Thursday, May 16, 2013

MAP: Cold War Travel Restricitions in Oneida County (1953)

According to a map posted on, Soviet citizens visiting the US in the 1950s would have had lots of things to see in Oneida County, as long as they all were able to be seen in Utica ! Quoting largely from the Slate article, the restrictions were because a National Security Council directive, issued on Jan. 3, 1955, that allowed some “Soviet citizens in possession of valid Soviet passports” into the country, while extending controls previously placed only on visiting Soviet diplomats and official representatives to apply to their travel as well.

The map below shows where Soviet citizens, who were required to have a detailed itinerary approved before obtaining a visa, could and could not go during their time in the United States. As you can see, all of Oneida County appears to be in a restricted zone (the green colored areas in central NY State); this was undoubtedly the result of Griffiss Air Force Base being located in Rome. However one notable except was made for travel purposes. Soviet travel to the City of Utica was, in fact, allowed despite it being located in a otherwise "no-traveling" area.
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The restrictions established in 1953 mirrored Soviet constraints on American travel to the USSR. Both the United States and the Soviet Union had closely controlled the movement of all foreign visitors since World War II. A 1952 law in the U.S. barred the admission of all Communists, and therefore of Soviet citizens. (An exception was made for government officials.) As of early 1955, citizens of either nation could enter approximately 70 percent of the other’s territory, including 70 percent of cities with populations greater than 100,000. Travel restrictions on Soviet private citizens stayed in place, enforced by the Departments of State and Justice, until the Kennedy administration unilaterally lifted them in 1962 as a symbol of the openness of American society.