Advertisement
How to add spoiler tags, edit posts, add images etc. How to - a user's guide to the new version of Boards
Mods please check the Moderators Group for an important update on Mod tools. If you do not have access to the group, please PM Niamh. Thanks!

Cold War Nostalgia?

  • #1
    Registered Users Posts: 11,134 maquiladora


    Is it just me, or does anyone else ever get this feeling from time to time, a sort of nostalgia and affection for the 70s/80s cold war milieu and atmosphere?

    I'm too young to remember anything really from that period apart from a memory of seeing the Berlin Wall coming down on the news. But even though I don't remember it much, I have a very strong interest in it.

    There's just something about the look and feel of that era that I find fasinating. Not so much the American or Russian side of it, more the British and European side. There's just something about the mixture of the bleak, drab 70s/80s with the military hardware/installations and tensions of that time.


Comments



  • This is one I find interesting: "Ostalgie" - a phenomenon that hit Germany in recent years (apparently). A play on "Nostalgie" (German) and "Ost" means "east". Soviet inspired "chic" and the movie Goodbye Lenin! which explores the dark side of living behind the Wall, but also acknowledges there were some good aspects to it for many (the security, equality etc).

    Unbelievably fantastic movie btw...




  • Dudess wrote: »

    Unbelievably fantastic movie btw...


    It is. Tales from the Golden Age, a Romanian film that was released last year is another that details the closing years of the communist regime in that country.

    If you ever find yourself in Budapest the statue park is well worth a visit:

    http://www.szoborpark.hu/index.php?Lang=en

    Soviet era statues, very evocative.




  • TBH Ive always felt that since the end of the Cold war the world has got a little too complacent about the threat of nuclear war between Russia (or even China) and the West. (civil defence in most western countries has been largely abandoned ) While in the last few years people have started to become more aware of the issue of proliferation the public and the media seem to assume that the threat of a large scale nuclear "exchange" has gone away even though relations with Russia are at best lukewarm and China are overtaking the US as the biggest consumer of increasingly scarce reserves of oil and both Russia and the US still have thousands of warheads (with China, France, and the UK having hundreds apiece)

    During the 1980's it was feared that a nuclear war could start "accidentally" through malfunctioning equipment, unstable commanders or misunderstandings. Surely such risks havent subsided that much ?
    Dudess wrote: »
    This is one I find interesting: "Ostalgie" - a phenomenon that hit Germany in recent years (apparently).

    One thing that surprised me about Berlin is that in the (former) East they still have a lot of streets named after people like Karl Marx, Ernst Thälmannn etc. At its peak (late 1970's) the GDR (particularly Berlin) had the highest living standards in the Eastern bloc (probably explains why Ostalgie is a mainly E German phenomenon) Some have attributed this to most parts of East Germany having access to Western TV so the authorities felt more pressured to provide a population who could see what they were missing with a more bearable lifestyle than what those in Poland, Romania or even Russia itself experienced.




  • I had the good fortune to go to the Stasi museum in Berlin this year, and was struck by the similarities between East Berlin and 70's Ireland in the photographs.

    What I must say is that whilst Communism (in the form it was applied) was cruel, for a long time it didn't provide an overly different standard of living to the West, and did have it's advantages to those who would have struggled in a free market society with minimal welfare. The element of nostalgia can be seen as developing from the manner in which living under Communism can be seen as creating very different social attitudes in the nations that were under it(particularly East Germany), and thus, as it becomes an increasingly distant memory, the things which differentiate East and West Germans are more fondly remembered. It must be said people in Berlin and Potsdam were a lot more open about the nightmare of the Nazi era than people in Stuttgart or Heidelburg were, and quite a bit friendlier to non-German speakers in my experience.




  • 'The lives of others' is a film that details an example of the stasi closing in on an 'enemy' of the state. Its a really strong film and the best foreign launguage film ive seen in years.


  • Advertisement


  • ValJester wrote: »
    was struck by the similarities between East Berlin and 70's Ireland in the photographs.

    What I must say is that whilst Communism (in the form it was applied) was cruel, for a long time it didn't provide an overly different standard of living to the West, and did have it's advantages to those who would have struggled in a free market society with minimal welfare.

    Now wait a minute!!! Maybe you young people have a slightly different perspective but at the risk of sounding like a boring old 'Nam war vet ("You don't know man, cause you weren't there") allow me to give you some perspective of somebody who actually did visit some Eastern Block countries in the 1980s.

    It is a source of much regret to me that I never got to Berlin while the wall was in existence but I did get to Hungary, Yugoslavia (as was) and Bulgaria and there was a MARKED difference in material wealth and its availability between those countries and even the Ireland of the time, never mind West Germany where I was based.

    Certainly, basic public amenities were extremely cheap. Accomodation and transport were for nothing. But trying to spend your money was quite difficult because there was feck all to buy. And such goods as were available were sold in the most inefficient bureaucratic manner possible.

    Even to get a loaf of bread or a bun you would stand in line to point out what you wanted. Then after that moved slo-o-owly you would have to stand in another line to pay the cashier. The emphasis was on employment for the staff, not service for the customer.

    Restaurants, such as they were, were an eye opener. Having changed your money on the black market (three times the rate at least) everything on the shiny leather bound menus looked really cheap and promising. But when you tried to order something, the waiter would cluck aplogetically and then turn to the hastily typewritten notepaper at the back outlining your real choice between an omelette, a particularly unappetising chop or a bowl of cabbage.

    Consumer goods, the like of which you take for granted in teh West, were simply not available. In Bulgaria they had the hucksterism of the Duty Free Shops, in which one could ONLY spend western currency, in practice only dollars or deutschmarks. (That's the old German currency for any REALLY young people)

    Here you could buy Western brands of cigarettes and alcohol but they also sold the most incredibly antiquated electrical goods like fridges, washing machines etc. They were so old and crappy that nobody in the west would have looked twice at them, but they carried huge price tags. And you had to pay in Western hard currency.

    Clearly, these were aimed at the local populace, who strictly speaking couldn't have any western currency in the first place. Unless they got it through black market trading with the likes of myself. The government could say po-faced that such goods were intended as tourist souvenirs but they weren't, couldn't be, fooling anyone.

    Cars were an anachronism as well. They were all hideous little Trabants or Ladas, basically 30 year old Fiats built under licence. And trying to buy something as everyday as a soft drink was virtually impossible. As soon as any supplies of such came in they were sold out in minutes.

    Clothing: cheap and functional. Even by the drastic sartorial standards of 1980s Ireland the East was dismal.

    If you're going to make a case for the Soviet style of society, at least don't try and pretend that it produced similar creature comforts for the majority of its citizens as the West. Simply not true.

    "I know cause I was there, Man!"



    ValJEster wrote:
    It must be said people in Berlin and Potsdam were a lot more open about the nightmare of the Nazi era than people in Stuttgart or Heidelburg were, and quite a bit friendlier to non-German speakers in my experience.




  • ValJester wrote: »
    It must be said people in Berlin and Potsdam were a lot more open about the nightmare of the Nazi era than people in Stuttgart or Heidelburg were.

    Meant to add after this bit that that was probably similar to the cognitive dissonance that every stigmatised people adopt in the face of negative labels.

    The East Germans, from their left wing perspective, could convince themselves that it was the Fascists from the West who had been the Nazis and that the same ideology, more or less, prevailed there during the Cold War.

    It's a bit like Irish people reacting to English comedians telling Irish jokes by convincing themselves that "It's not us they're laughing at, only those gob****es from Kerry. Everybody knows that. We're erudite sophisticates from Roscommon, Mullingar, Tipperary or wherever"

    It even mutates to professional snobbery. John Cleese has related the story that the day after the famous Monty Python sketch about accountants aired, the one where they portray accountants as incredibly stupid and insufferably boring, he had to visit....his accountant.

    When he plucked up the courage to ask had his accountant been offended, the guy replied. "Not at all. That was Chartered Accountants you were talking about. I'm Certified myself."




  • Now wait a minute!!! Maybe you young people have a slightly different perspective but at the risk of sounding like a boring old 'Nam war vet ("You don't know man, cause you weren't there") allow me to give you some perspective of somebody who actually did visit some Eastern Block countries in the 1980s.

    It is a source of much regret to me that I never got to Berlin while the wall was in existence but I did get to Hungary, Yugoslavia (as was) and Bulgaria and there was a MARKED difference in material wealth and its availability between those countries and even the Ireland of the time, never mind West Germany where I was based.

    Certainly, basic public amenities were extremely cheap. Accomodation and transport were for nothing. But trying to spend your money was quite difficult because there was feck all to buy. And such goods as were available were sold in the most inefficient bureaucratic manner possible.

    Even to get a loaf of bread or a bun you would stand in line to point out what you wanted. Then after that moved slo-o-owly you would have to stand in another line to pay the cashier. The emphasis was on employment for the staff, not service for the customer.

    Restaurants, such as they were, were an eye opener. Having changed your money on the black market (three times the rate at least) everything on the shiny leather bound menus looked really cheap and promising. But when you tried to order something, the waiter would cluck aplogetically and then turn to the hastily typewritten notepaper at the back outlining your real choice between an omelette, a particularly unappetising chop or a bowl of cabbage.

    Consumer goods, the like of which you take for granted in teh West, were simply not available. In Bulgaria they had the hucksterism of the Duty Free Shops, in which one could ONLY spend western currency, in practice only dollars or deutschmarks. (That's the old German currency for any REALLY young people)

    Here you could buy Western brands of cigarettes and alcohol but they also sold the most incredibly antiquated electrical goods like fridges, washing machines etc. They were so old and crappy that nobody in the west would have looked twice at them, but they carried huge price tags. And you had to pay in Western hard currency.

    Clearly, these were aimed at the local populace, who strictly speaking couldn't have any western currency in the first place. Unless they got it through black market trading with the likes of myself. The government could say po-faced that such goods were intended as tourist souvenirs but they weren't, couldn't be, fooling anyone.

    Cars were an anachronism as well. They were all hideous little Trabants or Ladas, basically 30 year old Fiats built under licence. And trying to buy something as everyday as a soft drink was virtually impossible. As soon as any supplies of such came in they were sold out in minutes.

    Clothing: cheap and functional. Even by the drastic sartorial standards of 1980s Ireland the East was dismal.

    If you're going to make a case for the Soviet style of society, at least don't try and pretend that it produced similar creature comforts for the majority of its citizens as the West. Simply not true.

    "I know cause I was there, Man!"

    Very interesting to get that first hand experience as you relay it.

    I would'nt say you have destroyed my ideas of communism as it is not hard to figure out that whilst it may seem like a good idea (everybody is equal) in reality it has been proven not to work in most places where it was tryed.

    Given that communist regimes were in rag order in the 1980's, coming towards their end, I wonder if the experience would have been as bleak if you visited 20 years before. It would be interesting to get a view of someone who did this. Was it towards the end of the 80's that you visited these countries. Having visited these countries and Russia also in the last few years the differences between the cultures are interesting to see.

    I would imagine that the ideal of soviet society is more what people are interested in rather than the reality of when these regimes were crumbing.




  • Was it towards the end of the 80's that you visited these countries. Having visited these countries and Russia also in the last few years the differences between the cultures are interesting to see.

    I was in these countries in 1984/1985. (I'm old!)

    I described the little things, because that's what you notice, quite frankly. I was not overly aware of people whispering and looking over their shoulders in case the Secret Police might be listening, which was the propaganda we were fed with at home.

    But I noticed the general lack of a service culture, which is very apparent in America and to a lesser extent in Western Europe. In Eastern Europe, doling out staples in a shop was a drudge which was endured by employees and suffered by "consumers".

    Just imagine an entire retail sector operating like the CIE companies. "We don't give change." Long snaking lines before ticket booths. Buses that don't turn up etc etc

    That was Eastern Europe.

    One experience in Budapest was bizarre. Many shops and cafes would have Pepsi or Coke stickers on the doors, implying that those sugary beverages were available for sale, but they never really were. Then one day walking down a main shopping street, we saw a crowd of people gathered outside a department store.

    On investigation we saw a solitary sales assistant in an apron sitting in front of two basins of ice cold water and surrounded by crates of Coke bottles. On one side they were full, on the other was a rapidly building mound of empties.

    The girl would grab a handful of full bottles and plunge them into the water to cool them. Then they would be bought by the parched crowd in front of her, drunk on the spot and the empties handed back.

    Clearly, the latest shipment of Coke had come in and those lucky enough to be in the vicinity were getting in quick to slake their thirst before it all went.

    I'm sure an economist could explain all this in terms of "supply chain dynamics" but the reality on the ground was the way it struck me.

    In general, I found Hungarians to be friendly. Even though the border guards came into the train before crossing the border, in either direction, and looked under the seats to ensure nobody was hiding, they were really quite affable.

    Bulgarians were a surlier lot. But then it looked to be a lot poorer than Hungary. And I believe Rumania was even worse.




  • Mike 1972 wrote: »
    Surely such risks havent subsided that much ?f

    Yes they have. Both sides, and especially the Russian's have said that they no longer actively target missiles at Cork.

    The missiles are still there, a few less but there's still plenty there but not on quick launch.

    History has revealed that exercises in both camps had as much as 50% failure to fire incidents during which the operators refused to fire the missiles in a drill designed so as no one knew if if was real or a test.

    This was the turning point in reality, the average officer would not push the button. And I for one am more at peace knowing that neither a USA or USSR ICBM is actively targeted at my home. It was not easy living under that threat 24/7/365


  • Advertisement


  • Bulgarians were a surlier lot. But then it looked to be a lot poorer than Hungary. And I believe Rumania was even worse.

    That's mostly due to Cauceasau though, possibly Europe's most deluded head of state in the post-war era.




  • Interesting feature on the guardian website about how the former ussr countries turned out

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/aug/17/ussr-soviet-countries-data#




  • Used to go out with a Hungarian girl fado, fado. She said they used to have full employment and great holidays under Communism. But, that overall things are much better with democracy. The Communists done some decidedly odd things, in particular I remember visiting, what can only be described as a fairy tale castle near Lake Balaton. Beside which the authorities had dumped a large, solid concrete block of a building with windows in it, accommodation for the holidaying workers. Her dad done some service with their Air Force and spoke once about his fear of "the bomb". It's often put out how robot like the other side would have been, pressing buttons without feeling, but I don't think that would have been the case. More like both sides equally sh1tting themselves.

    Though, to be fair, I was born in 1978 and I do have some memories of the 80's especially. In the "us vs them" situation, let's not fool ourselves here, we'd prefer USA to USSR any day of the week and twice on Sundays, life seemed a lot more clearly defined. Now, the "them" seems to be bloody anyone. Bit too complicated for me.


Advertisement