"War of the Black Heavens is a major contribution to understanding the fall of the communist regimes in 1989 and of the part played by short-wave radio in undermining them. The depth and breadth of Michael Nelson's research is remarkable, worth of the most renowned scholars. He has pulled together a mass of fascinating detail on a critical facet of international diplomacy that has never been adequately publicized. Fascinating reading."—Sig Mickelson, author of America's Other Voice: The Story of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty
"An original and important contribution to the study both of international broadcasting and of the Cold War. War of the Black Heavens is based on solid research in many archives, and has a valuable comparative emphasis. This is rare and refreshing."—Lord Asa Briggs, author of The History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom
International diplomacy and a changing global economy did not bring about the fall of the Iron Curtain. Radio did, and it was mightier than the sword.
Based on first-hand interviews and documents from the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party, Michael Nelson shows that Western radio—principally, the British Broadcasting Corporation, Radio Free
Europe, Radio Liberty, and the Voice of America—were unrivaled forces in the fight against communism and the fall of the Iron Curtain.
The Communists did everything in their power to prevent the infiltration of Western thought into their world, resorting to jamming radio signals, assassinating staff, and bombing stations. The Russians, for example, decided to stop the mass production of short-wave radios so that their citizens could not hear Western broadcasts. War of the Black Heavens reveals that, due to administrative incompetence, short-wave radio production continued, making worthless many of the billions of dollars spent on jamming.
These radio programs introduced a forbidden, exciting culture to millions of eager listeners. Pop music, talk shows, news, and information about consumer goods all relayed a message of the good life, subtly undermining the values of the communist regimes. Western radio actively connected listeners with the cultures of Europe and North America.
War of the Black Heavens describes an unheralded story of success and adds a new interpretation that helps us understand some of the most momentous political events of this century.
Michael Nelson spent most of his working life in Reuters, the international news organization. He was one of the principal architects of the massive development of Reuters in the last quarter century and was the organization's general manager from 1976 to 1989.
6 x 9, 298 pages, 20 black and white illustrations