Media and the Cold War of the 1980s

Between Star Wars and Glasnost

Edited by Henrik G. Bastiansen, Martin Klimke, and Rolf Werenskjold

(New York: Palgrave Macmillan, Palgrave Studies in the History of the Media, forthcoming 2019)

In recent years, the major economic, political, and cultural changes in societies during the last two decades of the Cold War have come into greater focus for academics from a variety of disciplines. This volume examines the role of the media during the period from the Helsinki Conference in 1975 until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989-91. It explores the engagement of various forms of media with the Cold War on a global scale, including alternative media representations, performances, and cultures during this time.

The book seeks to analyze media actors and networks, evolving theories about the social responsibility of media, as well as narrative and visual frames on a local and (trans-) national level. The purpose is to illuminate the complex interrelations between the media—both as a dependent and independent variable—and competing political, economic and cultural elites, as well as explain the role of grassroots politics in the formation of public opinion.


“One of the best collections of essays on late Cold War film and media history.  This volume shows how the Cold War competition influenced, and was influenced by, journalism, TV, and movies, and how important film and media are for understanding international affairs overall.”

Odd Arne Westad, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Author of The Cold War: A World History

“Eclectic, revealing and exhilarating, this collection brings a fresh perspective to the Cold War’s crucial final phase, weaving through a dizzying range of cultural forms. The final impression is of the impressibility of the human spirit, even under the shadow of nuclear winter.”

Nicholas J. Cull, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California
Author of The Cold War and United States Information Agency: American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy, 1945-1989

“Media and the Cold War in the 1980s represents a wonderful contribution to media history and the cultural history of the Cold War. The contributions are wonderfully diverse. They avoid the usual narrow focus on the superpowers, showing how the Cold War was experienced in a wide range of smaller, less dominant countries. And they bring in a wide range of little-studied media and media actors, from Soviet photojournalists, American men’s magazines and  Hungarian artists to Yugoslav historical drama and Polish punk rock. The contributions are deeply researched, and taken together they add enormous new depth to our understanding of Cold War media.”

Daniel Hallin, Department of Communication, UC San Diego
Co-author of Comparing Media Systems Beyond the Western World

“Readers will discover that Media and the Cold War in the 1980s presents a broad picture of the ways the various forms of media were engaged with the propaganda battles of the Cold War from the late 1970s to the end of 1980s. By including the analysis of media actors and networks, the contributions present the Cold War as a media phenomenon. Rich in facts and new details the book should find its way onto the desk of anybody interested in Cold War history.”

Epp Lauk, Department of Language and Communication Studies, University of Jyväskylä
Author of Towards a Civic Society: The Baltic Media’s Long Road to Freedom

Table of Contents 

List of Illustrations


Chapter 1

Selling “Star Wars” in American Mass Media
William M. Knoblauch

Chapter 2

Interviewing the Enemy and Other Cold War Players
U.S. Foreign Policy as Seen through Playboy during the Reagan Years
Laura Saarenmaa

Chapter 3

“A Relic of the Cold War”
The Elemental Geographies and Geopolitical Legacies of James Bond
Klaus Dodds and Lisa Funnell

Chapter 4

Civil Cold War Aviation as Television Drama
The Popular Miniseries Treffpunkt Flughafen (GDR, 1986)
Tobias Hochscherf

Chapter 5

Photojournalism East/West:
The Cold War, the Iron Curtain, and the Trade of Photographs
Annette Vowinckel

Chapter 6

Irony in Polish Punk of the 1980s as a Form of Contestation
Anna G. Piotrowska

Chapter 7

Mediating Alternative Culture:
Two Controversial Exhibitions in Hungary during the 1980s
Juliane Debeusscher

Chapter 8

The Cold War Reporters:
The Norwegian Foreign-News Journalists and Foreign-News Correspondents, 1945–95
Jan Fredrik Hovden and Rolf Werenskjold

Chapter 9

Orions belte:
The Birth of the Norwegian “High-Concept” Movie in the Shadow of the Second Cold War
Bjørn Sørenssen

Chapter 10

Reporting Glasnost:
The Changing Soviet News in a Norwegian Daily, 1985-88
Henrik G. Bastiansen

Chapter 11

Revolution as Memory:
The “History Boom” on Late Socialist Television
Sabina Mihelj and Simon Huxtable

Chapter 12

Power and the Body:
Images of the Leaders in Soviet Magazines during the Cold War
Ekaterina Vikulina

Chapter 13

The Iconic Photograph and Its Political Space:
The Case of Tiananmen Square, 1989
Stuart Franklin

Editor Biographies

Author Biographies