Home News Chilly Warfare Heritage in Sweden: Pastime Threats, Cosy Cavers and Gendered Nostalgia

Chilly Warfare Heritage in Sweden: Pastime Threats, Cosy Cavers and Gendered Nostalgia


In Sweden, a nation that traditionally has nurtured a self-image of being impartial, peaceable and gender progressive, initiatives have not too long ago been applied to protect the reminiscence of the Chilly Warfare. As an example, since 2005, greater than 20 navy institutions from the interval have been changed into museums with state funding. Moreover, many stakeholders outdoors of nationwide reminiscence establishments, from entrepreneurs and civil society organizations to fanatics and non-profit teams, have transformed former navy websites into vacationer institutions and residential or leisure areas (Frihammar, Krohn Andersson, Wendt, Åse 2021). This improvement has an attention-grabbing sociocultural aspect, as legacies of navy actions are central in nationwide narratives. Thus, Sweden stands out as an intriguing case through which an in depth navy heritage must be reconciled with the distinguished nationwide narratives of peace and neutrality. One other attention-grabbing side considerations Swedish militarisation and the related beliefs of masculine safety in relation to the nationwide rhetoric of gender equality (Kronsell 2012).

Examples on this essay come from the analysis challenge Making a Military Heritage. Gender and Nation in Sweden’s Cold War History, a collaboration between researchers from the fields of gender research, ethnology, political science and structure historical past. The challenge combines Feminist Worldwide Relations and Crucial Heritage Research with the overarching goal of understanding how gender and nation develop into important when reminiscences and remnants of the Chilly Warfare start to be understood, displayed and thought of as heritage. Within the challenge as an entire, a variety of chilly conflict heritages are scrutinized. On this essay, the exposition begins with a quick description of the militarization in Sweden through the Chilly Warfare, adopted by a presentation of a number of the methods through which navy amenities have been re-used for various functions for the reason that finish of the Chilly Warfare. It continues by directing the highlight on a particular sort of conflict remnant, particularly, bunkers and shelters. Right here, the goal is to reveal how these deserted, distant and presumably secret amenities in the present day appeal to a particular form of fanatic, so-called ‘bunkerologists’ (Bennett 2013), drawing consideration to the manufacturing of masculinity as a structuring precept in the middle of actions. Why do these males, as a result of it’s virtually completely males, search out outdated deserted navy installations from the Chilly Warfare? What sort of nostalgia do outdated bunkers activate? How does it entail gender?

A number of research have analysed the manufacturing, utilization and enactments of conflict and chilly conflict heritage as political, cultural, aesthetic and financial assets (Frihammar & Silverman 2018; Gegner & Ziino 2012; Rampley 2012; MacDonald 2009; Schofield & Cocroft 2007). Nevertheless, in international locations that lack current and intensive expertise of lively warring, resembling Sweden, navy heritage processes stay a comparatively unexplored phenomenon (with some exceptions: Axelsson and Persson 2016; Feldmann 2013; Cronqvist 2012; Linderoth 2011).

Within the evaluation, heritage refers to processes by means of which the previous turns into a useful resource for, and in, the current. Heritage is thus conceptualized as a course of that establishes connections between reminiscence, identification and particular objects and locations (Harrison 2013; Smith 2006; Harvey 2001). The reuses and reinterpretations of the bunkers and shelters are seen as processes the place the bunkerologists check out and/or negotiate gender roles, particularly masculinity. Gender is right here theorized because the creation of identification, whereas totally different norms, beliefs and preconditions work together and the place masculinity and femininity are produced as opposites (Connell 1995). Given the navy character of this particular heritage, the division between a masculinized protecting place versus a femininized protected place turns into central to the evaluation (Åse 2016).

Sweden, a Peace-Loving Nation?

Sweden didn’t take an lively half in neither the First World Warfare nor the Second World Warfare (and was not, in contrast to its neighbouring international locations, occupied). The picture of Sweden as impartial and peaceable has been, and continues to be, reproduced with emphasis. Certainly, the phrase ‘Sweden has not been in a conflict in 200 years’ is an often-repeated saying within the nationwide geopolitical debate. Nevertheless, describing Sweden as a nation with out navy expertise is just not true. Throughout World Warfare II, Sweden deployed a coverage of neutrality, and after the conflict, Sweden needed to preserve its impartial place. A paradoxical consequence was that to make the impartial place credible, a big weapons business and lively weapons export have been thought-about crucial. Since Sweden was properly stocked in comparison with the international locations that had participated in WWII, the weapons business grew quick and Sweden grew to become, and nonetheless is, among the many world’s largest arms exporters.

One instance of expansive weapons exportation is the ‘success’ of the recoilless rifle named Carl Gustaf (which by custom is a royal identify in Sweden; for instance, the current king of Sweden goes by the identify Carl XVI Gustaf). The weapon, also referred to as the Gustaf Bazooka, was first developed in 1946 and continues to be in manufacturing. It’s in the present day utilized by many armies all over the world and has develop into so frequent that it has been given numerous nicknames in numerous navy nationwide contexts; British troops name it ‘Charlie G’, Canadian troops ‘Carl G’, the U.S. military ‘The Goose’ or ‘Carl Johnson’, and in Australia, it’s known as ‘Charlie Gutsache’. It has been in use in various wars (the Falklands Warfare, Lebanese Civil Warfare, Gulf Warfare, Kargil Warfare, Warfare in Afghanistan, Iraq Warfare, Eelam Warfare IV, Libyan Civil Warfare, and Syrian Civil Warfare, amongst others).

A consequence of the appreciable cultural affect of the politics of neutrality was that obligatory male conscription was deemed crucial (Åselius 2005; cf Agrell 2010). This meant that every yr, roughly 40,000 younger males have been engaged in navy coaching. The residents’ relation to, and expertise of, navy defence was thus explicitly gendered. The obligatory conscription system lasted till 2010, when it was changed with fight items.

Sweden was extremely engaged in constructing a navy in addition to a civil defence through the Chilly Warfare interval. Within the Sixties, Sweden had one of many largest air forces on the earth, consisting of greater than 4,000 plane. As well as, Sweden had among the many highest charges of bomb shelters per capita on the earth (Hörnfeldt 2015; Cronqvist 2008). Paradoxically, regardless of the routinely repeated nationwide ‘outdated music of peace’ (Burch 2013), militarization has been a cornerstone in Swedish welfare society through the Chilly Warfare. If the metaphor ‘Folkhemmet’, ‘the Peoples dwelling’ was used to explain the cosy inside of the Swedish welfare state, ‘the folks’s defence’ (folkförsvaret) could be described because the chilly onerous protecting floor (se additionally Cronqvist 2012). The nationwide rhetoric of peace and neutrality has all the time been paralleled by a profound militarization, the traces of which in the present day are present in each nook of Swedish territory within the type of deserted bunkers, rebuilt shelters, and overgrown concrete anti-tank obstacles. If you understand how to look, you will notice that the Swedish city and rural landscapes are literally filled with navy provisions. Moreover, the sociocultural panorama is fashioned by the Chilly Warfare militarization, as virtually each Swedish man born earlier than 1990 has first-hand expertise with navy coaching. Moreover, Swedish arms have been utilized in most wars and armed conflicts all over the world.

The top of the Chilly Warfare meant a radical change within the Swedish defence technique, together with a basic downsizing and professionalization of the Swedish navy forces. Nevertheless, obligatory conscription, which was deserted in 2010, has not too long ago been reinstated. Importantly, a radical change within the new system is that enlistment is now gender impartial and consists of each ladies and men. The obligatory male conscription that fashioned a detailed relationship between the armed forces and the male citizen and made masculine protector beliefs central to the Swedish Chilly Warfare expertise (Åse 2016) has ended. In different phrases, the system that had strengthened gendered citizenship (Kronsell 2012; Sundevall 2011; Eduards 2007;) by underpinning a male protecting privilege (Younger 2003; Tickner 2001) was changed by a system that equalled the co-responsibility of ladies and men to serve within the identify of the nation.

The heritagization of navy installations in Sweden stands out as attention-grabbing, given the complexities related to a postwar identification based mostly on neutrality, internationalism and peace-building (Stråth 2000), together with the ‘deep militarization’ that characterised Swedish society through the postwar period (Kronsell 2012) in addition to later adjustments in regard to gender facets.

Other ways to reuse navy amenities

The quantity of provisions left from the Chilly Warfare period has supplied a variety of various methods to reuse the amenities. A standard method has been to rebuild deserted firm homes for housing or on a regular basis practices resembling places of work. Within the metropolis of Ystad, for instance, an entire regimental space has acquired civilian capabilities. Comparable developments could be seen in Skövde, Linköping, Karlstad, Sollefteå, Karlskrona, Borås, Strängnäs, Kristinehamn, Västerås, Vaxholm, Örebro Boden and Kiruna. On northern Gotland, the Bungenäs space, which was beforehand a closed navy coaching space with many bunkers and air defences, has in the present day been redesigned into luxurious vacation lodging. Right here, the navy installations are used to create a Chilly Warfare aesthetic (for an additional evaluation of Bungenäs, see Åse & Wendt 2021 and Frihammar & Krohn Andersson 2020)

Many navy settings have been changed into convention centres or resorts. One instance is Airbase F4 in Jämtland, which closed in 2005 and is now the High quality Lodge Frösö Park and Convention Heart. One other is Hemsö Fästning, close to Härnösand. Through the 20th century, considered one of Sweden’s largest defence amenities, has been relaunched as ‘A bulletproof attraction for the entire household’, the place you possibly can take a look at radar tools and command and management rooms, in addition to eat your Christmas lunch.

As talked about, many milieus have been changed into official, or semi-official, museums (for an in-depth evaluation of a number of the exhibitions see Wendt 2021). Determine 1 and Determine 2 (see under) present examples from Gothenburg’s Aeroseum, a former hangar in a cavern of twenty-two,000 m2, and from the Military’s defence museum at Boden within the north of Sweden.

The brand new museum style that has developed within the wake of the downsizing of navy actions and the community gathering navy museums (https://www.smha.se/) rely barely greater than 25 museums. They’re labelled ‘expertise museums’ and are all particularly focused in direction of kids and are linked to the Swedish navy heritage community. However, nevertheless attention-grabbing these museums and curated exhibitions could also be discovered, they don’t appear to completely fulfill one sort of ‘bunker connoisseur’, that’s, the so-called bunkerologists (Bennett 2012). Bunkerologists are (virtually solely) males who search to fulfill a want to revive the environment of the Chilly Warfare by visiting deserted navy websites of their spare time. The particular setting through which the Chilly Warfare feeling appears to be activated is deserted and former secret bomb shelters and bunkers. In Sweden, there may be an in depth community of individuals fully engaged in this kind of exploration of deserted bunkers. The identical phenomenon can be present in different nationwide contexts (see for instance Bennett 2017). The mono-masculine group composition has been defined by the truth that bunkers carry collectively a number of traits that attraction to males by customized and custom (Bennet 2012). On this essay, the method is one other; that the bunkers are interpreted as areas full of nostalgic masculinity by means of heritagization.

Cosy Cavers

In Sweden, one node on this nostalgic manufacturing of that means community is a Fb group known as Svenska hemligheter/Svenska hemliga rum that interprets to Swedish secrets and techniques/Secret Swedish rooms. The group has roughly 50,000 members who share footage from their shelter/bunker excursions, the situation of hidden deserted shelters, common info on Swedish navy historical past and so forth. The next evaluation relies on the feed within the Fb group and on interviews with acknowledged bunker fanatics. I’ll describe picture content material, however because of moral concerns, I cannot publish any footage. Nevertheless, I’ll cite a number of the feedback translated from Swedish to English, the place the transformation from one language to a different will make it troublesome to hint every quotation to the supply.

One publish presents a collection of images from what seems to be a relatively giant house. The partitions are product of concrete. In a single image, there are seventeen purple metallic rounds, roughly one metre in diameter, organized beside and above a purple door. It’s troublesome for a nonexpert to know the perform of the metallic rounds, however they provide a fairly aesthetic impression. One other image reveals a building of concrete beams and the silhouettes of three individuals in dragging backlight. Solely elements of the partitions, flooring and roof are reached by the supply of sunshine. The remark that accompanies the images reads: ‘A small revisit to one of many coolest [places] I’ve ever skilled, a number of thousand sq. metres of pure love of moisture, rock and concrete. The ability continues to be in use in the present day, however for one thing fully totally different.’

One other publish reveals an image taken from the highest of a staircase that’s forged in concrete. The partitions are additionally concrete, with elements of uncovered rocks right here and there. On the backside of the staircase, you see a dusky wall (additionally concrete) with a partly open grid door, however it’s not attainable to see what’s inside. The handrails that run alongside the steps intensify the sloping perspective of the image. The roof is at nighttime. The remark reads: ‘My fiancé requested me what makes me completely happy! I despatched this image as a solution’. A 3rd publish reveals a darkish image, the place you barely see the contours of a really worn and damp room. An iron handrail and an iron door are filled with rust. The one remark accompanying the photograph says: ‘Longing’. Nevertheless, one other suite of images demonstrates the identical form of milieus, however provides {a photograph} from an empty hall the place a torch lights up the open doorways alongside the partitions. It could appear to be a depressing, deserted place, however the remark is cheerful: ‘Caverns, verify. Flashlight, verify. Drawings, verify. Good firm, verify. A Thursday evening can’t be higher. Smiley’.

The sample continues, publish after publish, with images of darkish caverns with enthusiastic and constructive feedback. One image displaying a cavern asks: ‘Have you learnt the scent?’. This remark could be regarded in mild of a solution from an interview with a bunker fanatic. When requested how he knew if a facility he simply discovered was a great spot, he stated: ‘It’s the scent! I do know this can sound nerdy, however I additionally know many will perceive what I imply. As a result of we regularly discuss in regards to the scent, this can be a good mountain, as a result of it smells!’

Subsequent to a photograph of an analogous cavern in one other publish, whose byline says ‘Enjoyable’. ‘2500 sq. metres of damp, frost, darkness and pure love’ is one other remark. The vast majority of images are with out folks. The talked about silhouettes are an exception, as is the kid in a single image, the place the byline says, utilizing symbols: ‘👻❌Father&Son day❤’. In some circumstances, an expression has been taken discover of and begins to be reused. One instance is the best way of describing the expertise as ‘cosy’, as in ‘Sunday Cosiness’, ‘Cosy Saturday snow’, ‘Good Friday Cosiness’ and ‘Cosy Friday with two mates’.

How lets perceive these enthusiastic and emotional footage and feedback? Why do the caverns make the boys, as a result of that is completely males, really feel love, be relaxed, be completely happy, delighted and thrilled? In what method do they discover a damp and uncooked bunker cosy? What’s it within the scent that makes them sparkle with pleasure?

Bunkers as Homo-Social Retreats

Within the Fb feed, references to violence stay latent. The pictures do, in some circumstances, talk emotions of risk by accentuating the locations as harmful or outdoors the protecting guidelines of society. Nevertheless, what’s primarily reproduced is neighborhood and cohesion between the members of the group. In a homo-social course of, the uncooked and worn bodily constructions are reinterpreted as cosy, enjoyable and in different methods fascinating. The connotation of social consideration can be mirrored in considered one of our interviews, when a bunker fanatic said that he sees the shelters and bunkers of the Chilly Warfare as reflections of a state that really cared for its residents (in distinction to modern society). In these contexts, the bunkers are made to talk of the Chilly Warfare as a interval of unity, collective group and safety.

Nevertheless, by means of an analytical shift of perspective, an exciting trace of danger and loss of life could be seen in meaning-making surrounding the bunkers. The amenities’ ‘raison d’etre’, purpose for being, is said to the chance of conflict, whether or not it was to supply your life whereas defending the nation or to kill the enemy. By dwelling in these remaining fragments of Sweden’s as soon as sturdy folks’s defence, the bunkerologists develop into linked to the final word image of masculine bravery—the sacrifice of life on the battlefield whereas defending the nation. Because the bunkers are understood retrospectively, the idea of nostalgia is critical to know what that is about: the timespan contributes an evocative dimension within the narrative of the Chilly Warfare. The literary scholar Svetlana Boym (2001) describes nostalgia as greater than a person emotion. Moderately, nostalgia needs to be seen as a ‘symptom of our age’, which is a sentiment produced by modernity’s tendency to know time as fixed change. Nostalgia is thus a productive craving for one thing totally different, the place the previous is used as a projection floor. On this, nostalgia is the development of beliefs. The paradox is that these best photos of the previous in a basic method are decided by current wants and have bearing on how the long run is perceived. Nevertheless, nostalgia is to not be understood as a particular emotion. In distinction, nostalgia is ambiguous in its nature and operates in a discipline of rigidity between two kinds of reminiscences: the restorative sort and the reflective sort. Restorative nostalgia stresses the prefix nostos, homecoming. This fashion of understanding the previous is just not regarded as nostalgia however relatively as reality and custom and expresses a will to reconstruct a house that has been misplaced. Reflective nostalgia, then again, stresses the suffix of the phrase, álgos, the ache or ache, underpinning the longing, considering the adjustments of time, considering nostalgically of instances which have previous.

There are not any absolute boundaries between the 2 varieties, however they replicate totally different attitudes in direction of, and makes use of of, the previous. Restorative nostalgia protects what is regarded as absolutely the reality, whereas reflective nostalgia calls it into doubt. The remodeling of the previous within the current by means of the examples I’ve given oscillates between a restorative and a reflective modus. On the one hand, the nostalgic body burdened is the earlier worldwide instability and risk of a conflict or a nuclear bomb. However, the time hole itself appears to work as a form of sandpaper, submitting the scariest edges down, leaving a streamlined model of historical past. The nostalgic modus facilitates the paradoxical (re)manufacturing of the picture of Sweden as impartial and peacekeeping inside a navy milieu.

A Freudian interpretation of the male craze for deserted bunkers is likely to be that it has to do with male penetration. This understanding can also be nurtured by a passage from one of many interviews the place a drive to be the primary to discover a facility that’s untouched is claimed to be the motor in bunker exploration, a form of post-military deflowering ritual. Nevertheless, departing from an ethnological perspective, the male exploration of deserted bunkers is best understood in cultural phrases, not psychotically. In a nationwide context the place the male safety monopoly has been put out of order, paralleled with a common devaluation of different male privileges, maybe the bunkers supply a time journey again to a interval when navy masculinity and masculine violence have been sanctioned and saluted by the state. I, subsequently, suggest that deserted bunkers could be regarded as protecting ‘Man Caves’. They have been constructed by and for males; subsequently, males belong to the bunkers. They’re present in distant areas, which no person outdoors the neighborhood will discover. The sharing of secret areas contributes to a way of belonging. In different phrases, the bunkers develop into arenas for performances of gendered safety and a nostalgic reenactment of a male protecting privilege.

In abstract, regardless of Sweden,’s picture unfold each internally and externally, because the anthesis of navy conflicts and conflict, the Chilly Warfare interval in Sweden was characterised by a complete defence technique leading to a deeply militarized society. Whereas rhetorically framing the welfare state as a technique to create an inclusive ‘folks’s dwelling’, the Swedish geopolitics of neutrality nurtured investments within the weapons business and exports. The obligatory conscription system, together with all male residents, gendered the expertise of being the protector of the nation, reinforcing a gender binarity of citizenship. After the downsizing of the Swedish navy defence group after the Chilly Warfare, which left innumerable navy provisions with out care or objective, a manifold of actors re-interpreted the remnants as heritage. Analysing the nostalgically pushed bunkerolog motion, this essay has proven how deserted bunkers and shelters from the Chilly Warfare in the present day function arenas for the manufacturing of a protecting masculinity. On this heritagization, the picture of the Swedish welfare society with a powerful defence military serves as a really perfect, in distinction to in the present day’s gender-neutral conscription system. The presumed gender binary and heterosexuality of the previous social order make method for a story of a male navy hero who is ready to kill and to be killed within the identify of the nation.


Determine 1: Inside from Military of Defence Museum in Boden. Photograph by Mattias Frihammar.

Determine 2: Inside from Aeroseum in Gothenburg. Photograph: Mattias Frihammar.


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