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Christian F. Ostermann

Director, History and Public Policy Program; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project

Professional affiliation

Woodrow Wilson Center
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Full Biography

Christian F. Ostermann is an award-winning historian and the founding director of the History and Public Policy Program (HAPP) which seeks to bring historical context to international public policy issues. Dr. Ostermann also oversees the Center’s renown Cold War International History Project (CWIHP) and co-directs (with Professor Leopoldo Nuti, Roma Tre University, Rome) the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project (NPIHP) and its Nuclear History Boot Camp. He created the North Korea International Documentation Project (NKIDP) which documents North Korean politics and foreign policy. Under his leadership, the Center launched the global archival platform Digital Archive—International History Declassified, winner of the American Historical Association’s 2013 Roy Rosenzweig Prize. The program has become a globally-active and widely-acclaimed resource for new and policy-relevant historical findings and insights. Together with W. Roger Louis (National History Center) Ostermann launched the weekly Washington History Seminar: Historical Perspectives on National and International Affairs which he now cochairs with Eric Arnesen of the American Historical Association. 

Dr. Ostermann's book Between Containment and Rollback: The United States and the Cold War in Germany, 1945-1953, published by Stanford University Press in 2021, won the 2021 Richard W. Leopold Prize of the Organization of American historians, the 2022 Harry S. Truman Book Award given by the Harry S. Truman Library and Institute and received an Honorable Mention for the 2022 Michael Hunt Prize in International History of the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations.  A historian of contemporary US foreign policy and Germany, Ostermann is the author of numerous articles and document editions. His 1996 article on the 1953 East German Uprising won the German Studies Association’s Best Article Prize, his Uprising in East Germany 1953: The Cold War, The German Question, and the First Major Upheaval Behind the Iron Curtain(2001) won an Honorable Mention of the Kuehl Prize for Documentary Editing by the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations. He is currently completing a biography of East German chief of foreign intelligence Markus Wolf, the longest-serving spymaster of the Cold War. Other publications include “The United States and German Unification,” in Michael Gehler u. Maximilian Graf, eds, Europa und die deutsche Einheit: Beobachtungen, Entscheidungen und Folgen (Vandenhoeck, 2017); "The Global Cold War: Using the Resources of the Cold War International History Project," in: Understanding and Teaching the Cold War, ed. by John Day Tully, Matthew Masur and Brad Austin  (University of Wisconsin Press, Madison 2017); “Trust, but Verify” The Politics of Uncertainty & the Transformation of the Cold War Order, 1969-1991, ed. with Martin Klimke, Reinhild Kreis (Stanford University Press, 2016); Extended Deterrence in Europe and East Asia during the Cold War - A reappraisal, a special issue of the Journal of Strategic Studies 39 (2016), ed. with Leopoldo Nuti; Sino-European Relations during the Cold War and the Rise of a Multipolar World: A Critical Oral History, ed. with Enrico Fardella and Charles Kraus (Washington, 2015); Moles, Defectors, and Deceptions: James Angleton and His Influence on US Counterintelligence,” ed. with Bruce Hoffman (Washington, D.C.: 2014); The Rise and Fall of Détente on the Korean Peninsula, 1970-1974 (2011), ed. with James Person; Crisis and Confrontation on the Korean Peninsula: 1968-1969(2010), ed. with James Person; Connecting Histories: Decolonization and the Cold War in Southeast Asia, 1945-1962 (2009), ed. with Christopher Goscha. He is currently completing a biography of East German chief of foreign intelligence Markus Wolf, the longest-serving spymaster of the Cold War and co-editing, with Leopoldo Nuti, the Cambridge History of the Nuclear Age. 

Dr. Ostermann chairs (with Jillian Hartley) the Interpretative Advisory Committee of the National Cold War Center (Blytheville, AR). He is co-chief curator of the exhibit The Berlin Wall in the Cold War: Living in a Divided World (Musealia, 2023) and he is a member of the Advisory Board of the International Spy Museum and the Cold War Center Berlin. 

Dr. Ostermann envisioned and founded the Center’s Global Europe Program (2007-2017) and has chairs the Ion Ratiu Democracy Award/Fellowship, which seeks to recognize and strengthen the efforts of engaged thinkers and thoughtful practitioners working on behalf of democracy. Ostermann chaired and launched several fellowship programs (Finnish Scholar Program; Romanian Cultural Institute Program Scholar Program; Korea Foundation Junior Scholars Program, Erfurt University Junior Scholar Program; Swiss Scholar and Swiss Day Program) and designed the Ahtisaari Symposium series on European Security in a Global Context.     

In 2018 Ostermann was a Berlin Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. Fellowships include a Senior Research Fellowship at the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo, the Harry S. Truman Library Dissertation Fellowship and SHAFR’s W. Stull Holt Fellowship. He worked as a research fellow at The George Washington University’s National Security Archive, with which he remains affiliated as a Senior Research Fellow. He has taught at Georgetown University and George Washington University and studied in Germany and the United States. 

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