Prospects and need for Nordic cooperation within Cold War research and research training – University of Copenhagen

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Prospects and need for Nordic cooperation within Cold War research and research training

Cross-national and regional research cooperation is not an end in itself. However, specific aims can be reached and substantial benefits will follow, if the present momentum in Nordic Cold War research is further strengthened and added synergetic dynamism through a financial boost to Nordic research collaboration and cooperative and joint Nordic research training of PhD students and other younger scholars in this field.

First of all, the national foundation of most Nordic Cold War research so far, as outlined above, points strongly to the need for development of more, and more systematic, comparative research programmes and projects, also on a multidisciplinary basis. Cold War history in the Nordic countries has traditionally been studied and researched not only by historians, but also by political scientists, often in a fruitful and mutually beneficiary cooperation. This trend should be sustained and developed even further. Purposeful comparative research collaboration will by itself be a learning process for involved researchers, and may furthermore contribute to the creation of a sort of ‘common Nordic public sphere’ for the regional Cold War research community.

A primary prerequisite for more joint comparative and multidisciplinary research activities is more formalized, systematic and regular contacts, mobility, and information sharing between all researchers in the field in the various Nordic countries, senior academics as well as PhD students and PostDocs. Joint Nordic research seminars and workshops on specific themes, joint research training courses and seminars, all carefully supported and sustained by an electronic Nordic Cold War History Newsletter, will be important means in this direction. The network and its Coordinating Group will have a natural role in planning and coordinating such activities and new initiatives.

Secondly, the Nordic Cold War research network, with its North and Central European partners and associates, will be able to substantially facilitate the dissemination of Nordic Cold War research results to the wider European and global Cold War research community. In this way, Nordic Cold War research will become more vocal in important international Cold War debates. A significant activity of the network and its Coordinating Group will be to initiate and organize peer support for publication (in the English language) of Nordic research results, both online with the electronic Newsletter and linked up to the website of the network, but also through relevant scholarly journals at the Nordic, the European and the global level. The network will also aim at encouraging and supporting scholars in participating in the ongoing public debate in the Nordic countries on Cold War historical issues (newspapers as well as radio, TV, internet, and other electronic media).

On the one hand, refinement and differentiation is needed of the general perception in much dominant American and other international Cold War history scholarship that the Nordic - or at least the Scandinavian - countries were a more or less identical or homogeneous socio-political unit and a unison and like-minded ‘bloc’ in European and global Cold War politics, which can and should be studied as a single entity, with no major distinctions between the countries. On the other hand, from a different perspective such a perception of the Nordic countries in the Cold War may indeed be useful in the sense that the Nordic region can be considered to constitute a kind of micro-cosmos of the entire Cold War conflict between East and West.

Thus, the many new research results based on recently opened archives in West and East on specific policies and positions of NATO member countries Norway and Denmark (and Iceland), with their peculiar mix of integration into alliance structures on the one hand, and their parallel insistence upon confidence-building, mediation and attempts of détente towards the East Bloc on the other hand, could provide valuable insights into the general and specific practices and modus operandi of both the trans-Atlantic Cold War system and the Pax Sovietica system during the Cold War.

Also, making recent Finnish research results of Cold War interactions between Finland and the Soviet Union in the so-called “Finlandization” process available to the wider international audience will further illuminate the role and relative influence of a small and weak state like Finland vis-à-vis the neighbouring Soviet superpower. Conversely, the case of Finland may be considered a sort of testing ground for the policies of the Soviet leadership towards the West during the Cold War, thus revealing new facets of the tensions or balance between ideology and pragmatism in Soviet foreign policy.

In addition, developing and bringing to a wider Nordic and international audience Estonian and other Baltic Cold War research on the non-Russian western Soviet borderland as objects of Western interest during the Cold War would introduce a more sophisticated approach than traditional Cold War research which has focused almost exclusively on ‘Moscow’ or ‘Russia’.

Finally, recent research into the complex neutralist course followed by Sweden in adapting to the Cold War international system highlights general problems and options of neutralism in an international geopolitical and ideological conflict such as the Cold War – aspects which by themselves call for systematic comparative European and international research beyond the Nordic region.

During recent years, European and international Cold War research has increasingly focused on the West German and European initiated détente process between East and West from the late 1960s to the late 1970s, and on the significance of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) and the Helsinki Act (1975) in relation to the socio-political processes at top governmental as well as at ‘grass root’ and trans-national movements level in Western and Eastern Europe. These processes seem to have contributed more significantly than previously believed to the popular uprisings in 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The significant and complex role of the Nordic countries and of the North and Central European region, East and West, in this epic process is far from well-researched, and calls for truly comparative and multidisciplinary research as state and institutional archives in East and West are becoming available to scholarly scrutiny during the first 10 or 15 years of this century.

The Nordic network will have a particularly important role in contributing to the development and refinement of this European and international research from specific Nordic and North European perspectives. Here, the North and East Central European associates and partners of the Nordic network – in Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany and Austria in particular – are of particular significance. Recent German research of the détente process, as conducted by the project “CSCE and the Transformation of Europe” (Univ. of Mannheim), strongly suggests that West and East Germany and Poland were not only influential partners in their respective alliances, but were indeed also part of what could be regarded as a specific Baltic sub-set of the East-West conflict. The Baltic dimension of the Cold War in general and of the era of détente in particular remains a greatly under-researched subject; the Nordic and North/Central network would help significantly to fill in this historiographical void.

More generally speaking, the network will also be able to contribute new significant empirical evidence to important theoretical considerations in the borderland between historical scholarship and International Relations Theory, including the influence of small states in big power alliances (“the power of the weak”), the relationship between ‘hegemonic power’ and cooperation between liberal democracies, as well as the potentials of trans-national coalitions and (international) non-governmental organizations to change government policies in specific areas.

In terms of research training, the need for much closer Nordic coordination and cooperation is imperative. At present, there are at least some 65 doctoral/PhD students in or from the Nordic countries working on Cold War issues or Cold War related problems (approx. 30 in Norway, some 20 in Finland, around 5 in Sweden, some 5 in Denmark, and some 5 in Iceland and Estonia). Most of them are doing research within their own native country, at universities or at government or independent research institutions, with little or no cross-national or regional interaction, systematic communication or joint research courses and training.

The added value of increased Nordic coordination of such training activities for PhD students studying Cold War issues appears obvious, and it will be a paramount task of the network and its Coordinating Group to initiate organized contact and formalized cooperation between the relevant national research schools in each Nordic country in order to plan joint multidisciplinary courses on specific empirical and theoretical themes of common interest with relation to Cold War issues in the Nordic and North European region. Senior Nordic and extra-Nordic academic expertise will be invited in to teach courses and give lectures/key note speeches, thus providing additional international inspiration to the Nordic Cold War research training environments.