Arch Puddington

Access Type

Online access to this book is only available to eligible users.



Download Full Text (6.6 MB)


Among America's most unusual and successful weapons during the Cold War were Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. RFE-RL had its origins in a post-war America brimming with confidence and secure in its power. Unlike the Voice of America, which conveyed a distinctly American perspective on global events, RFE-RL served as surrogate home radio services and a vital alternative to the controlled, party-dominated domestic press in Eastern Europe. Over twenty stations featured programming tailored to individual countries. They reached millions of listeners ranging from industrial workers to dissident leaders such as Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel. Broadcasting Freedom draws on rare archival material and offers a penetrating insider history of the radios that helped change the face of Europe. Arch Puddington reveals new information about the connections between RFE-RL and the CIA, which provided covert funding for the stations during the critical start-up years in the early 1950s. He relates in detail the efforts of Soviet and Eastern Bloc officials to thwart the stations; their tactics ranged from jamming attempts, assassinations of radio journalists, the infiltration of spies onto the radios' staffs, and the bombing of the radios' headquarters. Puddington addresses the controversies that engulfed the stations throughout the Cold War, most notably RFE broadcasts during the Hungarian Revolution that were described as inflammatory and irresponsible. He shows how RFE prevented the Communist authorities from establishing a monopoly on the dissemination of information in Poland and describes the crucial roles played by the stations as the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union broke apart. Broadcasting Freedom is also a portrait of the Cold War in America. Puddington offers insights into the strategic thinking of the RFE-RL leadership and those in the highest circles of American government, including CIA directors, secretaries of state, and even presidents.

"A ground-breaking history of RFE-RL that is both erudite and a delight to read. . . . Should help rescue the radios from the ‘memory hole’ to which their detractors are attempting to consign them." -- American Spectator

'Puddington does an excellent job of reconstructing the enormous problems faced by the organizers of the radios. . . . A finely balanced and definitive history." -- Commentary

"A fine telling of a little known U.S. project that prevented the evil empire from exercising a monopoly on news and opinion." -- First Things

"Puddington remains an astute and insightful storyteller with unusually strong access to relevant people and personal archives." -- Journal of American History

"Puddington leaves little doubt that the Radios served an extremely valuable purpose." -- National Review

"Important precisely because Americans are largely unaware of the widespread use of short-wave radio abroad, not to mention the foreign radio broadcasts aimed at them." -- Orbis

"Puddington's narrative of the conduct of these two stations is candid and, so far as I can tell, fair. . . . Well written." -- Political Communications

"No one measure won the Cold War—but Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty should be in the first rank of those getting the highest medals. Puddington tells the story with style and grace." -- R. James Woolsey

"Has much to offer students of international broadcasting and propaganda studies for its detailed account of RFE-RL inner workings." -- Rhetoric and Public Affairs

"Detailed and balanced." -- Strategic Review

"A thoughtful, readable and indispensable historical volume on the United States’ most unusual weapons against communism during the Cold War era." -- Survival

"A thorough and evenhanded account of the role that this surrogate home radio service provided." -- Times Literary Supplement

"A compelling chronicle of one crucial battlefront in the Cold War." -- Wall Street Journal

"Useful to anyone interested in the minutiae of American foreign policy in Eastern Europe after World War II." -- Washington Post Book World

"Anyone wanting a complete picture of how the Cold War was waged and how it came to an end will have to read it." -- Washington Times

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, International broadcasting, Radio history, Propaganda, Cold War, Eastern Europe


Cultural History

Broadcasting Freedom: The Cold War Triumph of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty
Read Sample Off-campus Download for UK only

Consortium members may access while on their campus.