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  • Tourism and Travel during the Cold War: Negotiating Tourist Experiences across the Iron Curtain ed. by Sune Bechmann Pedersen and Christian Noack
  • Yulia Gradskova (bio)
Sune Bechmann Pedersen and Christian Noack (Eds.), Tourism and Travel during the Cold War: Negotiating Tourist Experiences across the Iron Curtain (London; New York: Routledge, 2020). 213 pp., ill. Index. ISBN: 978-0-367-19212-9.

Coedited by Sune Bechmann Pedersen of Lund University and Christian Noack of Amsterdam University, this book is focused on Western tourism to the Soviet Bloc during the Cold War and, as the editors write in the introduction, "sheds light on how the post-war European tourist industry challenged and overcame the ideological fault lines and enabled ever-increasing mobility across the Iron Curtain" (P. 1). Most chapters focus on the period of the development of mass tourism in the 1960s–1980s and are penned indiscriminatingly by experienced and junior researchers representing a variety of countries and disciplines.

The edited volume consists of an Introduction and ten chapters divided into three parts. The first part explores how the reception of Western tourists was organized in the "East"; the second one looks at encounters between Western tourists and the local population, and the third part tackles the politics of tourism. While meaningful, this thematic differentiation seems somewhat artificial: for instance, the politics of tourism is discussed in many chapters, not only in those included in the book's third part. What makes this edited volume particularly interesting is its attention to the experiences of both individual tourists and institutions of organized tourism: pioneer camps, resorts, and tour guides. Equally important is the breadth of the primary sources consulted by the contributors, including personal travelogues and oral history records. Together with archival documents, these sources help the authors to produce a more complex interpretation of the tourists' initial motivation and subsequent impressions from the trip.

Cold War internal tourism within the Eastern Bloc, along with more rare travels to the West from socialist countries, have been well-studied.1 Much less work has been done on the experience of Western tourists in the "East," and the reviewed book addresses this significant lacuna. It is also original in terms of special attention paid to Scandinavian countries that are usually underrepresented in the studies of West–East contacts: several chapters are dedicated to tourists from Sweden and [End Page 458] Denmark, and one chapter discusses negotiations of the airspace regime over Northern Europe. Of no less importance is the selection of receiving countries discussed in the book: these are much understudied in the history of socialist tourism countries of Southern Europe, including Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania.

Bound by a common focus on the history of tourism, individual chapters represent several historical subfields. One of them is the cultural history of cold war. Contributors to the volume confirm the earlier research proving that the Iron Curtain was not impermeable but rather porous.2 Moreover, as the studies on international tourism and transborder mobility in general have demonstrated, it was the pursuit of profit and not only ideological subversion that contributed to this permeability. The desire to earn some hard currency encouraged socialist states such as Romania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and the Soviet Union to open their doors to "ideological enemies," offering at their disposal Black Sea resorts or the airspace over the Soviet Union (chapters by Elitza Stanoeva and Karl-Lorentz Kleve, respectively). Individual Western tourists could enter into mutually profitable, semilegal or illegal transactions with locals, thus both sides also benefited financially from tourism (as discussed on the case of Romania in the chapter by Adelina Stefan). Still, the main incentive of Westerners traveling across the Iron Curtain was curiosity, the desire to see personally real life in the "East" and compare it with familiar realities of the "West" (Michelle Standley's chapter on guided bus tours from West to East Berlin is particularly informative in this respect). On the global scale, Cold War–era tourism became an important medium for negotiations between the two camps, as was the case during the 1975 Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in Helsinki (a topic raised in Angela Romano's chapter). There was...


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