internationally influential during the Cold War. …

The CIA funded the production and distribution of individual literary projects. …

Eric Bennett, a professor of English at Providence College and author of the forthcoming Workshops of Empire: Stegner, Engle and American Creative Writing During the Cold War, wrote that the CIA’s efforts produced lasting and potentially damaging effects.

According to Bennett, the CIA and other conservative organizations actually infiltrated the United States’ leading writing programs and literary journals. The goal was to establish an American literary tradition that would “venerate and fortify the particular, the individual, the situated, the embedded, the irreducible.”

That literary voice would be an alternative to the Soviet Union’s socialist realism — and its selfless heroes sacrificing themselves for good of the revolution.

Soon after Pres. Harry Truman founded the CIA with the National Security Act of 1947, the agency began focusing on the arts.”

From, and continue reading on the CIA role in shaping American literature: isnblog.ethz.ch/intelligence/the-cia-battled-the-kremlin-with-books-and-movies-2

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How the CIA Shaped Western Literary World

“During the Cold War, it was commonplace to draw the distinction between “totalitarian” and “free” societies by noting that only in the free ones could groups self-organize independently of the state. But many of the groups that made that argument [including literary magazines] were often covertly-sponsored instruments of state power, at least in part. Whether or not art and artists would have been more “revolutionary” in the absence of the CIA’s cultural work is a vexed question; what is clear is that that possibility was not a risk they were willing to run. And the magazines remain, giving off an occasional glitter amid the murk left behind by the intersection of power and self-interest. Here are seven of the best, ranked by an opaque and arbitrary combination of quality, impact, and level of CIA involvement.

Probably the finest literary magazine in American history, the Kenyon Review was founded by John Crowe Ransom in 1939. The intellectuals and CIA officers who ran the Congress for Cultural Freedom loved Ransom, and used him and his literary networks to locate promising students and literary friends that it could recruit to work for it. Even Ransom’s technique of “New Criticism,” seen as a quintessentially conservative Cold War form of analysis because it eschewed examination of the social and political context of literary works, has sometimes been compared to the work of espionage, by which careful reading can unearth hidden plans and meanings.”

From, and more, on 7 Influential Literary Magazines with CIA ties: theawl.com/2015/08/literary-magazines-for-socialists-funded-by-the-cia-ranked

Related: CIA involvement in the shaping of American Literature https://spywriter.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/the-cia-ideology-and-american-literature/

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Novels as Weapons of Propaganda

“During the Cold War, the CIA loved literature”…

“Books were weapons, and if a work of literature was unavailable or banned in the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe, it could be used as propaganda to challenge the Soviet version of reality. Over the course of the Cold War, as many as 10 million copies of books and magazines were secretly distributed by the agency behind the Iron Curtain as part of a political warfare campaign.”

Doctor Zhivago, “The book, by poet Boris Pasternak, had been banned from publication in the Soviet Union. The British were suggesting that the CIA get copies of the novel behind the Iron Curtain. The idea immediately gained traction in Washington.”

“The newly disclosed documents, however, indicate that the operation to publish the book was run by the CIA’s Soviet Russia Division, monitored by CIA Director Allen Dulles and sanctioned by President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Operations Coordinating Board, which reported to the National Security Council at the White House. The OCB, which oversaw covert activities, gave the CIA exclusive control over the novel’s “exploitation.”

“The “hand of the United States government” was “not to be shown in any manner,” according to the records.”

Read more: http://m.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/during-cold-war-cia-used-doctor-zhivago-as-a-tool-to-undermine-soviet-union/2014/04/05/2ef3d9c6-b9ee-11e3-9a05-c739f29ccb08_story.html

To be sure the CIA has its tentacles in the American publishing world, too: https://spywriter.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/the-cia-ideology-and-american-literature/

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Cold War and the Battle of the Pens

“Were there similarities between the literature on both sides of the Iron Curtain?”

“Definitely. And the phrase itself is an interesting place to start. It is commonly assumed that the term was first used by Winston Churchill in a speech in Fulton, Missouri on March 5th 1946, but in Patrick Wright’s book “Iron Curtain” (2009) he traces the origin to 18th-century theatre. The iron curtain was a safety curtain that came down between the stage and the audience in case of fire. It was the divide between stage and audience and the whole political rhetoric of cold-war literature and its narrative discourse was marked by this profound opposition between self and other, good and evil, democracy and tyranny.”

“The idea of theatricality was the very essence of cold-war literature and discourse—the manipulation of language and information, the difference between appearance and reality, and the way the information was projected to the audience didn’t necessarily have roots in reality.”


“There wasn’t a definitive “end of cold war” response in Soviet literature because the dissident literature, samizdat (self-published) and tamizdat (published over there), proliferated gradually. In the 1980s the Western spy novels all featured good guys from the West and bad guys from the East and they were still very popular. Margaret Thatcher read Frederick Forsyth’s “The Fourth Protocol” (1984) four times. But by this time there was also a huge influx of “real” fiction, serious literature reflecting on the reasons for the cold war and near nuclear disaster, the metaphysical opposition of East and West—post-modernism. This was a natural response to the cold-war situation, given the manipulation of language and the pervading atmosphere of counter-intelligence.”

Read More: http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2014/03/quick-study-olga-sobolev-cold-war-literature

The end of espionage thriller?

Can’t find a decent espionage thriller these days? Don’t blame it on Perestroika. Blame it on not reading SpyWriter Jack King:

“The end of the Cold War created a problem  for espionage thriller writers and moviemakers. They faced loss of a built-in backstory needing no explanation, a whole set of strong but realistic motivations for extreme behavior, a pre-fab cast of bad guys, and weighty, global stakes underlying all the action. Perestroika left a generation of writers searching for new conflicts and settings and plot devices.

Today I think the growth of surveillance technology will increasingly create a similar problem for fiction writers. It’s a staple of thrillers and science fiction to have the hero on the run—hounded by the government, evading the police—either because the hero is mistaken as someone bad or because the government is evil. And the government baddies use every technology at their disposal to locate and track their target, while the hero uses tricks and hacks to escape detection.

But the whole cat and mouse game is starting to look kind of problematic, because it’s getting harder to sustain a plausible “man on the run” scenario in the face of surveillance technology.

I like a good airport thriller or science fiction read, and for several years I’ve noticed this problem cropping up: it’s the near future (or later), the hero or heroine is on the run, and I find myself thinking, oh please, if they really had all the advanced technologies featured in this story, they’d certainly have more impressive surveillance capability! We may have more than that ourselves in couple years the way things are going.”

From: http://www.aclu.org/blog/technology-and-liberty-national-security/will-increasing-surveillance-change-fiction

Presidents are chosen, but not elected. The Black Vault. www.SPYWRITER.com

The Bridge of Spies


The bridge od spies

On June 12, 1985, Marian Zacharski, a Polish spy, was exchanged for 25 American agents.

“Polish-born, Marian Zacharski adopted the guise of a legitimate businessman in the United States in the late 1970s. The reportedly handsome and resourceful agent befriended William Holden Bell, an engineer at Hughes Aircraft. Over the course of three years, Zacharski persuaded Bell to pass along plans for secret radar systems and some of the technology behind early stealth aircraft. Zacharski’s tactics in recruiting Bell were so impressive that they are still studied by the FBI decades later.”

More spy exchanges: http://www.history.com/news/2012/02/10/prisoner-exchanges-across-the-bridge-of-spies-from-powers-to-shcharansky/

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Cold War leftovers strike again


Germany is rocked by a Nazi scandal. How is it possible that a Nazi organization could exist in current-day Germany? The answer dates back to:

“Worst of all was the espionage apparatus directed against the Soviet bloc. Nazi spy General Reinhard Gehlen, first used by US intelligence after 1945 to build up its secret network, was then switched to the new West German government. A study by historian Martin A. Lee described how “Gehlen proceeded to enlist thousands of Gestapo, Wehrmacht, and SS veterans. Even the vilest of the vile – the senior bureaucrats who ran the central administrative apparatus of the Holocaust – were welcome in the ‘Gehlen Org,’ as it was called, including Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann’s chief deputy. SS major Emil Augsburg and Gestapo captain Klaus Barbie, otherwise known as the “Butcher of Lyon,” were among those who did double duty for Gehlen and U.S. intelligence … “It seems that in the Gehlen headquarters one SS man paved the way for the next and Himmler’s elite were having happy reunion ceremonies”.

“Nearly all these men have died. But their disciples remained, and so did their inclinations. The Gehlen gang and their friends in top army and government offices used the Cold War to justify their return to strong positions.”

More: http://www.politicalaffairs.net/the-mystery-of-invisible-terrorists/

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The double agent spy who came back from the dead


Juan Pujol “Garcia, code-named “Garbo” by his MI5 handlers because he was “the world’s best actor,” was the man who more than anyone else convinced Hitler that the Normandy landings were a mere diversionary attack, a feint to distract the Wehrmacht from the real assault that was about to take place 150 miles to the north in the Pas de Calais. So successful was Garbo that the Germans were continuing to reinforce the Pas de Calais even after D-Day, and not committing their full resources to countering the Normandy landings. Although the story of the success of the Operation Overlord deception plans are well known, and Garbo’s vital role well established in history, what is not much known about is what Garbo did after the war”.

[…] the story of Garcia’s life of deception did not end with VE Day. After visiting his Abwehr case officer in Spain—who apologized that the Nazis had lost the war and gave him a huge golden handshake in cash, the Iron Cross, and the thanks of the now-defunct Reich—MI5 unsuccessfully tried to recruit Garcia for service against the Russians in the Cold War. The next that anyone ever heard of him was that he had tragically died of a snake bite in Angola in 1949.”

Or, did he?

Read More: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/11/27/garbo-the-spy-documentary-on-the-double-agent-who-helped-defeat-hitler.html

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Kim Philby and the woman who made him happy


“Historians still argue why [ Kim] Philby, a British aristocrat and a graduate of the Cambridge University, suddenly chose to work for Soviet intelligence services. Was he a man of no principles who was ready to work for anyone who would pay him well – or did he really believe in the ideas of communism? Well, it looks like the second answer is closer to the truth, for it is known that Philby had a fancy for Marxism when he was a student.

[…] in 1933, Kim Philby started to work for Soviet intelligence services. It is by an order of the Soviet intelligence services that he integrated into the UK secret service in 1940.

Famous writer Graham Greene, known for his pro-Soviet sympathies, who himself used to work for the UK intelligence for some time, said that when Kim Philby was at the top of his career, practically every step and every plan of Western secret services immediately became known to the Soviet services.

“For the last 25 years of his life, Kim Philby lived in Moscow – but, at first, his life here was not simple. The Soviet authorities and Philby himself were afraid that he might be assassinated – and he had to live a very secluded life, until a fair woman appeared”…

More: http://english.ruvr.ru/2011/12/07/61745969.html

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