Cold War Coasts is a research project funded by the Swedish research council FORMAS. It explores the pervasive role of the military in shaping the Baltic Sea’s coastal landscapes since 1945 – and the practical challenges that the legacies from the Cold War period give rise to today. Our point of departure is a dissatisfaction with the “methodological nationalism” that so far characterizes nearly all research in the intersection between military, environmental and cultural history. We counter this by developing a genuinely transnational approach, scrutinizing how coastal landscapes on opposite shores have been – and continue to be – “co-produced”.
The project targets three broadly defined regions in Sweden and the former Soviet Union: Stockholm’s archipelago plus Gotland; northeastern Estonia’s archipelago and coasts; and southern Latvia’s militarized coastscapes. Using a diverse range of sources, from official state and military documents and environmental reports to literary narratives and own on-site observations, the project will result in four journal articles and, more unconventionally, an exhibition, which will be displayed at four sites in Sweden, Estonia and Latvia.
The project pushes the international research frontier in the environmental-military history nexus and hopes to stimulate a vivid debate at local, national and international levels about Cold War legacies in an era of escalating tensions in the Baltic Sea region and growing fears of both environmental devastation and renewed militarization in Europe.