War of the Black Heavens – Reviews


Cartoon from a book of anti-Western cartoons called A Shattering Blow by Boris Efimov, Plakat, Moscow, 1985. The caption reads: “Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe – These two old toads love croaking loudly. Their base in an old rubbish bin containing provocations, lies, slander, inventions.”



Geoffrey Wheatcroft in The Times Literary Supplement:

“Once Cold War succeeded World War, radio became one of its fiercest battlefields, the subject of Michael Nelson’s informative and absorbing book.”  


Oleg Gordievsky, former KGB agent, in Literary Review:

“I am glad to find a deep and thorough book about the history of British and other Western radio broadcasting to the East, with an attempt at a serious analysis of its impact on the political and social processes of that part of Europe.”   


Michael Redley in Intermedia:

“Michael Nelson tells a thrilling tale.”

Michael Palmer in Réseaux:

“………in some 200 pages he incisively retraces the history of East-West radio propaganda in the Cold War ………” 

Gene Sosin, in The New Leader:

“Michael Nelson’s pioneering War of the Black Heavens illuminates the entire spectrum of Western shortwave   broadcasting, from the French, German, Canadian and Vatican radios to the more influential British and American stations.”  


Malcolm Rutherford in the Financial Times:

“Michael Nelson in War of the Black Heavens tells of a Soviet order in 1953 to stop the production of short wave radios. In fact production went up because the Russians had long been adept at it and it was a commercial success.”  


Marc Fisher in The Washington Post:

“In War of the Black Heavens Michael Nelson, a longtime executive at Reuters, the British news wire, argues that radio caused the Iron Curtain the crumble. Full stop. It’s an audacious argument ………”   


Peter Preston in The Guardian:

“The old Reuter’s hand, Michael Nelson, has just published a terrific book charting how steam radio – the spoken word – undermined autocracy in Eastern Europe.”   


Gary D. Rawnsley in Intelligence and National Security:

“This is an absorbing and informative book, well researched and elegantly written. It repays reading, both by the novice and by those already familiar with the subject. It deserves a wide audience.” 

Edward E. Ericson in Books & Culture:

“Nelson, former general manager of Reuters, the international news agency, focuses on Western radio’s four major ‘voices’ the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. His encyclopedic account displays the discernment and balance that one would expect from a good newsman located nearby but not within the institutions whose story he tells.”

A.R.Cannella in Choice:

“He whets the appetite for further reading with teasing facts: the Vatican’s coinage of the word ‘propaganda’; the extent to which the CIA supported Radio Free Europe (all but total); attacks by Sen. Joseph McCarthy on the VOA ………”   


Arnold Beichman in The Washington Times:

“Michael Nelson, former general manager of Reuters, has interviewed onetime members of the Soviet CP Central Committee who supplied him with documents attesting to the tremendous role – buttressed by Lech Walesa’s evaluation – Western radio broadcasts played in the most crucial battle of ideas in the 20th century.” 

Jon Elliston in Dossier: Covert Ops and Secret Documents:

“Whether or not you buy into Nelson’s thesis, War of the Black Heavens is indispensable reading for Cold War history buffs.” It is also “packed with stories from the cloak and dagger side of propaganda wars.” 

James Schwoch in The Journal of American History:

“Specialists in such areas as media history and propaganda studies will find this book an essential addition to their collections. By providing a sufficient base of available evidence to augment his own experiences, contacts and interviews, Nelson has provided a new model of responsibility for future inside authors to follow.”   


Nicholas J. Cull in Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television:

“……… an engaging, scholarly and elegantly written work, written by a man who as general manager of Reuters news agency had a unique insight into the unfolding events of the Cold War.”   


James Critchlow in Journal of Cold War Studies:

“Nelson’s well-organised book presents a wealth of information in a lively style accessible to students. He is at home in diplomatic and political contexts. His bibliography reflects an impressive array of sources, including Soviet and Western government archives.”

Buy the War of the Black Heavens book:



Explore more about the book:

Introduction     Foreword     Reviews     Recommended Books     Contents     Contact