Fun with the CIA Archives

Fun with the CIA Archives

History nerds love archival material and celebrate the fact that more and more becomes available digitally on the web. In addition to the U.S. State Department Office of the Historian and the excellent UK National Archives, both of which I will discuss one day soon, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) search site contains lots of useful information for professional and amateur historians alike.

The earliest mention of Austria which I came across at the site is contained within a February 1947 report by the Central Intelligence Group (the establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency would be signed into law later in the year) concerning the “Situation in Austria” (document id: NARA # NN3-263-92-005). If you don’t know much about the immediate post-WWII years in Austria, I can recommend it as a subject for study. While most attention was focused on Germany and especially Berlin, Austria was also experiencing quite an interesting time from a historical perspective. The battle lines of the cold war in Germany were fairly clear. In Austria, however, the situation was more uncertain.

Whither Austria? Within whose sphere of influence would Austria find itself? The countries to its east were completely occupied by the Soviets, whereas Austria was being governed by the four allied countries: the U.S., the U.K., France and the U.S.S.R. So too was Germany, but Germany was large enough to consider it feasible to partition between west and east. Austria was simply too small. Because it was also important to ensure that Austria not remain dependent on Germany (which had annexed it in 1938), the country needed to be large enough to be self-sustaining and have normal trade relations with multiple countries, not just Germany.

With that context in mind, the CIA report mentioned and linked-to above makes interesting reading. Of course it is only one agency’s assessment of what was happening in the Austria of 1947 and therefore should be considered as one piece of research, not the definitive story.

Here are a few excerpts of the report to whet your appetite:

The four occupying powers have recognized a coalition government in Austria which was formed after the national elections of November 1945.  The authority of the government is still limited by the conditions of four-power occupation and particularly by the hostile attitude of the USSR.


The USSR desires an Austrian regime subservient to Soviet policy.  Unsuccessful in its attempts to influence the Austrian Government by infiltration and intimidation, the USSR has concentrated on establishing control over the Austrian economy.  The USSR has implemented its policy in Austria by propaganda aimed at discrediting the government and by actions designed to disrupt its political and economic authority.  In order to further their economic aims, the Soviets have removed industrial machinery on a large scale, seized industrial assets, and forced factories to produce for the USSR. [Page 2]

About the Author

Bill Dawson is an American citizen who, having married an Austrian, lives and works in Vienna, Austria. A programmer by trade, he studied history as an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley.