Swedish Military Bases of the Cold War: The Making of a New Cultural Heritage
Per Strömberg: Centre of Experience Economy, BI Norwegian School of Management, Norway
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Theme: Uses of the Past – Nordic Historical Cultures in a Comparative Perspective
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The fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union completely transformed the military-political situation in the Nordic countries. The movement from invasion defence to input defence in Sweden has made many of the subterranean modern fortresses and permanent defence systems of the Cold War unnecessary. The current problem is what the administration authorities will do with the superfluous military buildings: let them fall into decay, preserve or reuse them – and for what purpose?

The aim of this article is to describe and analyze the cultural as well as spatial foundation of a new genre of heritage industry in Sweden – the cultural heritage of the Cold War – whose value is negotiated through a range of processes by the different stakeholders involved – emotional, social and cultural processes as well as legal and economic processes. The subterranean fortresses of Hemsö and Aspö are used as empirical case studies in the article. They both describe the making of a cultural heritage and illustrate the problems related to the ambitions of converting cultural heritage into tourist attractions.

One of the conclusions is that the previous making of the industrial cultural heritage in the 1980s and 1990s has many things in common with the one of the Cold War. The “post-military” landscape of bunkers and rusting barbed wires is regarded with the same romanticism and with similar preservation ideologies and economic interests as the post-industrial landscape was earlier. Similar negotiation issues appear, and these negotiations are carried out by similar stakeholders. The difference is that the military culture heritage of the Cold War was developed through a deeply centralized selection process directed by administration authorities, but was also influenced by certain persuasion campaigns and preservation actions made by local stakeholders such as retired officers and municipality administrations.

Keywords: The Cold War; cultural heritage; tourist attractions; military bases; post-military society; regional development; Sweden

Volume 2, Theme:: Theme: Uses of the Past – Nordic Historical Cultures in a Comparative Perspective, Article 36, 2010

Per Strömberg
Swedish Military Bases of the Cold War: The Making of a New Cultural Heritage
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