Exploring the ruins of the Cold War
by Dawid Kobiałka on
The Cold War was one of the most significant geopolitical conflicts of the twentieth century. It's no wonder that, decades on, cinema is still exploring the motif. Stanley Kubrick's film Dr. Stranglelove (1959) and the James Bond series are just two well-known examples out of many.
The Cold War has not only fascinated film directors. It has recently become research focus for archaeologists as well.
Between military installations, nuclear bunkers, spy equipment, and a trail of documentation, the Cold War left behind a massive material legacy in many countries that is fascinating to study for its physical and human dimensions. (In fact, universities run courses on it.)
Archaeology is not only about material culture from the distant past, such as Pompeii or potsherds dating back to the Neolithic. It is also about material remains from times that have only just passed. Such archaeology is usually called the "archaeology of the recent past" or the "archaeology of the contemporary past." It explores what material items (including ruins) can tell us about material culture, memory, and decay in the recent past.
The archaeology of the recent past has one distinct advantage over the archaeology of ancient world: many more different kinds of artifacts survive to tell the tale of their times. We are very much in favor of such archaeology.
In this short photo essay, we present the results of one of our surveys that took place on 25-26 May 2013. We explored and documented Soviet ruins in Poland that are left over from the Cold War. We present below two places that we visited.
The first place was a secret base in Brzeźnica-Kolonia, where nuclear weapons were stored for three decades. It was the place from which the first nuclear missiles would have been launched if the Soviet Union had begun the Third World War.
The second place is very close to the first one. It is the remains of a secret town called Kłomino where Soviet soldiers lived. Today, both places are abandoned and decaying. They are a vanishing recent past that calls for archaeological studies before they completely disappear.
Authored with Kornelia Kajda, Maksymilian Frąckowiak (Adam Mickiewicz University)
Even though it is called a 'ghost town,' the landscape is very alive.