Miller Center

Fritz Bartel

History, Cornell University

"The Privatization of the Cold War: Global Finance and the Fall of Communism"

Bartel photo

Fritz Bartel’s dissertation examines the growth of communist states’ sovereign debt to Western banks and governments from the 1973 oil crisis through the end of the Cold War. Between 1970 and 1989, the Eastern Bloc accumulated over $90 billion of sovereign debt to Western banks and governments.  The core argument of the project is that this sovereign debt – and the bankers and policymakers on both sides of the Iron Curtain who managed it – decisively influenced the end of the Cold War.  Through studies of the financial history of Poland, Hungary, East Germany, and the Soviet Union, the project tracks the growth of Western financial power in the Eastern Bloc.  Based on extensive archival research across Europe and North America, it demonstrates the significant role that this Western financial power played in the years of transition from communism to democratic capitalism.  In so doing, The Privatization of the Cold War analyzes the rise of financial capitalism and the end of the Cold War as part of the same global history.  It is a history that illuminates the powerful role of non-state financial actors, as well as the challenges that global financial markets present to democratic governance, state sovereignty, and labor movements.

Fellowship year: N/A

Mentor: Daniel Sargent, University of California, Berkeley

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