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Sparks of Liberty: An Insider's Memoir of Radio Liberty 1st Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0271027302
ISBN-10: 0271027304
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Taking an insider's look at a little-known chapter of Cold War history, Sosin, a senior adviser to, and broadcast planning director of, the Munich-based station in the 1960s and '70s, tells how Radio Liberty went after the hearts and minds of people in the U.S.S.R., while it struggled to survive incessant jamming, a Kremlin campaign of vilification and infiltration by spies. Radio Liberty's first broadcast in 1953 occurred, by a strange twist of fate, hours before Stalin suffered a stroke; he died four days later. Sosin's account, drawing on confidential and previously unpublished documents, reveals, for instance, how Radio Liberty disseminated the content of Khrushchev's key 1956 anti-Stalin speech, given to a closed session of the Communist Party. The station, claims Sosin, became the principal forum for airing samizdatAthat is, uncensored, self-published calls by dissidents such as Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov for human rights and an end to one-party dictatorship. The station also broadcast Eleanor Roosevelt, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Linus Pauling, Martin Luther King Jr., ex-Communist novelist Howard Fast and Trotsky's widow, Natalia Sedova. In 1971, Senator J. William Fulbright, opposing the Cold War, widely publicized the fact that Radio Liberty was secretly subsidized by Congress via the CIA, but the station weathered the storm, merging in 1975 with Radio Free Europe (which had primarily targeted Eastern Europe). Sosin ends by arguing that RFE/RL (now headquartered in Prague) has a continuing role to play, working for democratic pluralism and opposing xenophobic nationalism in the former Soviet Union. Photos.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“One of the most important lessons still to be learned from a study of the Cold War period concerns the ambiguities and dilemmas associated with our quasi-governmental efforts to break through the Soviet monopoly of propaganda and information. Gene Sosin, in Sparks of Liberty, has provided a useful resource for future studies of this problem.”

—Marshall D. Shulman, Columbia University

“Gene Sosin has produced an animated and readable history of Radio Liberty. He enlivens the story with many deftly written thumbnail sketches of staff members and contributors, providing a virtual who's who of American intellectual life and the Soviet dissident and émigré intelligentsia. It is fortunate for the historical record that Sosin has written this book.”

—Robert V. Daniels, University of Vermont

“A well-documented, lively account of one of the most fascinating chapters in the history of the Cold War. Gene Sosin's story of Radio Liberty is a major contribution to the annals of the ideological war between the United States and the Soviet Union that was waged from Stalin's death in 1953 to the dissolution of the Soviet Empire in 1991.”

—Maurice Friedberg, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press; 1 edition (May 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0271027304
  • ISBN-13: 978-0271027302
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,840,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Anyone who is interested in the history of international media and how the Cold War was won by the West should read this book--it was extremely well-written, informative and engaging. The author, a former Radio Liberty programming executive and PhD in Russian from Columbia, has put together a fascinating account of the mission of Radio Liberty (RL) from its beginning broadcast at the time of Stalin's death in 1953 to its joining force with Radio Free Europe (RFE) in 1976 as RFE/RL. The book ends with RFE/RL's current status at the end of the 1990s. It was very interesting to read this account from a Western viewpoint of how the emigre Russian intelligentsia connected with the intelligentsia and average citizen in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In many ways this account is a heroic but not overly aggrandized portrait of how the idea of freedom of speech rent the Iron Curtain by means of radio broadcasts--it could have been very pro-Western and propagandistic in outlook but wasn't, thank goodness. The book seems fairly balanced in that it also discusses internal problems the Radio staff had over a period of time--these conflicts were in effect microcosms of the ethnic tensions that existed within the Soviet Union. I found it also to be a case study on international broadcasting and how the U.S. government has decided to fund it in the past and the present. After finishing this, I wanted to read more books about the history of the dissident movement in the Soviet Union and the history of Western broadcasting.
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