Cold War Nostalgia Spawns Museums, Memorabilia Trades

Article excerpt

The Cold War is very hot. As in chic.

Though the Soviet Union collapsed a decade ago, many of us remain fixated on those haunting decades of doomsday, duck-and-cover and consummate evil.

There is a quirky cache here.

Anyone for a steel control clock from a decommissioned Tupolev long-range bomber? This one was part of the mechanism for dropping the big one - and built to last 500 years.

It costs $350 from Sovietski, a San Diego-based company that sells Cold War icons - from KGB liquor flasks to "Excellent Propagandist" medals, Kremlin silverware and bomber ejection seats ($1,450 "as is").

"The Cold War was a defining historical time for lots of people," said Mitch Siegler, who founded the company in 1992. "The entire political landscape changed, and it was on our watch. You don't get over that."

Ironically, Cold War nostalgia is surfacing in Russia as communist factions attract support from a citizenry disillusioned by a failing economy and social reforms.

"Anti-Western hysteria rages," said one recent Moscow Times commentary.

"They are bombarding Yugoslavia to later bomb Moldova, Ukraine and on to Moscow," nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky told the Russian parliament earlier this month. "World War III against Russia may start in June."

Such rumblings have not dissuaded Mr. Siegler. His merchandise - found on several visits to the former Soviet Union - falls into such categories as Kremlin Basement, KGB/Spy Gear, Cold War and Arbat Street. He is not alone.

There's always Fort Worth-based Russian Island, which sells Soviet uniforms, or Fallout Products, an on-line company that peddles Cold War "medals" made from Soviet SS11 missile scrap.

"Fallout Products hopes that these unique and attractive medals will bring you a mutually assured sense of closure and irony to an event of major historical importance," the company advises.

"Fascination persists with the Cold War because it was a time when we hunkered down for the long haul," said Peter Bondanella, an Indiana University professor who organized a four-day "Cold War Culture" conference in February. …