1955 Map Shows No-Go Zones for Soviet Travelers in the U.S.

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
May 15 2013 11:15 AM

1955 Map Shows No-Go Zones for Soviet Travelers in the U.S.

The Vault is Slate's new history blog. Like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter @slatevault; find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

If you were one of select few private Soviet citizens granted permission to visit the United States in 1955, you could take in a Cubs game or ski Jackson Hole, but if you wanted to sample Memphis barbecue or check out the factories in Youngstown, Ohio, you’d be out of luck. That’s because a National Security Council directive had, on Jan. 3, 1955, allowed some “Soviet citizens in possession of valid Soviet passports” into the country, while extending controls previously placed on visiting Soviet diplomats and official representatives to apply to their travel.

This map 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. Most ports, coastlines, and weapons facilities were off-limits, as were industrial centers and several cities in the Jim Crow South.

Advertisement

These restrictions 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.)  

The Soviets’ decision to relax their controls after Joseph Stalin’s death in March 1953 left the U.S. open to charges that it, not the USSR, was operating behind an Iron Curtain. President Eisenhower and his foreign policy advisers decided to mimic Soviet policy as closely as possible: 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. Controls on visits from journalists and government officials, by contrast, lingered until the end of the Cold War. As the recent story of the American diplomat arrested in Moscow on charges of CIA recruitment activities suggests, the history of mutual suspicion still occasionally surfaces.

Map of Prohibited Areas

Image courtesy of the Rockefeller Archive Center. Item record: Rockefeller Family Archives (III) Record Group: 4 Nelson A. Rockefeller – Personal, Series: Washington D.C Files, Subseries: O.9 Special Assistant to the President Declassified Materials, 1954-1956, 1969 Box: 4 Folder 94.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 30 2014 2:36 PM This Court Erred The Supreme Court has almost always sided with the wealthy, the privileged, and the powerful, a new book argues.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Lexicon Valley
Sept. 30 2014 1:23 PM What Can Linguistics Tell Us About Writing Better? An Interview with Steven Pinker.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 6:44 PM Ebola Was Already Here How the United States contains deadly hemorrhagic fevers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.