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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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Introduction. Cold War Cities: History, Culture and Memory


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Introduction Cold War Cities: History, Culture and Memory

As we began to put this collection together, a fourteen-metre-high V2 (Vergeltungs-Waffe 2) rocket carrying a one-ton warhead was exhibited in the atrium of the Imperial War Museum in London. The rocket had weighed heavily on the murky London sky in September 1944, silently bent on striking the city. Despite its low efficacy when compared with heavier bombers, the V2 swiftly acquired symbolic status and came to embody the visceral response elicited by modern warfare, a tangible testament to the trauma encapsulated in dehumanizing technological conflict.1

The symbolic legacy of the V2 rocket was reignited in the Cold War years, congealing in the so-called Space Race. The decades of the 1950s and 1960s witnessed rapid developments in rocket science, especially in the Soviet Union. Deployed to deliver nuclear weapons safely and swiftly to destination, impossible for defence systems to stop once launched, from then on the rocket became a staple of military operations. The cultural capital of the rocket grew further as military, atomic and space-age technologies joined hands, inspiring awe on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Much like the tank in the First World War, the rocket became familiar to millions of TV watchers worldwide. Its skyward thrust symbolized political posturing and, at the same time, ancestral fears, encoding and transcending the technological prowess, the force and vulnerability of the Cold War. Urban communities in both...

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