Lessons of the Cold War? – Visegrad Scholarship at the Open Society Archives

Lessons of the Cold War? – Visegrad Scholarship at the Open Society Archives

Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives at Central European University
Bianka Horváth, Research Center Coordinator at Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives @ CEU

We invite historians, researchers, political scientists, sociologists, and socially engaged artists to reflect on the Lessons from the Cold War by taking cues from the Blinken Open Society Archives (OSA) collections. The applicants are encouraged to reflect on the connections as well as on the differences between current times and the past by following some recommended subtopics.

Lessons of the Cold War? – Visegrad Scholarship at the Open Society Archives

Research theme within the Visegrad Scholarships at OSA in 2023/24

Lessons of the Cold War?

In the context of the current invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing tragic war, many analysts have claimed that we face the real end of (or the confirmation) of the Cold War and its dichotomies. What we witness would be the outright confrontation between civic liberalism and autocracy, or the “West” and the “East”. According to Stephen Kotkin, even if post-communist societies have changed, a military-police dictatorship in some former satellite countries is still fighting a “West” seen as enemy, and this has the reverse consolidating effect on the West which re-emerged and stood up against Putin.

We invite historians, researchers, political scientists, sociologists and socially engaged artists to reflect on the lessons from/of the Cold War by taking cues from the Blinken OSA collections. The applicants are encouraged to reflect on the connections as well as on the differences between current times and the past by following some recommended subtopics listed below.

- The importance of homegrown dissident cultures of truth telling and the related counterpropaganda in minimizing them as foreign agents
- Histories of Soviet invasions (1956, 1968, 1979), their stakes, misunderstandings, and miscalculations
- The political instrumentalization and hollowing of concepts, such as “fascism”, “Nazism,” and “imperialism”
- The demonizing methods of propaganda (as not just an alternative regime of facts, but as a stigmatizing tool)
- The power of stories: revisionist and public usages of history for political ends
- The relationship between foreign policy, strategic security, and energy relations (at global scale, too)
- Lessons from the international security crises (Berlin in 1961, Cuba in 1962, the Sino Soviet split)
- Informational asymmetries (cultures of secrecy and obscure decision-making versus cultures of openness and liberalism)
- Histories and efficacy of human rights advocacy with regards to abusive regimes
- Post-'89 transitions and their connections to the Cold War (reproduction of secret police networks and the new oligarchies, different understandings of the role of State, the subordination of the legal system, etc.)
- Conditions for the maintenance/disruptions of autocratic regimes (the role of ideology, political patronage, corruption, etc.)
- Retroactive assessment of international responses to political and security crises: the role of appeasement, of “stability”
- Uncovering the roots of local initiatives for autonomy and reform of politics and society in the Soviet Union, based on the extensive holdings in the Blinken OSA Archivum of Russian regional and provincial newspapers during the late perestroika period. (Work with Professor Rieber, author of Stalin as Warlord (Yale University Press, 2022))
- Un/silencing suppressed voices: detecting instances of epistemic violence/harm and recreating narratives of people pushed at the margins of society (ethnic, religious or sexual minorities, people with disabilities) in Cold War and transitional archives

We recommend you refer to one of the topics in your application. Please also mention the specific collections you would like to consult. We also suggest possible collections to be investigated, such as the research corpora of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty, Records of Index on Censorship, Records of the EU Monitoring and Advocacy Programs, Soviet Propaganda Film collection, Records related to the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, Records of the Constitutional and Legal Policy Institute, etc.

OSA collections and research tips

The archival collection and research papers of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty constitute the most comprehensive Cold War and post-Cold War archive about the problems of Communism and its aftermath in the early years of post-socialist and post-communist transition. The collection offers important tips both about facts as well as about their conceptualizations from 1949 to 1994. Scholars particularly interested in the former Soviet Union as well as in the aftermath of its dissolution can find relevant the rich collection of sub-fonds Soviet Red Archives, Samizdat Archives, and the Soviet Research Department of the RFE/RL Research Institute (to be compared with the RFE/ RL Russian broadcast recordings). These sub-fonds and series allowed the radios to extract reliable data from the massive body of media produced by the Soviet republics; the Western Press Archives contain the Western representations about the phenomena in the communist bloc and beyond it, about the transition in the 1990s. This archival collection also holds several series of biographical files about major historical figures, dissidents, leaders of national minorities, and those persecuted by the political regimes of that time.

We also suggest many other possible archival collections to be investigated, such as the records of Index on Censorship, the Soviet Propaganda Film collection, the records related to the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, the documents of the Constitutional and Legal Policy Institute, the records of the Forced Migration projects at the Open Society Institute, the records of the International Human Rights Law Institute relating to the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, the records of the American Refugee Committee Balkan’s Programs, the Gary Filerman Collection on Hungarian Refugees from 1956, etc.

OSA research program

The current call is part of a reflexive-research program at OSA interested in connecting past issues related to oppressive regimes, censorship, violence and information manipulation to current phenomena. We would like to assess the potential of a genealogical project linking the contemporary epistemic and political crisis of democracy to past modes of inquiry and activism.


We seek to promote exchanges among people with backgrounds in the arts, humanities and social sciences in the way they think through and about archives while being concerned with current problems. From this point of view, the invitation is not only addressed to scholars working specifically on Cold War topics, but to all those interested in theories of knowledge, who would use OSA documents as props for larger reflections and activist concerns.

Fellowship requirements and OSA support

While working on their own subject, fellows will have the opportunity to collaborate with OSA researchers and to transform their archival investigation into a full research experience. The fellows are invited to give a final presentation about their research findings at OSA and the ways in which the documents were relevant to their research. The presentations are organized within the Visegrad Scholarship at OSA lecture series and as such are open for the general public.

OSA academic and archival staff will assist the fellows in their investigations, facilitate contact with the CEU community, and grant access to the CEU library. Besides its archival analogue collections, OSA can also offer access to unique, audio-visual materials related to documentary practices, a special collection of RFE (anti)propaganda books and a growing collection on digital humanities, human rights, archival theory and philosophy.

About the Fellowship

The twenty grants of 2,700.00 Euro each are designed to provide access to the archives for scholars, artists, and journalists, and to cover travel to and from Budapest, a modest subsistence, and accommodation for a research period of eight weeks. Stipends for shorter periods are pro-rated. Applicants, preferably but not exclusively, from a V4 country, may be researchers, students after their second degree carrying out research, or artists, journalists, academics, or both. Scholars at risk from war zones as well as refugees of conscience (scholars fleeing authoritarian regimes) are especially invited to apply. Submission deadlines for the 2023/24 academic year:

- July 25, 2023.
- November 15, 2023.


The Selection Committee will evaluate proposals on the strength of the professional quality and novelty of the research proposal, its relevance to the chosen topic and the involvement of the OSA holdings in the research. In the case of equal scores those from V4 countries have an advantage. The artists submitting proposals are kindly required to frame their application as research-based projects as well, carefully indicating the collections they will rely on. The artistic proposals will be assessed according to their merit, originality, timeliness as well as their feasibility (with regards to their reliance on available OSA collections). OSA can only offer conditions for the realization of artistic research, not for production.

Application procedure

Please submit the following to OSA (in one merged pdf)

- Application letter in English (should specify expected period of stay and preferred dates and how you learnt about the scholarship (through which courses, instructors, social media groups or pages, websites, academic platforms, OSA public programs/ projects etc. you were informed about this scholarship). Please note that the Archive’s Research Room is closed during the Christmas period, and the research stay must end on the last day of the given academic year, July 31
- Research description/plan in English (about 800 words and should include the following: introduction, presentation of the stage of research, literature on the subject, preliminary hypothesis, questions, identification of possible documents in the OSA holdings). Artists are expected to submit a portfolio, too. We recommend you refer to one of the topics in your application. Please also mention the specific collections you would like to consult
- Curriculum Vitae (C.V.)
- Proof of officially recognized advanced level English language exam (native speakers and those with qualification from an English language institution/degree program are exempted)
- Names of two referees with contact address. Letters of reference are not needed

Selection Committee

All members of the committee are academic staff of Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives / Central European University or the Visegrad Fund.

More information

To find out more about the program, please visit: https://www.osaarchivum.org/work-with-us/fellowship/visegrad-scholarship.