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The Forty Years’ War

June 2024
1min read


by Thomas Parrish , Henry Holt, 490 pages.

Memories of the Cold War have already begun to dim a little since the Communist regimes toppled one after another in 1989. In alphabetical entries ranging from the Air Force’s A-1E to Soviet foreign minister Andrei Vyshinsky, the historian Thomas Parrish recalls more than forty years of Cold War culture. Here is an encyclopedia of the conflict’s political figures (Richard Nixon alone gets five pages), technological achievements, and its peculiar strategies (the Balance of Terror).

The book offers many lively reminders of the long struggle: Who now remembers 1982’s Operation Golf, in which the KGB planted a story in a British magazine alleging that the U.N. ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick had accepted gifts from South Africa’s apartheid government? Or the 1978 Markov Affair, in which the Bulgarian émigré writer Georgi Markov was fatally shot in the leg with a poisoned pellet from a KGB umbrella while waiting for a London bus? An entire KGB bureau was devoted to the Cold War business of disinformation, according to Parrish, and one of its latter-day feats was popularizing the idea that American biologists had developed and spread the AIDS virus.

Our surroundings reflect less and less of the war that once was everywhere; The Cold War Encyclopedia has preserved much of it and ends with a 110-page chronology of the Soviet state that made the conflict necessary.

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