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Podcast spills secret files, untold stories and a very 'hot' Cold War

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Newly declassified documents detail for the first time how the East and the West used espionage to wage a ‘hot’ Cold War in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

The Secret Struggle for Cold War Dominance  podcast delves into new material from archives across the globe to piece together the mysterious story of how the Cold War was fought across the global south.

Spy thriller fans, students and people with a passion for untold histories that reshaped the world can catch the 12-episode podcast series starting today.

“The Cold War was quite a hot war in many places in the global south,” said maker, Dr Daniela Richterova. 

“We had hotspots in places like Vietnam, Angola, Nicaragua, where the situation was anything but peaceful,” said the historian, who teaches security and intelligence studies at Brunel University London.

“Until now there’s been a big gap in knowledge about how the Cold War unfolded and the role of intelligence, security and defence beyond the northern hemisphere. – beyond the Washington–Moscow axis.” said University of Strathclyde historian Dr Natalia Telepneva.

The past few years have seen a surge in document declassifications across former Soviet-bloc countries. Files that often contain real names, photos of collaborators, details of secret operations, wire-tapping transcipts, dead drops detailing the backstories that haven’t had time to make the history books, mystery novels and spy thriller films. 

In painstaking research, Dr Richterova, Dr Telepneva and 13 other experts travelled to more than a dozen archives to dig out these documents for a special issue of The International History Review. Producer Katarina Urban Richterova’s clever podcast adaptation aims to bring the history to life for all audiences.

The bi-weekly podcasts travel to central Europe, Cuba, Tanzania, the Congo and further and talk about at the incredible ways the east and west used their security services to try and win over the global south. It looks at the use of propaganda, disinformation, covert operations, assassinations, coups d'état and more.

In the first episode, Dr Richterova explains how the two-year project began as a seemingly innocent chat with a colleague over a pint of cider. She covers how historians do their research, where they get hold of declassified, top-secret documents and what questions they ask themselves when they piece it all together. 

“There is growing interest in how leaders in African, Asian and Latin American countries have shaped history and politics,” said Dr Richterova.

“There’s also the big question – what was the agency of these global south leaders – were they passive onlookers who were happy to take guns and advice from the east and west and be manipulated by these two sides? Or did they have their own agenda, did they play the two sides against each other, or did they try to find the most beneficial deal or themselves in this highly ideological struggle?”

The Podcast will be available for streaming or to download on Spotify, iTunes, or Google Podcasts. Find it on Twitter @CWDominance and Facebook, Secret Struggle for Cold War Dominance’New episodes will be released every two weeks.