Retracing the Iron Curtain
A 3,000-Mile Journey Through the End and Afterlife of the Cold War
by Dr. Timothy Phillips
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Pub Date 07 Mar 2023 | Archive Date 06 Mar 2023
Initially a victory line where Allies met at the end of World War Two, the Iron Curtain quickly became the front of a new kind of war. It divided Europe from north to south for a staggering forty-five years. Crossing it in either direction was always a political act; in many cases, it was a crime to even talk about doing so. New generations have grown up since these borders came down, freed from the restrictions of the Cold War era. But what has the Iron Curtain left in its wake?
Timothy Phillips travels its full 3,000-mile route—from inside the Arctic Circle to where Armenia meets Azerbaijan and Turkey—to craft this epic new people's history of a defining 2oth-century conflict. Here, in the borderlands where a powerful clash of civilizations took form in concrete and barbed wire, he uncovers the remarkable stories of everyday people forever imprinted by life in the Curtain's long shadow.
Some look back on the era with nostalgia, even affection, while others despise it, unable to forgive the decades of hardship their families and nations endured. A director recalls the astonishing night his movie premiered in East Germany—November 9, 1989, the very night the Berlin Wall fell. And a railroad worker recounts the 1951 hijacking of a passenger train from Czechoslovakia that breached the Curtain, granting those aboard immediate asylum in the West. These narratives, by turns harrowing and heartening, paint a vivid portrait of the new Europe that emerged from the ruins. Phillips reveals the Iron Curtain's profound impact on our world today—even as he punctures the fault lines we draw.
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Retracing the Iron Curtain; A 3,000 Mile Journey Through The End And After Life Of The Cold War by Dr. Timothy Phillips
I have read multiple books about travels along the Iron Curtain. These trips were by bicycle, car, train, walking and in some cases covered the entire length or even the Wall just around Berlin. I found this book to be the most interesting to have read. Why? Mainly because Dr. Phillips focuses on the people who either grew up with the Iron Curtain or are so young, they know of its impact on their parents and grandparents and how this makes them different. Of course, there are many interesting places and historical facts that are covered and many are new to me and I now feel compelled to add them to my “Bucket List” not because of their grandeur but their quirkiness. Two examples: Trieste now part of Italy but was a City State from 1947 to 1954 and the issue was not completely legally resolved until The Treaty of Osimo in 1975. The second is Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan also for many years an Autonomous Region of Azerbejian, a sliver of land bordered by Turkey, Iran and Armenia. Nakhchivan was the first republic to break-away from the Soviet Union, two months before Lithuania.
What really come through is the “Ostalgie” or Nostalgia for the past even when it is remembered with tinted glasses. That somehow losing the security real or imagined provided by big brother is difficult to forget. New to me was also the adaptability locally when the wall was up for certain regions to permit travel back and forth across the Iron Curtain between towns and cities that need resources available on both sides. This was true for example in Norther Finland and the Soviet Union were citizens who lived within 10 miles of each city could travel across the border.
I think there are better books for those who wish to get in a Trabant or bike and travel along the former border using this as a guide book. But if you are seeking to understand what it was like for the people and what they remember from 30 plus years you will find this book well worth the read.