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THE COLD WAR NARRATIVE IN THE SWEDISH POPULAR CULTURE  

Abstract

Kim Salomon


The Cold War has primarily been understood in terms of high politics or foreign policy. In general historians and political scientists in their analysis use the same key concepts as the actors did such as deterrence, arms race, détente etc. The end of the Cold War offers, however, new possibilities to study the phenomenon. Political identities are not at stake and the Cold War does not engage our passions anymore. Although it is not first and foremost a question of new political interpretations of the dramatic era. Rather it is a question of new perspectives.

The perspective I find fruitful and of great importance in order to understand and grasp the dynamic of the Cold War is focusing on perceptions and how these perceptions contributed to the construction of the Cold War. It is obviously that perceptions mattered profoundly throughout the Cold War. The starting point in my presentation is narratives in the popular press. These narratives are not necessarily about the two blocks in deadly serious competition for influence across the globe, and they could hardly be defined as deliberately propaganda or political rhetoric. They are dealing with everyday life, for example the behavior of the Soviet marines visiting Stockholm, an ice-hockey match or a beauty contest in Leningrad. Interesting is that these narratives during the dramatic era very often are permeated and imbued with cold war stereotypes and conceptions although the articles as such don’t deal with the Cold War politics. But these narratives are a reality and create a reality and therefore important in order to understand how perceptions contributed to shape the contrasting ideologies and how people are drawn into political beliefs and spurred into action of any sort. Narratives about
everyday phenomenon create political identity and meaning to the same degree as narrations about the Cuba Missile Crises and the Korean War and the clash between Moscow and Washington. It is not always what happened that is significant, but how it is described and explained.