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Cold War Cities

History, Culture and Memory


Edited By Katia Pizzi and Marjatta Hietala

The Cold War left indelible traces on the city, where polarities on the global stage crystallized and intersected with political and social dynamics predating and bypassing the Blocs. This collection taps into the rich fabric of memories, histories and cultural interactions of thirteen cities worldwide and the lived experience of urban communities during the long Cold War: activated and mobilized by atomic technologies, taking tourist photographs, attending commercial fairs, enjoying the cinema and the ballet, singing in choirs, paying respect in local cemeteries, visiting museums, and responding to town councils, unions and the local press. Literature, film, photography, the press, the monument, the cemetery, the factory, the ruin, the archive and the natural ecosystem are some of the key frameworks of cultural production elucidated here with a view to countering and exploding received myths about the Cold War.
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2 ‘One hour east of Vienna …’ At the Crossroads of Europe: Vienna – Bridgehead and Bridge in the Cold War


Wien ist ein offenes Tor. Das letzte offene Tor zwischen Ost und West.1

Und doch ist Wien in gewissem Sinne ein Mittelpunkt der Welt. ‘Denn beim Besiegten treffen sich die Sieger’ […]. – Gewiß, der Flecken hier ist utopisch, ein Niemandsland; aber welch ein Rundblick!2


The Third Man, the movie filmed in Vienna in 1948 and first screened in 1949, is a classic Cold War tale. Vienna is portrayed as a city of ‘spies, frauds, opportunists and racketeers’ – with the rubble of the Second World War Allied bombing campaign still littering the streets of the Danube metropolis.3 Divided up by the four occupation powers (the Soviets, Americans, British and French) into four sectors that were ← 45 | 46 → hermetically sealed off from one another, with the first district of the inner city controlled by all four powers, Vienna is represented as a deeply divided Cold War city with the Soviet threat looming large. Given the Cold War tensions in Vienna, the Austrian capital also became a site of intense contestation between the Eastern and Western intelligence services. Austria and Vienna were lucky to get rid of the quadripartite occupation regime in 1955 after an interminable ten years of Allied presence and Soviet intimidation. Austria’s ‘permanent neutrality’, declared in October 1955, was severely tested only a year later in the Hungarian rebellion against the communist regime.

During the occupation decade (1945–55), Austria aspired to become a bridgehead of the West against...

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