Cold War

Cold War(1998) This extraordinary, Ted-Turner-supported CNN/BBC2 effort to encapsulate the Cold War in 24 episodes is  extremely effective and invaluable history. I know of no other cohesive documentary account of the multiple dimensions of this global struggle that gripped the world for two generations. Of similar utility is the comprehensive web site,, and the companion book.

    Perhaps most important is the eschewing of modern "talking heads," as commentary is restricted to persons directly associated with the events presented. From Beria's and Khruschev's sons to senior British officials who attended Yalta and Postdam, to U.S. and Soviet soldiers and intelligence operatives, this approach provides highly credible insights into the complexities of the Cold War. Whether on Berlin, Korea, Vietnam, or ‘soldiers of god,’ the vignettes are uncommonly balanced and comprehensive.

    As a one-time U. S. diplomatic Cold War warrior, I was surprised to discover how little I knew about some contemporary events. The story of Cuban involvement in Angola, the ignorance of official Americans, and the defeat of our ‘proxy soldiers’ (South Africans), has a ring of authenticity. The account of the unraveling of Soviet control in Eastern Europe is a remarkable tribute to human desire for freedom. It also is a tribute to Gorbachev’s rejection of the past Soviet reliance upon brutal force. A minor caveat: narrator Kenneth Branagh seemed to me to be overly “objective” in seeking to balance the calumny of McCarthyism with domestic Stalinist terror and gulags in which millions died. For whatever reason, though produced in 1998, this series is now difficult to obtain. For both colleges and high schools, clips from any of the 24 episodes would provide vivid insights to students. My students sign a waiting list to borrow episodes from my two sets of CNN’s Cold War.

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