Sparks of Liberty: An Insider's Memoir of Radio Liberty

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9780271018690: Sparks of Liberty: An Insider's Memoir of Radio Liberty
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The story of how a U.S. broadcasting station helped win the Cold War.

“(Sosin) tells [Radio Liberty’s] story in a sober, judicious manner, extolling its achievements without concealing its shortcomings. His is the first authoritative account of an institution that played a major role in undermining Soviet authority and paving the road to its collapse.”—The New Leader

It is also a story of Jewish interest, intersecting at key junctures with the tale of the struggle to free Soviet Jewry."—Forward

“A valuable contribution to our understanding of how the Cold War was won. Radio Liberty was an important instrument in that struggle, and Gene Sosin’s memoir provides a detailed and informative account of how that struggle was waged.” —Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor

"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, Adlai E. Stevenson Professor Emeritus of International Relations, 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

During the Cold War, one of America’s most powerful weapons struck a major blow against tyranny every day over the airwaves. Radio Liberty became a critical source of information for listeners within the Soviet Union, broadcasting in Russian and more than a dozen other languages, and covering all aspects of Soviet life.

Sparks of Liberty provides an insider’s look at the origins, development, and operation of Radio Liberty. Gene Sosin, a key executive with the station for thirty-three years, combines vivid eyewitness reports with documents from his personal archives to offer the first complete account of Radio Liberty, tracing its evolution from Stalin’s death to the demise of the USSR, to its current role in the post-Soviet world.

Sosin describes Radio Liberty’s early efforts to cope with KGB terrorism and Soviet jamming, to minimize interference from the CIA, and to survive pressure exerted by J. William Fulbright, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who considered Radio Liberty a deterrent to détente. The insider’s perspective sheds important light on world affairs as Sosin tells how, over the years, Radio Liberty took the advice of experts on Soviet politics to adapt the content and tone of its messages to changing times.

The book is rich in anecdotes that bring home the realities of the Cold War. Sosin tells how famous Western political figures, educators, and writers broadcast messages about workers’ rights, artistic freedom, and unfettered scholarly inquiry—and also how, beginning in the late 1960s, Radio Liberty beamed the writings of Soviet dissidents back into the country. During these tumultuous years, Sosin and his associates saturated the airwaves with the words of Sakharov, Solzhenitsyn, and o

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About the Author:

Gene Sosin, former director of program planning for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, is also a contributing author to Dissent in the USSR (Johns Hopkins, 1975) and other books on Russia.

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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