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KNOWLEDGE THROUGH THE IRON CURTAIN – Transferring Knowledge and Technology in Cold War Europe


Research on the Cold War to date has focused mainly on the politics of the two superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States, and has stressed political conflicts and global bipolarity. This research project will provide a new perspective on the history of the Cold War era in two ways. Firstly, we study East-West connections “behind the scenes” in Europe from the point of view of knowledge and technology transfer. We have found that knowledge and technology continued to flow through the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. In contrast to most of the existing historiography on the Cold War, we analyse the continuities involved and the co-existence of the East and West rather than just the conflicts. The transfer of knowledge and technology was based on and strengthened old ties between countries even if they were members of opposing political and military alliances.

Secondly, in the field of technology transfer, we study the role of “smaller” European countries that were located near the Iron Curtain on either the Eastern, or Western side of it. Small countries often acted as important intermediary actors in the transfer of knowledge between East and West. We will therefore look not only at the policies of smaller countries from the point of view of the bipolar Cold War world, but will also treat them as independent actors, pursuing their own interests and goals in the East-West confrontation and their own relationships with the great powers.

The main objective of the research is to investigate knowledge transfer from the macro level (super power level, international and supranational level) through the intermediate level (small countries, commission level) to the micro level (enterprise level, individual actors). The main empirical framework for the research will be historical with a multidisciplinary approach, which means the utilization of theoretical tools from social sciences, economics and cultural studies. The project will benefit mainly from two theoretical frameworks: the analysis of Cold War rhetoric and network analysis. In the project, references to the Cold War are studied as rhetorical devices, not as shared values among the actors. The main sources will be archival material and interviews.


  © Pia Koivunen & KIC research group.