A photojournalist in Cold War Eastern Europe

  During the 1970s and 1980s, Arthur Grace travelled extensively behind the Iron Curtain, working primarily for news magazines. One of only a small corps of Western photographers with ongoing access, he was able to delve into the most ordinary corners of people’s daily lives, while also covering significant events. His remarkable book Communism(s) A … Read more

Cold War number stations

  You might remember listening to short wave radio during the Cold War and coming across weird transmissions of metallic voices reciting random groups of numbers through the ether.  These are number stations, shortwave radio stations characterised by broadcasts of formatted numbers, which were being sent to spies operating in foreign countries. Number stations were … Read more

Tales of a West German football supporter in the Soviet bloc

You will remember Karl-Heinz from our episode  218 where he talked about being a signaller on the West German destroyer “Hamburg” in the late 70s. Today we follow his post navy life as a travelling supporter of football club HSV Hamburg where he followed them all over the Soviet bloc talks about watching them play Dynamo Berlin … Read more

Helping the Refuseniks

    Refusenik was an unofficial term for individuals—typically, but not exclusively, Soviet Jews—who were denied permission to emigrate, primarily to Israel, by the authorities of the Soviet Union and other countries of the Eastern bloc. The term refusenik is derived from the “refusal” handed down to a prospective emigrant from the Soviet authorities. Eric … Read more

My father the KGB spy

Listen on Apple PodcastsListen on SpotifyListen on Google PodcastsBecome a Patron! In 1978, Ieva Lesinska was a university student in Soviet Latvia with dreams of becoming a writer. She had just spent a heady month in New York visiting her father, Imants Lesinskis, a Soviet translator working at the United Nations. He was an employee … Read more

Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev – aspiring actor and poetry fan

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 … Read more

The Cold War handshake in the heavens – the Apollo-Soyuz mission

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 … Read more

Born into a family of Canadian Communists

Fred Weir was a third-generation red diaper baby from Toronto and a long-time member of the 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 … Read more