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Tue, Feb 13



Sean Brennan, "The KGB and the Vatican: Secrets of the Mitrokhin Files"

Hear from Sean Brennan over Zoom speak about his recent work on material from the secret archive of KGB agent Vasili Mitrokhin on KGB actions against the Vatican from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s.

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Sean Brennan, "The KGB and the Vatican: Secrets of the Mitrokhin Files"
Sean Brennan, "The KGB and the Vatican: Secrets of the Mitrokhin Files"

Time & Location

Feb 13, 2024, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EST


About this session

Vasili Mitrokhin was an agent and later an archivist of the Soviet secret police, the KGB. From 1974 to 1982, while supervising the transfer of tens of thousands of KGB records to its new facility outside of Moscow, Mitrokhin copied and transcribed a substantial amount of them and hid them in his home. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Mitrokhin, his family, and his archive were repatriated to the United Kingdom where they continue to provide a crucially importance primary source for understanding Soviet intelligence activities. This presentation will concern the material from Mitrokhin's archive concerning KGB activities towards both the Vatican and the Catholic Church in Soviet territory during the late Khrushchev and Brezhnev eras. Among the most important subjects were KGB attempts discredit the Vatican in Europe, Africa, and Latin America, activities designed to infiltrate and weaken clerical emigre organizations, to conduct espionage in the Vatican itself, and finally, how to limit the Vatican's influence on the Catholic Church in the Lithuania and the underground Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine.

Sean Brennan is an expert on the history of 20th century Europe, especially Russia, Germany, Austria, and the countries located between them. He is also a commentator and writer on global diplomacy and international relations, especially the Second World War and the Cold War. He has published four books on the subject, The Politics of Religion in Soviet-Occupied Germany: The Case of Berlin-Brandenburg 1945-1949, published by Lexington Books in 2011, The Priest Who Put Europe Back Together: The Life of Fabian Flynn CP, published by The Catholic University of America Press in 2018, The KGB vs the Vatican: Secrets of the Mitrokhin Files, published by Catholic Education Press in 2022, and finally, Warren Austin, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr, and the Cold War at the United Nations 1947-1960 by Lexington Books in 2022. His fifth book, The Essential Speeches of the Cold War, will be published in 2024 by Routledge Press. In addition, he has published historical articles in Missouri Historical Review, Religion in Eastern Europe, Kazakh International Relations and International Law Journal, Al-Farabi Journal of Social Sciences and US Catholic Historian, as well as numerous book reviews in different historical journals, such as The American Historical Review, American Catholic Studies, Church History, German Studies Review, Central European History, Europe Now, and The Journal of Jesuit Studies. Sean received his bachelor’s degree in history from Rockhurst University in 2001, his master’s degree in history from Villanova University in 2003, and his doctorate in history from the University of Notre Dame in 2009. Much of his writing concerns Church-State relations in Modern Europe, especially under Communist regimes, as well as the role played by the Catholic Church in the Second World War and the Cold War. He also wrote about the history of the United Nations in the second half of the Twentieth Century. He has lectured and presented his work throughout the United States, including presentations for the United Nations Association of Scranton, the American Catholic Historical Society, and the Association for Slavic, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies, as well as in Russia, Kazakhstan, Hungary, Italy, and Greece. He has also been a regular commentator on WILK Radio in Scranton regarding Eastern European Affairs. Sean is currently a professor of History at the University of Scranton, where he has taught since 2009. He is currently a member of the Executive Council of the American Catholic Historical Association and is the Program Director of the National History Day Contest for the northeastern Pennsylvania region, which allows students from grades 6 through 12 to research historical events and present them in a wide variety of different ways, from exhibits to performances to documentaries. Since 2020 he also has served as a judge for the History category for the Global Undergraduate Awards, sponsored by Trinity College, Dublin.

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