Abstract: Amnesty International was born in the highly politicized context of the East-West conflict commonly known as the Cold War with the intention of transcending its fault lines. It developed a politics of impartiality that was however deeply rooted in the Cold War paradigm and followed the example of the Red Cross and its humanitarian activism. These two features impeded organization’s navigation of the fluctuating dynamics between East and West and hampered the emergence of a local membership beyond the Iron Curtain in the 1970s. Despite the fact that Amnesty’s policy of impartiality was in constant flux, it remained ill-adapted to the different circumstances in Eastern Europe.
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This essay is part of a forum on new histories of the Cold War. All contributions to the forum can be found here. At this point, we know a lot about the Cold War. In part, that has been the product of archival access. Across Eastern Europe, formerly communist states and ex-Soviet republics have flung open their archives, willing—indeed, eager—to share the closely-held secrets of the past. The passage of time, too, has brought mandatory declassifications and regular releases from national archives, foreign ministries, presidential Continue reading →