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The Icon CurtainThe Cold War's Quiet Border$
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Yuliya Komska

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226154190

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226154220.001.0001

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Ruins of the Cold War

(p.32) Chapter One Conditions
The Icon Curtain

Yuliya Komska

University of Chicago Press

Following the creation of Czechoslovakia’s border security zone, adjacent settlements lay in ruins. For their former Sudeten German residents, the area’s dismal condition was a precondition for the “prayer wall,” expected to compensate for the losses. This chapter interprets their documentation of Eastern-bloc destruction as an attempt to validate new construction to the border’s west. It posits that photography, a medium essential for the task, faced a major challenge. Images of Cold War debris ran up against the formidable pictorial rubble legacies of World War II and the postwar period. Photography’s ability to point to a clear referent—its indexicality—verged on collapse. The chapter details how the aspiring chroniclers of Cold War ruins tackled this predicament.

Keywords:   Sudeten German, ruins, rubble, destruction, documentation, medium, photography, postwar, indexicality

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