France, the USSR and the end of the Cold War, 1975-1991

France, the USSR and the end of the Cold War, 1975-1991

Sorbonne Cold War History Project, in partnership with the Gorbachev Foundation (Moscow) and the François Mitterrand Institute (Paris)
From - Until
23.01.2014 - 25.01.2014
Katja Castryck-Naumann, Verflechtung und Globalisierung, Leibniz-Institut für Geschichte und Kultur des östlichen Europa

Studying French-Soviet relations is important in many regards in order to understand the complex international dynamics that led to the end of the Cold War. Even before the beginning of the Cold War and despite their different social-political regimes, both states intended to build relations going beyond their ideological opposition, demonstrated, for instance, by the 1935 French-Soviet Pact or the Normandie-Niemen regiment, a bi-national air squadron created during World War II.

Later, their participation in opposite Cold War alliances did not prevent the emergence of a privileged relationship. Under General de Gaulle, these relations developed in the framework of a “détente” that, on the French side at least, sought to move beyond the opposition between the Soviet bloc and the West, and promote the idea of a Europe “from the Atlantic to the Urals”. Twenty years later, French-Soviet relations played a significant role in ending the Cold War, evidenced by the signing of the Charter for a New Europe in Paris in November 1990.

This initiative, taken by French President François Mitterrand, was supported by the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, thereby ratifying the end of the “Yalta era”. Over the past 25 years, French-Soviet relations have been studied extensively, through the lens of primary sources. Their impact on the evolution of the European continent and their role in ending the Cold War, however, received limited attention. Therefore, rather than addressing the bilateral aspects of French-Soviet relations, this conference will focus on their international dimension and European implications from the signing of the Helsinki Accords in 1975 until the end of the USSR in 1991.
Eligible topics for the conference

Contributions on the following topics are welcome:
- The first objective will be to explain and clarify, based on primary sources, the impact of French-Soviet relations on the evolution of the European context. To what extent did these relations contribute to challenging or, on the contrary, freezing and perpetuating the Cold War? Pivotal moments (the Helsinki conference and the 1989 revolutions, for instance) and key concepts (Pompidou’s détente, Gorbachev’s “common European home”, Mitterrand’s “confederation”) will be given priority.
- Reciprocally, the second objective will be to understand how the European context weighed on French-Soviet relations, and influenced, if not determined, them. To that aim, important East-West events, such as Ostpolitik, the 1980 Polish upheaval or the Euromissile crisis, but also collateral processes, such as the enlargement and deepening of the European community, the evolution of NATO and the crises within the Warsaw Pact, will also be considered.
- Although the diplomatic and geopolitical dimensions will be central, other aspects could be explored. This might include domestic politics (notably the influence of the French communist party) or cultural and economic exchanges, as they relate to the topic of the symposium.
- Finally, contributions centered around personalities who played a prominent role, such as political figures and intellectuals, will also be welcomed.

Guidelines for submission
The proposal (one page) and a resume (half a page), written in English, should be sent by August 30th, 2013, in PDF format and in a single email, to both: Céline Marangé ( and Marie-Pierre Rey (


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Sorbonne Cold War History Project
Céline Marangé

Marie-Pierre Rey
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English, French
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