Correspondence, memoranda and related papers, 1974-1997, concerning the ‘Edinburgh Conversations’ and Professor John Erickson`s involvement in them.
John Erickson (1929-2002) was a British military historian and the West’s leading authority on the Soviet military during and after the Second World War. During the ‘Cold War’ he was one of the very few academics to earn the trust of both sides and a key channel for contact between the Soviets and the Americans.
After graduating in History from St. John’s College, Cambridge University, he taught at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford University, and at the universities of St. Andrew’s, Manchester and Indiana before becoming a reader in higher defence studies at Edinburgh University in 1967. He remained there for the rest of his career and became a Professor of Politics (Defence Studies) and Head of the Centre for Defence Studies. After retiring from academia he became Emeritus Professor and Honorary Fellow.
Erickson’s first visit to the Soviet Union in 1963 as a researcher allowed him to build a rapport with Red Army leaders and high-profile contacts. He returned to Moscow on many occasions and had privileged access to Soviet archives and military.
His influence on the Soviet high command reached its peak in the 1980s, when he led the ‘Edinburgh Conversations’. These informal exchanges between prominent Scots and their Soviet counterparts, later became complex discussions on arms control, related security issues and the environment. The conversations alternated between Edinburgh and Moscow from 1981 to 1989. The first Soviet delegation in 1983 included the editor of Pravda and two army generals. Despite the increased tensions between East and West in the 1980s, Erickson’s personal input allowed the conversations to continue. These exchanges gave each side in the ‘Cold War’ an invaluable insight into each other’s views and helped to influence official and academic opinions on both sides of the divide.