The Iron Curtain Trail’s Landscapes of Memory, Meaning, and Recovery

30. September 2014 zur Übersicht

Artikel von David G. Havlick, erschienen in Focus on Geography im September 2014


At a commencement speech in 1946,

Winston Churchill warned his audience at

Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri,


in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended

across the [European] Continent

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste”

(Churchill 1946). The

referred to at the time was not yet a physical

barrier, but for much of the Cold War

the Iron Curtain signi

European isolation from the West. The

Iron Curtain

became more than just symbol or metaphor;

by the early 1960s it also effectively

described a material presence that reached

nearly 7000 kilometers north to south

through central Europe. Until 1989, fences,

watchtowers, concertina wire, mine

walls, and border guards maintained this

linear feature as a militarized death strip

extending the length of Europe. Today,

these same borderlands form the backbone

of Europe

set of ecological preserves, including hundreds

of protected areas and a series of

national parks and biosphere reserves that

collectively are considered,

Belt of Europe

Hammer 2009; Schw

In the latter half of the 20

the Iron Curtain was likely the most iconic

and disruptive feature of the central European

landscape (Steiner 2006, ix). Considering

its prominence during more than

four decades of the Cold War, the Iron


feared, highly controlled barrier to open

and widely appreciated green space represents

a profound transformation. Communities

along these borderlands now treat

this strip as an open-space amenity, a living

memorial to a divided Europe, and as

an important site of ecological revitalization,

cultural meaning, local and European

pride (Cramer 2010; 2012). Against the

paradox of these transformations from

death strip to green belt, the Iron Curtain

now presents an important trans-European

geography that blurs the boundaries not

just of political ideologies, east and west,

but also those of nature and culture. The

Iron Curtain remains both a symbolic presence

and an actual set of places, but the

way its meanings and physical presence

have changed in the span of just over two

decades can offer insights into processes of

demilitarization, land use change, and ecological

restoration that apply well beyond

these Cold War borderlands.


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