Book Reviews
COLD WAR IN THE BALKANS - An International Conference
(Volume 1, Number 2, Summer 2000.)
19 srp 2000 02:00:00
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The Cold War International History Project, Washington
The Cold War Research Group - Bulgaria, Sofia
Plovdiv, Bulgaria: May, 2000

 

In 1991 at the Woodrow Wilson International Center of Scholars in Washington DC, a major international network of scholars and experts was established, engaged in the study of the Cold War History. It was christened the Cold War International History Project - CWIHP.

During the next decade, in collaboration with the National Security Archive - an independent organization situated at the George Washington University and other university and research centers - the Cold War Project organized more than 20 conferences and round table discussions in various cities - from Washington to Warsaw and from Reykjavik to Hong Kong.

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The most recent conference was held in May, 2000 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. More than 70 representatives from 15 European countries and the USA attended the first such conference in South East Europe - "Cold War in the Balkans - History and Consequences". It was organized by the Cold War International History Project in Washington and the Cold War Research Group - Bulgaria, in Sofia, with the assistance of various other official and non-governmental organizations and foundations.

The format of the Conference followed a pattern already tested at the other CWIHP international workshops. Such a model was new for the public in the Balkans and aimed to join at the conference table representatives from three distinctive and separate professional and social groups: specialists in the field of contemporary history, international relations and security issues, archive experts, and active participants in the events discussed. Thus, on the basis of scientific knowledge, comparative analysis and critical oral history, new declassified archival evidence, and personal recollections, a broad and comprehensive explanation of the complex Cold War aspects in the recent past was presented.

The main objective of the project was to attempt to define the place of the Balkans in the Cold War bi-polar confrontation and the causes for its new role as a source of tension in post-Cold War Europe from a regional and international perspective. An analysis of contemporary historical experience provided an opportunity to enhance the understanding of how previous events and interactions have influenced subsequent attitudes and behavior of the present EAPC countries, and how specific circumstances in East European societies have influenced the transition to democracy. A comparative evaluation of former images "from the other side" proved to be quite important in the process of education in the border regions of Europe, where mutual misunderstanding still exists.

The three-day discussion in Plovdiv's International Fair & Congress Center was divided in six thematic parts. The first was dedicated to the superpowers' position in the Balkans and the Balkan countries' diplomacy. Scholars from Russia, Greece, Hungary and Romania, as well as Bulgarian university professors, discussed many aspects of the Balkan legacy of the US-Soviet driven Cold War and their strategic goals in the area. In addition, former diplomats, such as Dr. Vasile Sandru - former Romanian Deputy-Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador to Belgrade and Moscow, Professor Enyo Savov - former Bulgarian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and a Bulgarian representative at the CFE talks in Stockholm and Vienna, Dr. Raymond Garthoff - former State Department Senior official and US Ambassador in Sofia, shared their views and comments. Professor Evgeny Alexandrov, former head of the Bulgarian Foreign Minister's Office, clarified some interpretations on the confidential Mladenov - Gorbachev contacts and the activities of the Soviet Ambassador in Sofia prior to the overthrow of long-standing Bulgarian leader, Todor Zhivkov. Dr. Dumitru Preda, head of the Romanian Diplomatic Archive, discussed secret information from the Romanian embassies abroad during the last months of the Communist regimes in Europe.

The second round table was dedicated to certain military aspects of Cold War Balkan history. Outstanding scholars, such as Daniel Nelson from the USA and Natalia Egorova from Russia presented comparative analyses of the leading military Cold War alliances. Some aspects of Khruschev's role in the reduction of the Bulgarian army in the late 50's, the Soviet military advisers in Bulgaria, etc.,were also discussed. Participants in the discussion that followed included the former Chief of General Staff of Bulgarian Armed Forces (1962-1989) and Vice-President of Bulgaria (1990-1992) General Atanas Semerdjiev, former Turkish representative of the NATO Military Committee, General Ihsan Gurkan, Colonel Herve Roche from France, etc. A logical finale of the first day's discussion was the presentation of the new CD ROM Documentary Volume, "Bulgaria in the Warsaw Pact".

The high point of the conference was most probably the first panel on the second day of the Conference; a discussion entitled "Intelligence issues of Cold War History and Consequences" organized by the Bulgarian Euro-Atlantic Intelligence Forum. It was an intensive open discussion among leading intelligence professionals and scholars, the main topic being The Intelligence History: Balkans as a crossroad between three Continents. Many different subjects were also covered, including:

  • Balkans as a geo-strategic area for intelligence;
  • Various participants and approaches-;
  • Pre-World War II/ Cold War/ Post-Cold War Era;
  • CIA-KGB intelligence estimates: a comparison;
  • Cooperation and coordination among the Balkan security services: effectiveness and subordination.

Among the participants in the discussion were General Markus Wolf - former head of the Intelligence of the German Democratic Republic (DDR), Admiral Pierre Lacoste - head of the French Intelligence, Richard Kerr - Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States, Professor Miroslav Tudjman - Croatia, Grozdan Tzvetkovski - Macedonia and Ambassador Raymond Garthoff - USA. The Bulgarian experience was presented by General Brigo Asparuhov - Director of the National Intelligence Service (1991-1997), Colonel July Georgiev - ex-director of counterintelligence, Ambassador Minko Sladkarov, and others.

The topic of the next panel, dedicated to ethnic and religious factors of Balkan Cold War history, also led to intense discussion about national and religious minorities, the Cyprus question within the US-Soviet world confrontation, the Kosovo problem, etc. Participants from Greece and Turkey, Romania and Albania, Bulgaria and Macedonia, addressed various disputable and contradictory aspects of very complex ethnic and religious Balkan problems. Other heretofore-unknown details regarding the contemporary political history of the region were presented in the panel "Repression and Opposition".

The third-day discussion concluded with a panel entitled "The Legacy of the Cold War and the Transition to Democracy". The main papers treated the problems of Bulgarian transition and the events in Timisoara, Bulgaria in December, 1989. An additional paper by Dr. Veselin Metodiev, former head of Bulgarian Archives and Deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria from 1997-1999, focused logically on the question of the accessibility of Bulgarian State Security and Diplomatic and Military Archives on the Cold War years.

One of the indications of the successful results of the Balkan Cold War Conference and its impact on the public was wide mass media coverage of the three-day discussions. Even two months after the Conference, comments and interviews with the Conference participants continue to appear. More than 40 publications have appeared in sixteen central and local Bulgarian newspapers, including business and PC weekly professional newspapers. There were also a large number of TV and radio broadcasts in Romania, Greece and Macedonia, on the BBC, Radio Free Europe, Reuters, France Press, etc. regarding the Conference.

The Conference proceedings, which are expected to be published in September, 2000, do not spell an end to the project. On the contrary, they provide an incentive to more comprehensive Cold War History research in the region, joint studies and scientific projects, exchange of new hypotheses, arguments, and declassified political, diplomatic, military and national security documents on the region's common history in the second half of the twentieth century.

For more information about the Conference, please contact:
baev@sf.icn.bg or ik96plus@web.com

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