The East German Travel Cadre System as Soft Power Capacity in the Cold War

26. Brown Bag Breakfast mit Astrid Hedin

Do, 9.1.2020, 9:30
Berliner Kolleg Kalter Krieg
Zimmerstraße 56
10117 Berlin


Nur auf Einladung.



Much social theory takes for granted that transnational people-to-people dialogue is inherently liberal in process and content – a haven of everyday authenticity that shelters ideas of human rights and democratic reform. In contrast, this contribution shows how communist regimes built and institutionalised an encompassing administrative state capacity to control and shape micro-level professional contacts with the West. This extensive but secret system of coercion, which was brought to light only with the opening of former communist regime archives, set a markedly illiberal framework for everyday East–West deliberations during the Cold War. Effectively, the travel cadre system may not only have delayed the demise of Soviet bloc communism by isolating the population from Western influences. It was also intended to serve as a vehicle for the discursive influence of Soviet type regimes on the West. The presentation examines the administrative routines of a communist regime travel cadre system, based on the East German example. Furthermore, it sets up a micro-level ‘how it could work’ scheme over how travel cadre systems can be understood as a state capacity, unique to totalitarian regimes, to help sway political discourse in open societies.

Astrid Hedin is Associate Professor of Political Science at the Department of Global Political Studies (GPS), Malmö University, Sweden. During the year 2020, she is the Sabbatical Scholar of the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences (RJ).