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Post-War
Margaret Thatcher visits the Cabinet War Rooms

The visit of Margaret Thatcher to the Cabinet War Rooms, 4 April 1984. IWM-1984-15-1.

With all the recent coverage of the life and times of Margaret Thatcher, I thought it might be interesting to delve into the Radio Moscow material stored at Duxford to see how the election of Britain’s first female Prime Minister was reported to British listeners by a Soviet media source. Expecting a diatribe against the ‘Iron Lady’ from a committed ideological opponent, I was surprised to find instead concentrated criticism of James Callaghan’s outgoing Labour government.

Initial analysis found only a passing reference to Thatcher. There was an official greeting offered by Soviet Statesman Aleksey Kosygin and an acknowledgement that the first woman Prime Minister had made history. Otherwise, Radio Moscow reserved its criticism for Callaghan, and his predecessor Harold Wilson, accusing them of losing the election and attacking them on terms that would later become familiar amongst opponents of Thatcher.

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Image of the BBC monitoring reports in store

The BBC monitoring reports in store.

My PhD involves researching into how the Soviet Union portrayed the 1980 Moscow Olympic boycott to the world, via the medium of shortwave radio. In doing this I spend a lot of time examining Radio Moscow broadcasts recorded and transcribed by the BBC Monitoring Service, an archive in iWM Collections, which is stored in the old NAFFI building at Duxford airfield. The archive provides a fascinating insight into the world of 1980, the politics of the cold war, and the uses of media outlets for pushing propaganda lines to different groups of people.

Reading the words  of broadcasts that went directly into the ears of listeners all around the world, the Radio Moscow material shows how the boycott campaign evolved from just weeks after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979 all the way through to the end of the Olympic Games themselves. As you might expect with the Olympics, there are many similarities between the promotion of the Games in 1980 and those about to happen, in little under 100 days’ time.  The transcriptions provide an insight into Olympic quizzes, interviews with Olympians, the route the Olympic torch was due to take, and much more. As with the Games and Britain in 2012, in 1980 there was also a lot about how the Olympics can promote the Soviet Union to the world.

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Image of the discovery of a new mass grave at Perucac Lake

Excavations of a new mass grave discovered at Perucac Lake. Muhamed Mujkic.

Back in Sarajevo. I call in on Muhamed Mujkic, who co-directed the Memorial Room film with the British documentary maker Leslie Woodhead, at his office at the Federation for Missing Persons.  His job is to document the excavations of mass graves found in Bosnia – something he has now done for 15 years.   Last year a new mass grave was found–when a damming project at Perucac Lake caused a river bed to yield up its terrible secret – their work is far from over.   

Image of excavations of a mass grave discovered at Perucac Lake

Excavations of a new mass grave discovered at Perucac Lake. Muhamed Mujkic.

The walls of their office are covered with photos of the team at work – including one of their chief wearing a miner’s lamp as he examines human remains discovered in a deep cave.  And there’s one of Bill Clinton – deep in thought during an official visit to Potocari. 

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