Austria: A player in the Cold War?

Austria: A player in the Cold War? Analysis and perceptions within the international context from 1955 to 1991

Vienna, 21 September 2012

Deadline: 28 February 2012


On the occasion of the anniversaries 1945/55-2005, 1956-2006, 1968-2008, 1989/90-2009/10 and 1961-2011, the Cold War increasingly became a matter of media and public interest in Austria. Apart from “anniversary-oriented” research and publication activities, a systematic study about the role and position of Austria in the Cold War has not yet been undertaken.

Exceptions are the occupation period from 1945 to 1955, the Austrian connection to the crises in the years 1956 and 1968, and numerous studies on bilateral relations between Austria and the socialist states of Europe. These were only possible due to the opening of Eastern European archives after 1989. Long-term studies are still lacking in many research areas. However, the lack of available Austrian archival sources has complicated research on the last two decades of the Cold War.

In this workshop the role and position of Austria in the Cold War over the period from 1955 to 1991 is to be analysed in a global context.  Contributions to the fields of diplomacy, politics, economy, society, intelligence services, culture, church, media and migration are all desired. However, Austria should not by any means take an “isolated position”. The workshop’s explicit goal is to discuss Austrian perceptions of the global Cold War, as well as international perceptions of the role and position of Austria.

Examples of insufficiently researched areas include the perception of Austrian neutrality from the viewpoint of small European states, and the Austrian “Ostpolitik” over a longer period. Although a small amount of research into comparisons between Austria and other neutral countries has already been done as part of the CSCE process, further research is necessary. Likewise, the Austrian perception of many aspects of the Cold War and the era of détente (1963-1979) are not adequately explored yet. Detailed studies on the period of ideological competition, European détente (in particular the French and the West German “Ostpolitik”), as well as disarmament negotiations would be of particular interest.  Additionally, further research is needed on the question: how did the society handle the fear of a nuclear war, and can gender-specific aspects be identified?

For the last decade of the Cold War the following research questions, amongst others, emerge: Was the so-called “second” Cold War perceived as a caesura in Austria, and if so in what way? What was the “second” Cold War’s impact on Austria? How did Austria experience the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe? Apart from the “Waldheim affair”, external perspectives on Austria have largely been ignored. Another possible question would be: how did the world look at the Alpine republic, which had been affected by significant internal and external political caesuras in the 1980s?

We welcome contributions built on original research and that draw upon a wide variety of sources. Young researchers in particular are invited to send a 500-word proposal including a brief description of the sources on which the paper is to be based, together with a short CV (including publication list) to, and/or by 28 February 2012.

To optimise the discussion following the 20-minute lectures, we are planning to circulate rough drafts of the papers among all speakers two weeks before the event. For the planned publication of the papers (ranging in length between 50,000 to 60,000 characters including spaces) an appropriate time limit for revision will be provided. The organisers hope to be able to refund (total or in part) travel and accommodation expenses; however this cannot be guaranteed at this stage.

Maximilian Graf (
Historische Kommission der ÖAW, Strohgasse 45/2/4, 1050 Wien

Organisers: Historical Commission of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Department of Contemporary History at the University of Vienna

Concept and Organisation: Maximilian Graf, Florentine Kastner, Isabella Lehner

Venue: Department of Contemporary History

Emilia Robin

Chercheuse associée à l'UMR SIRICE. Violons d'Ingres : guerre froide, médiation scientifique, logiciels libres

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