The places Soviet tourists could not visit in the 1950s


69 Responses to “The places Soviet tourists could not visit in the 1950s”

  1. Fantome_NR says:

    At first I was like, “why were they banned from going to Long Island?” Then I realized that Long Island and Connecticut must have been off limits presumably because there was (is?) a big submarine base and Navy shipbuilding facilities in CT on the LI Sound.

    • jkonrath says:

      Grumman was the largest corporate employer in Long Island during the cold war.  They were mostly into Navy planes back then, although a decade later, they were building Apollo LEMs.

  2. Aaron Henton says:

    I grew up in Kansas in the zone closed to travel.  That part of Kansas during this time period, and up into the late 1980′s or early 1990′s, was home to numerous missle silos.  There was one about 10 miles from my hometown in rural KS, and others throughout the region.  I believe that they are all now decomissioned.  I’m sure that’s the reason for that particular travel restriction.

  3. Christopher says:

    “Kansas City, Kansas, proves that even Kansas City needn’t always be Missourible.”
    -Ogden Nash

  4. Navin_Johnson says:

    Frightening to think that a lot of the lakefront and most of Chicagoland was peppered with Nike missile sites back in the day….

    • James Penrose says:

       Why would that be frightening?  I’d think it more frightening to know you are in a major target zone and there is not even an attempt at defense.

      • SwimmingTowardsPie says:

        True enough.  Though even the attempt was pretty much obviated by the development of ICBMs.

      • fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

        Being fairly close to the center of North America(and thus maximum intercept time over friendly territory against bomber groups) is probably about as much ‘defense’ as was ever available during hypothetical WWIII… If SAGE was going to work for any major American city, it was probably Chicago, and ICBMs have no reasonably effective countermeasure to the present day.

    • SwimmingTowardsPie says:

      I consider myself a student of Cold War stuff like this, but evidently I need to read up on Nike sites, because I had *no idea* there were that many around Chicago.

  5. Christopher says:

    I’m a little disappointed that only a small part of eastern Iowa is off-limits. The story of Kruschev meeting Roswell Garst and visiting his farm has always tickled me, and I think it would have taken on an extra level of funniness if it were in an area that was off-limits to Soviet tourists. 

  6. peregrinus says:

    Looks like Hollywood was on the OK list!

    Was that to try and trap guileless movie people taking visits??!

    • sneezl says:

      But it looks like Anaheim/Disneyland was off-limits. Thank Buddha that the Russkis never got their hands on our Haunted Mansion secrets or the true enchantments of the Enchanted Tiki room.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        Perhaps, if they found out what a small world it is, after all, they would have been encouraged to invade.

  7. crenquis says:

    The shores of Lake Superior???
    There must have been a couple violations, since every once in a while a sailor would jump off a Soviet freighter in Duluth, MN and ask for asylum.

  8. xzzy says:

    Someone should do a modern remix of this map, areas forbidden to american citizens. Maybe with an overlay for areas you’ll get hassled by the police for using a camera. 

  9. dpamac says:

    I thought the same thing. Though MD was mostly a) outside of the city and b) located in an area of an airport that was more military than civilian in 1955 (though it did have some civilian flights). It wasn’t until the following year that a passenger terminal was built at Lambert.

  10. SP123 says:

    Main message: No one gives a shit about Florida.

  11. Dave Lloyd says:

    So will we now have recognition that all those tales about how bad travel to the USSR was, was just another form of US propaganda?

    • heckblazer says:

      To my knowledge the US didn’t have a policy of creating grossly inaccurate maps, nor did the US forbid rural residents from leaving their hometown without official authorization and require everyone else to have an internal passport.

      • mindysan33 says:

         I believe we’re working on that now…. at least the “papers please” part. Since you now need documentation to travel internally in the US in a plane…

        • heckblazer says:

          A better example of “papers, please” would be the anti-immigrant laws passed by certain states, since not having the right documents can get people locked up instead.

          I actually can’t think of a good reason to intentionally make maps with the wrong street layout, especially decades after establishing yourself as a global super-power.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        Then how do you explain Demonreach not showing up on maps of Lake Michigan?

  12. Saltine says:

    Some of the banned places are likely banned too because of CPUSA activities in the area. Birmingham, Memphis, and Atlanta strike me as likely possibilities for that reason, since the civil rights struggles in that period often had leadership with current or former ties to the CPUSA (Bayard Rustin is the only person springing to mind at the moment, though I think the Scottsboro Boys received legal aid from the CPUSA).

    • James Gilbreath says:

      Huh, that makes sense. The only thing I could think of is that Birmingham was a major industrial center for steel production and was thus a potential target during the Cuban Missile Crisis. My parents went to school in Birmingham and were heavily drilled in civil defense because of that. Your explanation makes a lot more sense.

      I really wonder about Gadsden, though! Anniston had the army depot full of unexploded ordinance, but I’m not sure what could be in Gadsden that wasn’t in most other Alabama cities.

      • Matt says:

        A number of other banned-but-why-the-fuck-would-you-care places, like my hometown of Johnstown, PA, were also major steel centers in the 1950s.

        Beating the US at steel production was something that Stalin had, to use the technical term, a huge boner for. So whether or not this would have kept any actual Soviet spy out of our steel mills, that does seem to be the rationale.

    • mindysan33 says:

      I think it’s more likely the local nuclear power complexs in the area, more than Rustin. After all, post war, pretty much all of the more mainstream Civil Rights organizations purged their more radical members. Rustin himself, I think renounced his ties with Communists, and I don’t think he was every officially a communist, but a fellow traveler). 

      Maybe there were also  support centers for Oak ridge, which is north of Chattanooga?

      But yeah, Birmingham and Atlanta were major industrial centers in the South, so it’s more that, I think than ties to communism.

  13. Dan Foygel says:

    I would pay very good money for a reprint of that.  Any suggestions for where to procure one?

  14. heckblazer says:

    At the time of the map it actually was the home of  just plain old McDonnell Aircraft.  They didn’t merge with the Douglas Aircraft Company until 1967.  McDonnell was making military hardware though, so this is pedantry that doesn’t affect your point. :)

  15. MarkySparky says:

    I grew up just across the border from SD in NW IA.  We had three Soviet exchange students (through the FFA program my grandparents were involved in) stay at our farm during the summer of circa 1988/9.  I wonder if the restrictions were still in place, because we almost certainly took them to Sioux Falls for restaurants/shopping/etc.  The missile silos didn’t really start to get thick on (in?) the ground until you got more west-river…

    • mindysan33 says:

       I bet at least some of these restrictions were out the door during Detente (late 60s/70s),  and I tihink by 88-89, things were probably pretty wide open (what with Perestroika and Glastnost). This map is from 55, so things were pretty tense (though it’s  drop off, post-Stalin, but it’s about to spike again, with the Kennedy administration).

  16. tré says:

    My first thought as a Minneapolitan: St. Paul has been square for a long time, huh?

  17. jkonrath says:

    You can tell this is a pre-60s map because the east half of North Dakota isn’t restricted.  SAC based B-52s at Grand Forks in ’58, and then in ’65 they started getting Minuteman IIs and the Safeguard ABM install starting in ’67.

  18. Festus says:

    Too bad about San Francisco. But at least they had Oregon. The best of part of the United States is Oregon, anyway.

    • allium says:

       The City itself is open (it’s marked by an open circle) – only the surrounding areas are proscribed. Of course, since SFO is nine miles outside the city limits, getting from there to Market Street might pose a problem – maybe they had to land at Crissy Field?

  19. Dan says:

     It’s not surprising KC, MO is closed to Soviet nationals – the giant GSA facility there manufactured most of our nuclear warheads. Why KC, KS is open is beyond me.

    • Reverend Loki says:

       Also in KCMO:

      Federal Reserve
      IRS Building
      Those underground storage sites

      Nowhere near an inclusive list, of course…

    • SwimmingTowardsPie says:

      I believe the KC plant produced the non-nuclear components.  The nuclear materials themselves at that time were produced in other locations.

  20. The part of Montana that is off-limits had no silos.  The part of Montana that was full of missile silos and a major air force base is open and good to go.  Makes no sense. 

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Possibly…. having a map that shows exactly where the sensitive areas are wasn’t considered a good thing.

  21. scolbath says:

    Somerville, MA?????

    • fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

      MA did a nontrivial amount of the American work on radar during WWII and never stopped doing more military contracting and R&D than its reputation might suggest. I don’t know why Somerville, specifically, was picked; but they probably didn’t want commies skulking around Lincoln labs…

    • Haakon IV says:

      is open.  The rest of Massachusetts (other than the specifically named cities) is closed.

  22. Donald King says:

    Kansas City, Kansas is marked with an open dot on the map, indicating that it is open to Soviet nationals. Kansas City, MO is marked with a solid dot, indicating it is closed to Soviet nationals.

    So the situation was the opposite of what the writer of the article stated.

  23. Halloween_Jack says:

    The wide crescent that starts at about the Quad Cities in Illinois/Iowa and goes south along the Mississippi, includes a big chunk of the lower Ohio River, and then into Tennessee, intrigues me. I was thinking that it was a combination of the river lock/dam system and Oak Ridge, but I wonder if maybe part of it has to do with the New Madrid fault? 

    • Fnordius says:

      I think if I were drawing up a map like this, I would add some areas as off limits just as honeypots. Decoys so that the Soviets would be led astray.

      Er, that doesn’t mean that this is the case, you realise.

  24. James Penrose says:

    Some of it was politics also.  The Soviets had many and complex and frequently changing rules about where American tourists could and could not go and some of ours were in response to those.

    For an intruiging view on visiting Soviet Russia check out that section of Tramp Royale by Robert Heinlein.

  25. Eric Rucker says:

    I wonder what was in Steubenville that the government didn’t want USSR citizens to see.

    Maybe the whole high school football players raping unconscious girls thing goes back quite a bit further than we thought it did?

  26. wgself says:

     ” I wonder what you’re keeping hidden out in rural Nevada?”
    That area of Nevada covers Nellis Air Force base, Area 51 and the Nuclear test range at Tonopah.

  27. SwimmingTowardsPie says:

    As others have mentioned or alluded to, a lot of these locations were probably due to the presence of nuclear weapons development/production infrastructure.  There were many of those facilities in operation in the mid-50s.  Here’s a link to a list compiled by the Brookings Insitution:

    One such site is the Pantex plant near Amarillo, Texas, where basically all the US’s nuclear weapons have been assembled since the early 1950s.  It’s probably the reason the entire Texas Panhandle is off-limits.

    • MadRat says:

      Yup, you’re right.  The first thing I thought of when I saw the map was nuclear production facilities.  

      Hanford in Washington is coverd, so is Savana River in South Carolina.  The INEL in Idaho is off limits along with Rocky Flats in Colorado, Los Alamos and Sandia in New Mexico, Oak Ridge in Tennessee, Mound and Fernald in Ohio, Argonne in Illinois, Brookhaven on Long Island in New York,  Lawrence Livermore in California.  They probably put a large area on the map to make it harder to pinpoint were all the atom bombs were coming from.

  28. If I were making this map, one of my concerns would be that the Soviets might get ahold of it, in which case it would be the “Here’s Where We’ve Located All Our Interesting Stuff” map.  Thus I would definitely add in some areas of no concern, just to keep it vague.

  29. Haakon IV says:

    Sorry, most of New Jersey is off limits. But you can visit Elizabeth, Trenton, and Camden! (also Atlantic City)

  30. A Kaleberg says:

    A lot of this “denied area” stuff was rather arbitrary. There were the obvious denied areas of military and industrial interest, but a lot of things were off limits in the old USSR, so we had a lot of things off limits in the USA. The classic was Kruschev being denied access to Disneyland. He had to make do with a trip to Freedomland in the Bronx. (Actually, Freedomland was pretty neat. I think it’s Coop City or something like that these days.)

  31. pjcamp says:

    It’s ok. They can still go to Arkansas and Mississippi. The trip won’t be a total bust.

  32. CCecil says:

    Well…it is obvious to me why Spokane and areas around it were off limits.  Spokane was surrounded by missile bases.  Then there is Hanford, INEEL and multiple radar bases in the mountains of Idaho.  I am not sure if Fairchild was built when this map was done but I assume so.

  33. nachoproblem says:

    Buh? No solid dot for Huntsville?

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