Director of the Visiting Fellows Programme
Anna Korhonen
Head of International Affairs
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Eeva Korteniemi
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Location & Connections


Visiting Fellows 2012-2013



Barbara J. Falk, Canadian Forces College / Royal Military College of Canada / University of Toronto, Canada

“Cold War justice: Comparing political trials across the East-West divide”
Fellowship period: May 1–June 30, 2013

Dr. Barbara J. Falk holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Victoria, an MA and PhD from York University, and an MSL (Master of Studies in Law) from the University of Toronto.  Dr. Falk joined the academic staff of the Department of Defence Studies at Canadian Forces College (CFC) and the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) as Associate Professor in September 2006, after teaching for over 10 years in a number of post-secondary contexts, most recently at the Munk School for Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, where she is also a Fellow of the Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies. In 2003, she published the first thorough and comparative account of dissident theory and activism under communism, entitled The Dilemmas of Dissidence in East-Central Europe: Citizen Intellectuals and Philosopher-Kings.  She has contributed to numerous peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes, and writes regularly for Canada’s on-line news and opinion daily, The Mark. She is currently completing a book on the trial of the 1949 Communist Party leadership of the United States, provisionally titled Dennis et al: The Forgotten Political Trial that Made the Domestic Cold War Possible, as part of a larger research project which examines the politicization of justice and the prosecution of dissent at times of domestic and international conflict.

Abstract of current research:
During my tenure at the Aleksanteri Institute, I will be researching and writing two chapters of a book-length manuscript which will compare four landmark political trials—two on each side of the “Iron Curtain”.  Overall, my research seeks to examine Cold War political justice through a political, historical, legal, and cultural analysis during what I call the “early, hot” phase of the Cold War, 1949 through to 1953—from the Soviet acquisition of the atomic bomb through to the conclusion of the Korean War. Trials selected for comparison are the Dennis and the Rosenberg-Sobell trials in the United States, the Slánský trial in Czechoslovakia, and the Rajk trial in Hungary.

New evidence publicly available in the post-Cold War era has provided researchers with a more complete picture of the trials studied here.  We now know exactly how and under what circumstances Soviet advisors extracted confessions in the Slánský and Rajk trials, why certain leading party officials were “selected” for interrogation and punishment, and if there was any truth to the often absurd allegations of CIA involvement and foreign interference. We also know, thanks to decrypted transcripts (the VENONA files) of Soviet cables to their American-based spy handlers, that Julius Rosenberg was guilty of industrial espionage.  Ethel Rosenberg, however, was sent to the electric chair largely on the basis of the perjured testimony of her brother-in-law David Greenglass, with the active collusion of the FBI.

My broader argument suggests that as the Cold War fades into history, the deep structural and cultural similarities that always existed between the United States and the Soviet Bloc are highlighted.  Moreover, political trials are an engaging and illuminating lens through which the actual and specific production of justice for public consumption are illustrated, regardless of the factual or legal guilt of the defendants involved.  Such trials are about more than justice and the delivery of a verdict; they are ritualistic exercises in popular education, regime legitimation, the elimination of real/perceived political adversaries, and ideological correctness.  In short, complex (in)security challenges are packaged via courtroom narratives into convenient “us vs. them” binary formats that both condense and simplify the larger superpower conflict by identifying and attacking the enemy within.

Email: falkb [at]

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Sari Autio-Sarasmo and Jouni Järvinen