East in the West?
September 18, 2012 7:54 PM   Subscribe

Did Eastern Bloc countries do on-the-ground historical research in the USA during the Cold War?

I'm looking for any information on historical research performed in the USA that was sponsored by an Eastern Bloc university during the Cold War. I'm not talking about foreign nationals working for a Western university, I'm looking for examples along the lines of "Sergei Mikovich of Moscow University discovered a historical Paiute site in Utah in 1959."

Is there anything, or were there too many restrictions on travel? Or perhaps was there no interest in Western historical research in the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War?
posted by lstanley to Law & Government (3 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know about the US, but during most of the Cold War, the world expert in Mayan writing was in Leningrad and wasn't permitted to leave the USSR. (Except for one trip to Copenhagen in 1956.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:15 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

There is some discussion of the history of the matter in relation to the thaw that took place in the 1990s on the third page of this pdf.
posted by Jahaza at 9:05 PM on September 18, 2012

If you read Russian, there's a discussion of Soviet scholarship on American history in this chapter of a book from 1983. Since all of this scholarship became obsolete overnight, I'm not too familiar with it, so I can't speak to its reliability. The text seems to suggest that Soviet scholars did occasionally use American archival sources, although apparently far more rarely than American scholars used Soviet archives.

As far as academic research in the US is concerned, it's something of a mixed bag. There were restrictions on travel, but the Academy of Sciences had a great deal of clout and researchers (if they were senior enough) were frequently able to travel to the US for academic purposes (conferences, research, etc.). There were also many US-Soviet academic exchanges. In general, such travel was impossible in the Stalin era, somewhat open in the '50s and '60s, and much more open in the '70s and '80s during times of low international tension. (It goes without saying that everything was contingent on being considered politically reliable.) Scientists working in fields with strategic significance--e.g. physics and computing--were more likely to be allowed to travel abroad. I can't really speak to the humanities or social sciences, although Soviet attendance at conferences was certainly common enough.
posted by nasreddin at 9:29 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

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