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 Sosin's account, drawing on confidential and previously unpublished documents, reveals, for instance, how Radio Liberty disseminated the content of Khrushchev's key 1956 anti-Stalin speech, given to a closed session of the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.
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“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