Files opened on Cold War Espionage Stories

by Cristina Olaru

A team of four scholars who have dug into the archives of Cold War espionage and the secret services presented their research this week at a panel discussion in Leicester.

The academic researchers flew from America and Australia to be guests at De Montfort University’s Cultural Exchange Festival on Monday (FEB25) to discuss the spy stories behind the East German Stasi, the Romanian Securitate and the Ukrainian KGB files.

Professor Corina Petrescu (University of Mississippi), Professor Valentina Glajar (Texas State University), Professor Carol Anne Costabile-Heming (University of North Texas) and Professor Alison Lewis (University of Melbourne), also gave an insight into the internal turmoil of the Eastern European regimes behind the Iron Curtain.


Conference chair, DMU lecturer Dr Tony Weller, introduces the guests

After seven years of ‘detective work’, they wrapped up their espionage stories in a fascinating book called ‘Cold War Spy Stories from Eastern Europe’, for which the professors were challenged with the struggle of piecing together the sequence of events for each story.

Describing the way they looked at the files of the spies and the people they spied upon, Professor Glajar said: “We thought there’s still the life of a person between those two covers but what kind of life is that?

“It’s obviously through the eyes of Securitatea, the informers, officers and so on. It is a hostile biography – they build it in a way to become incriminating.

“But then what do you do with the informers because they also have files and many times they have the informer file and the victim file, so they have been followed as well. What do we do there? And then, the officers, they also have files. I thought, these are really stories. If it is a story of a life in a file, why not, cleverly call it a ‘file story’.

 “You can’t say the story is completely true or false and whomever tells you that the files are garbage, they are not.”


Prof Valentina Glajar and Prof Corina Petrescu.

Prof Costabile-Heming said: “Every file is a different story and every person’s biography is a different story, so nothing is really representative, where you can say well, because this happened, then we can assume that you and you and you had the same experiences.”

Professor Valentina added: “We are scholars, we deal with books that have a beginning and an end. And here are these files and we don’t have any idea how to read them. We just look through them and at some point, we learn to read them, we learn the structure of the file and we learn how to put them together.”

The importance of this research was described as a necessity to keep these stories from 1961, 1968, 1976, 1980, and 1989 alive, in the present – as historical evidence and because, one way or another, history can repeat itself.

The files are also worth being revealed because the people mentioned there all had a name, a social position, a significant involvement. They were targeted with a purpose.

Prof Petrescu said: “People were not chosen randomly. You must be on some sort of interest to them.”

A lesson from these stories is the ‘power of information’, especially because the information was gathered to harm those people in some way.

Prof Lewis said: “The files give you a lot of clues, some of them horrible, nasty, unprofessional, personal, even misogynistic.”


Prof Carol Anne Costabile-Heming and Prof Alison Lewis

The four scholars met some of these individuals, having built up a bad picture about them while going through their files, but their perception of them completely changed because, as Prof Costobile-Heming explained, when they met them, they were human, charming and could explain why they had done what they did.

For more information about the book, please see the link below:




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