Paul Kubricht: Review of Igor Lukes's "On the Edge of the Cold War: American Diplomats and Spies in Postwar Prague"

Roundup: Books

Paul Kubricht is Professor of History & Political Science at LeTourneau University.

For many years, Western historians have neglected the events surrounding the Communist takeover in Czechoslovakia in 1948. In most cold war histories, February 1948 might rate a paragraph or two. In addition, historians have not systematically evaluated in depth the personalities and decisions behind American policy related to this takeover. Igor Lukes’s study helps to fill this gap by focusing on U.S. policy regarding the events taking shape in Czechoslovakia, and also brings additional perspective and insight into domestic Czechoslovak politics as democratic and Communist forces vied for influence and power. 

Much of the previous literature describing or explaining the events leading up to February 1948 was not available to large audiences. Several prominent Czech exile politicians, for example, produced their reflections in the decade or so after 1948, but many memoirs were available only in Czech. Furthermore, Czechoslovak Communist historians wrote mere hagiographies, often ignoring or misrepresenting what their own leaders had done or said. In 1959, Joseph Korbel published a widely used monograph, The Communist Subversion of Czechoslovakia, 1938-1948, which analyzed Czechoslovak thinking and politics following the Munich Conference. It focused on the internal political situation of a democratic exile government that returned to Prague to face a competing Czechoslovak Communist Party and the growth of Soviet power and influence following World War II. Most works after Korbel’s have centered on Czechoslovakia caught up in the politics of the iron curtain or the events of the Prague Spring....

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