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COLD WAR SPACES November 19, 2017 to April 29, 2018 All works belong to The Wende Museum’s permanent Acollection, unless noted.



INTRODUCTION Political power relations, economic systems, and cultural ideas impact the way we experience and structure our environment. The Cold War, with its strict division between “East” and “West,” is a prime example. The “Iron Curtain” that cut through Europe from the late 1940s to the early 1990s, most powerfully symbolized by the Berlin Wall (erected in 1961), not only separated two political and military power blocs but also divided two economic structures, two types of social organization, and two cultural belief systems. These differences played out in the spatial organization of everyday life. Whereas in the capitalist world public space is dominated by commercial signs and symbols, socialist public space is dictated by political iconography. The concept of private space has a different meaning in a society where everyone might be reporting on everyone else to the secret police. And while in Western advertisements men and women are mostly seen in an environment of leisure and consumption, people in socialist visual culture are predominantly depicted as producers leading a fulfilling life at the workplace in support of society. The Cold War also shaped its own secret spaces, such as prisons and gulags, where political opponents and cultural dissidents were sequestered, or military bases and weapons factories that were omitted from regional and national maps. The heavily militarized borders between “East” and “West” functioned as barriers between two irreconcilable ideologies. Each side aimed to block the infectious influence of the other by all means. The Cold War even extended beyond Earth’s atmosphere, as the competition between the two power blocs resulted in the space race. However, nothing in life is unambiguous. The space competition eventually resulted in a close collaboration between the superpowers. Public space was used not only to disseminate political messages but also to subvert official culture. And the Berlin Wall, which stood as a symbol of political division, eventually became an international symbol of hope and reconciliation when East German border guards opened the gates on November 9, 1989. This exhibition explores the spatial characteristics of Cold War–era Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in eight sections: utopian space, public space, outer space, border space, private space, work space, secret space, and changing space. It captures some of the unique traits of divided Europe between the end of World War II and the fall of the Berlin Wall, and comments on the paradoxes of political and cultural division. 1

BORDER SPACE Where two political systems clash, there is always a fortified border that keeps them apart. In a speech from 1946, Winston Churchill used the term “Iron Curtain� to reference the increasingly impenetrable division between East and West in the emerging Cold War. From the moment it was erected in August 1961, the Berlin Wall would be the most tangible expression of this divide. While the heavily militarized and excessively monitored borders were meant to separate the two ideological camps, they also served as a passageway for people, goods, and ideas, inevitably resulting in ideological clashes and intercultural exchanges. On November 9, 1989, East German border guards opened the gates of the Berlin Wall, transforming this bulwark of division into a symbol of hope.

Lothar Gericke, Cityscape with Love Couple, 1978, East Germany

Berlin Wall pieces, reinforced concrete, c. 1975, East Germany

Farrah Karapetian, Souvenir (Green), 2009


Lutz Voigtmann, Gray Town, undated, East Germany

Peter Leibing, Escape of the Border Guard Conrad Schumann on August 15, 1961, c. 1990, Germany

Pavel Sima,“Wallpecker� Man and Child, c. 1990, East Germany

Christopher Morris, East German border guards become spectators at an official opening of a border crossing through the Wall at Potsdamer Platz, November 12, 1989, East Germany

Anthony Suau, Children play inside the Wall near the Brandenburg Gate, February 1990, East Germany


OUTER Due to rapid scientific developments in the early Cold War, outer space for the first time in history became an object of contestation. The space race became one of the most prominent fields of competition between East and West with the successful launch of Sputnik in 1957, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s orbit of the Earth in 1961, and the U.S. moon landing in 1969. While the motivation for the space race was to prove and document the superiority of one system over the other, the unintended consequence of televised travel beyond the atmosphere was a deeper sense of global unity, provided by the unique view of planet Earth seen from outer space.

When word of the Sputnik craze reaches the “director of heaven” (God depicted as a stamp-collecting bureaucrat) in the form of children’s Christmas wish lists, he sends Santa Claus on an undercover mission to earth to learn more about the mysterious beeping object in the sky and its potential threat to the fairy tale of heaven. This atheist parable about scientific rationalism triumphing over religion was screened for East German Young Pioneer groups, framed by historical discussions of space exploration. Excerpts from Sharp Left Behind the Moon, directed by Günter Rätz, 1959, East Germany, Produced at the DEFA (Deutsche Film Aktien-Gesellschaft) Studio for Animated Films in Dresden

Initially, the Soviet Union took the lead in the so-called space race in 1961 as the first country to send a man – Yuri Gagarin – to orbit the Earth in outer space. However, eight years later the United States landed a manned spacecraft on the Moon. This humorous Soviet poster, printed one year after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s Moon expedition with Apollo 11, expresses confidence that the Soviet Union would catch up quickly. That never happened.

Veneamin Briskin and Valentin Viktorov, I am Walking on the Moon!, 1970, Soviet Union

Alexander Grigorevich Vaganov, To the Twenty-First Century in Peace and Consent, 1991, Soviet Union

M. Manuilov and A. Klemetyev, Circus, 1953, Soviet Union


Gagarin was the first man to orbit the Earth in outer space, with his Vostok spacecraft on April 12, 1961. This sculpture bust of a young Gagarin was found at a Soviet military compound in East Germany. Launched on October 4, 1957, Sputnik 1 was the first satellite to orbit Earth, and its successful mission truly kicked off the space race. It broadcast radio signals and was tracked by radio operators all over the world before its battery died 21 days after launch. Sputnik 1 was destroyed while reentering Earth’s atmosphere on January 4, 1958.

Anonymous, Yuri Gagarin, undated, Soviet Union

Lukashevich was one of the stage designers for Mikhail Karyukov and Alexander Kozyr’s 1959 science-fiction movie The Sky Calls (Nebo Zovyot). Two of these works are designs for the film sets, the other five are painted after the original designs. The Sky Calls was released between two pivotal moments in the Space Race: the launch of Sputnik I (1957) and Yuri Gagarin’s historic space flight (1961). In this movie, Soviet and American spaceships are racing to reach the planet Mars, although the plans are thrown off track when the US team, desperate to reach the red planet first, sets out on their voyage prematurely and under-prepared. The Americans become stranded and need to be rescued by the Soviets. Out of fuel due to the unexpected rescue mission, both US and Soviet teams are stranded on an asteroid, where they are eventually saved by a self-sacrificing Soviet cosmonaut. In the end, the astronauts return to Earth and the film advocates for greater cooperation between the superpowers. This Soviet film was dubbed and re-released in East Germany in 1960; two years later, young Francis Ford Coppola directed and edited a re-dubbed American version of this film titled Battle Beyond the Sun that removed all references to the Soviet Union and to anti-American propaganda. Georgi Lukashevich, Seven scenes from The Sky Calls, 1957-1960, Soviet Union


Lunokhod 2 Model, 1970s, Soviet Union

Lunokhod Moon rover battery-operated toy, 1960s, Soviet Union, collection of Eve Lichtgarn

Sputnik music box, undated, Soviet Union

In August 1960, Belka (“Squirrel”) and Strelka (“Little Arrow”) were the first dogs that safely returned from an expedition into outer space. Their predecessor Laika (“Barker”), who was sent into space in 1957, didn’t survive her space travels.

Hammer and sickle with Sputnik and female figurine, c. 1987, Soviet Union, collection of Eve Lichtgarn

Rocket vessel with space dogs Belka and Strelka, 1960s, Soviet Union

Symbolic wall hanging, undated, collection of Eve Lichtgarn


Floral and space-themed plate, undated, Soviet Union

Laika - First Traveler to Space, undated, Soviet Union

Female cosmonauts wall relief, undated, collection of Eve Lichtgarn


PUBLIC While the streets and squares in the Western world are in large part dominated by billboards, advertisements, and commercial signs, the public realm in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union was largely a political environment where socialist symbols and party slogans were continually reinforced. These spaces were designed for collective experiences like parades and political celebrations, to unite citizens under the banner of state socialism. Public monuments celebrated historical and contemporary socialist figures worthy of admiration and imitation. However, public space was also the arena of uncontrolled and uncontrollable encounters and social interaction, where people exchanged ideas, used the streets to their own ends, and appropriated, sometimes with wit and irony, the political symbols and structures around them.

Ernst Thälmann was the leader of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) between 1925 and 1933, when he was arrested by the Gestapo. In August 1944, he was executed in the concentration camp Buchenwald. In the GDR, Thälmann was celebrated as the archetypical communist martyr-hero and as a role model for East German youth.

Lev Jefimovich Kerbel, Model for Ernst Thälmann Monument in East Berlin, c. 1985, East Germany

Hauswald was one of the free spirits among East German photographers who documented both official events and the unofficial undercurrents of life and culture in the GDR.

Harald Hauswald, Meeting of the Free German Youth Movement at the Stadium of the World Youth in East Berlin, 1989, East Germany


With these photographs, Hauswald allows a peek into the countercultural side of public life in the GDR. In the 1980s, alternative lifestyles such as punk, although strongly discouraged by the Socialist Unity Party, became an ever more visible part of everyday life.

Harald Hauswald, In the Metro, 1989, East Germany

Commemorative flags from East Germany, Hungary, the Soviet Union, and the People’s Republic of China from the collection of The Wende Museum

Harald Hauswald,Concert in Weissensee, 1989, East Germany

The monument commemorates the 1919 uprising in Budapest under Béla Kun, which resulted in a short-lived communist republic. Kun was executed in 1938 in the Soviet Union as one of the numerous victims of Stalin’s “great purge,” but was rehabilitated in 1956, three years after Stalin’s death. The monument was unveiled in 1969 on Dósza György Street in Budapest, but removed after the fall of state communism. It is currently displayed in Memento Park, an open-air museum in Budapest dedicated to monumental sculptures from the period of communist rule in Hungary. István Kiss, Model for Republic of Councils Monument, Budapest, c. 1969, Hungary


WORK According to Karl Marx, people realize themselves in their labor. Socialist ideology is rooted in the idea that production is the ultimate source of happiness and prosperity, on both individual and societal levels. Without a fulfilling job, people would inevitably suffer from self-alienation and depression, with broader consequences for the community. Therefore, the workplace was an important center where socialist values could be reinforced and rewarded. In posters, paintings, and sculptures, men and women who excelled in their work or significantly exceeded their daily quota were celebrated as “heroes of labor.” Apart from these forms of social recognition, there were hardly any incentives to be productive in the socialist countries. Worker morale tended to be low, in sharp contrast to the omnipresent exuberant depictions of happy and fully engaged workers. Nowhere was the gap between theory and practice more conspicuous than in the everyday reality of the workplace.

The painting celebrates a state company producing electrical devices. Karl-Erich Koch and team, From the History of Our Company – A Chapter of German-Soviet Friendship, 1976/88, East Germany

Typical for socialist realist painting, the group of women approach their new workday in high spirits.

P.V. Alexeev and B.I. Kaloev, In the Meadows, 1967, Soviet Union

This Soviet hero of labor is identified as Ashot Restevanyan on the backside of the canvas. He worked at the copper smelter plant in Alaverdi, Armenia. Gervasiya Vartanyan, Armenian Copper Smelter, 1982, Soviet Union


Men and women were involved in rebuilding the almost completely destroyed city of Berlin at the end of World War II. Drache’s painting depicts joyful laborers working on the construction of Stalinallee (later renamed Karl-Marx-Allee) in East Berlin, an impressive boulevard conceived as a model for urban reconstruction all over the GDR. However, on June 16, 1953, the construction workers of Stalinallee started an uprising against the socialist regime to demand higher wages and lower work quota. One day later, thousands of people participated in the following mass demonstrations that were forcefully suppressed by Soviet tanks. Subsequently, this painting was stored away, never to be seen again until the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Heinz Drache, The People Say “Yes” to the Peaceful Reconstruction, 1952, East Germany

Béla Czene, Tractor Girl, c. 1951, Hungary


PRIVATE In their private homes, people could showcase their adherence to the party and its principles by filling their bookcases with the complete works of Marx and Lenin; decorating their walls with socialist artwork, posters, and youth-brigade insignia; and having their radio and television sets tuned to state programs. But the privacy of the home also offered the opportunity to express independence and individuality, depoliticizing the private sphere. In the comfort of home, people could invite friends over for private conversations, or even organize critical readings, musical performances, film screenings, or art exhibitions – although the threat of state surveillance was always a concern, even within the privacy of one’s own home. This section references the private realm, with all variations between mainstream and countercultural life styles.

With this intimate and loosely painted portrait late in his career, Gulyaev departs from his usual renderings of heroic workers in a socialist realist style. An inscription on the back of the canvas identifies the sitter as a girl from the Soviet republic of Uzbekistan.

With her white dress with red ribbon, red head scarf, and a gold earring, this woman is representative of a new artistic interest in Ukrainian folk culture in the 1960s.

Alexander Georgievich Gulyaev, Girl from Uzbekistan, 1986, Soviet Union

Mikhail Mikhailovich Bozhii, Woman in White-Red Dress, 1960, Soviet Union

Atypical of the period of late Stalinism (1945–53), this intimate portrait does not reference state ideology. In a possible act of subtle defiance, the book cover she is holding is not red but blue.

In this study of intimate grief, a mother is holding a letter from the front announcing the death of her son, a typical subject during the years following World War II. The Soviet Union lost almost 11 million soldiers during the war.

Mikhail Konstantinovich Poplavski, Woman Holding a Book, 1948, Soviet Union

Boris Mikhailovich Lavrenko, Mother, 1949, Soviet Union


Since state television was strictly controlled in the former East Bloc countries, watching television with the family was considered an accepted educational activity. However, the modern style of this painting attests to a certain degree of artistic freedom granted after the failed anti-Soviet uprising in Budapest in 1956. Mária Túry, Watching Television, 1959, Hungary

Angela Hampel, untitled, from Live Wire, 1986, East Germany

Hartmut Beil, Bärbel Bohley, from Silberblick-III, 1989, East Germany

Angela Hampel, untitled, from Silberblick-I, 1989, East Germany

Tina Bara, Angela Hampel, from Silberblick-I, 1989, East Germany


Karin Weickhorst, Christine Schlegel, from Silberblick-I, 1989, East Germany

Tina Bara, untitled, from Silberblick-III, 1989, East Germany

Thomas FlorschĂźtz, untitled, from Live Wire, 1986, East Germany

Claus Bach, Conny + Conny, 1986, East Germany

Claus Bach, Family Batze, 1986, East Germany


SECRET While socialist countries aspired to realize a utopian future, the path to that radiant future was filled with secrecy. In the bipolar world order of the Cold War, with its weapons of mass destruction, both camps aimed to provide security for their people and to maintain the balance of power, or shift it to their advantage, at all costs. Top-secret maps outlined enemy targets and altered coastlines along the Baltic Sea to keep military bases and weapons factories out of sight. Even major environmental disasters such as the explosion in the Chernobyl nuclear plant in April 1986 were not acknowledged until their impact could no longer be denied. Internally, citizens were kept under close surveillance, and “enemies of the state” such as freethinkers, critical artists, and political activists could be put in prisons, mental asylums, and gulags, cut off from public life and, ultimately, from existence.

This unique painting of a Soviet mental asylum depicts a remarkable mixture of people. Some appear mentally or physically ill, while others are merely reading a book or playing the guitar – a possible reference to the fact that under Secretary General Leonid Brezhnev dissident artists and intellectuals were regularly confined in mental institutions. Molodykh was a patient in this asylum; he voluntarily committed himself to fight his alcohol addiction. He added a selfportrait as the seated man facing the viewer in the lower left corner. Stanislav Molodykh, The Asylum, 1982, Soviet Union

Maks Velo, The Dictatorship, 1991, Albania

Maks Velo, Inside the Prison, 1993, Albania

Maks Velo, Monologue, 1992, Albania

Maks Velo, Transportation of the Dead from the Gallery – Spaç Prison 1993, Albania

The artist, architect, poet, author, and journalist Velo was a political prisoner in Albania from 1978 to 1986, and was forced to work in a factory in Tirana from 1986 to 1991, until the High Court of Albania found him innocent of all charges.Velo expressed his traumatic experiences in prison in a series of thirty drawings he generously donated to The Wende Museum. 15

Incomplete Landscape by Joyce van den Berg and Nina Kopp explores the seen and unseen histories of sites along the former Soviet coastlines of the Baltic Sea. Through a combination of contemporary photographs, historic maps, and oral histories, they investigate the legacy of secret landscapes and the traumas they carry.

Joyce van den Berg and Nina Kopp, Hiiumaa,, 2011-2012, Latvia, on loan from the artists

Irbene was a top secret location during the Soviet period, containing the largest radio telescope in Northern Europe, used to spy on NATO communications. The topography and cartography of the period were intentionally misleading; employees who worked at the site did not know where they were located. Joyce van den Berg and Nina Kopp, Irbene, 2011-2012, Latvia, on loan from the artists

The city of Liepaja, situated on a narrow strip of land in the Baltic Sea, was an important harbor for the Soviet navy where submarines were built. Large parts of the region were only accessible to the military. Joyce van den Berg and Nina Kopp, Liepaja, 2011-2012, Latvia, on loan from the artists

These maps labeled “Top Secret� were used by the border patrol (Grenztruppen) and contain invasion and occupation plans for West Berlin. Maps of East and West Berlin, 1970s-1980s, East Germany


Surveillance equipment from East Germany and the Soviet Union

CHANGING The gradual collapse of state socialism in the late 1980s, culminating in the opening of the Austria-Hungary border in June 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall in November of that year, and the ultimate dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, resulted in a radically new spatial environment. Public monuments were toppled, street names revised, and political space effectively turned into commercial space. The citizens of Eastern Europe gained the possibility to travel freely, if they could afford it, but they lost a natural connection to their own past, which was now politically discredited and physically obliterated. History was reinterpreted in accordance with the Western point of view, but personal memories did not always align with the new perspective, and artists found creative and poetic ways to address the tension between history and memory

Michael Kirchoff, Bank of Georgia,Tbilisi, from the series An Enduring Grace, 2016, Georgia

Michael Kirchoff, Bayterek Tower, Astana, from the series An Enduring Grace, 2016, Kazakhstan

Michael Kirchoff, Chesme Church, St. Petersburg, from the series An Enduring Grace, 2016, Russia


Maurizio Camagna, Binz – Strandpromenade, “Müther-Turm”, 2016, Germany

Created by highly acclaimed East German artist Gerhard Bondzin in 1970 at the entrance to the Department of Architecture, Ingenieurhochschule für Bauwesen (today Brandenburgische Technische Universität) in Cottbus. Bondzin served as President of the Verband der bildenden Künstler from 1970 to 1974. Maurizio Camagna, Cottbus – Universitätsstraße,Wandbild “Mensch und Bildung”, 2016, Germany

Maurizio Camagna, Greifswalderstraße, Ernst-Thälmann-Denkmal, 2016, Germany

Margret Hoppe, Stoiu Todorov, Unity of the Struggle…, 1975, metal and concrete, Buzludzha, 2007, Bulgaria

Margret Hoppe, tefanow, Lewiew, Iwanow, Mosaic 1975, Buzludzha Monument, 2007, Bulgaria


Cold War Spaces was organized by Chief Curator Joes Segal and Curatorial Associate Amanda Roth, with support from Silvia van Bergeijk, Nicole Carroll, Kate Dollenmayer, Jenny McGough, Jessica Hoffmann, Eva Molina, Katie Osterkamp, Max Perrette, Christine Rank, and Katie Strobel. Special thanks to Maurizio Camagna and Michael Kirchoff for their generous donation of artwork, and to the Archive of Modern Conflict, Margret Hoppe, Eve Lichtgarn, and Gerd Ludwig for their kind loans.


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Cold War Spaces  

Political power relations, economic structures, and cultural ideas impact the way we experience, envision, and structure our environment. Th...

Cold War Spaces  

Political power relations, economic structures, and cultural ideas impact the way we experience, envision, and structure our environment. Th...