Off-limits areas: U.S. vs. USSR

During the Cold War, Russian meddling’s worries inspired the United States administration to block Soviet guests from accessing the nation’s large areas. Russians were once forbidden from a 3rd of the U.S. territory, including 30% of cities with populations greater than 100,000.

The map below shows areas that were off-limits to Russians.

1955 Map Shows Off-limits Areas for Soviet Tourists in the U.S.
ff-limits Areas for Soviet Tourists in the United States

Red patches on the map show territory that was unavailable to Soviet tourists. Green circles within the red zones mark cities they were permitted to visit. In some instances, specific roads were assigned for driving through otherwise secured territories. Contrary, red circles show banned places within otherwise open areas, mainly in the Southern states and the Midwest. Most seaports, coastlines, weapons plants, industrial centers, and some cities in the Jim Crow South were off-limits as well.

Moreover, the U.S. Government has established regulations governing photography, sketching, and purchasing aerial photos and maps of scale large the 1:250,000 in the United States by Soviet citizens.

The Soviets, however, was much more permissive of American visitants, enabling them to visit most of the USSR.

1988 Map Shows No-Go Zones for American Travelers in the USSR

Areas closed to Americans are marked in red. Foreigners were forbidden to visit the outskirts of the country’s two main cities, Moscow and Leningrad because missile and air defense systems were expanded around these cities. Also, it was forbidden to visit science cities and “closed cities” – centers of the defense industry as well as correctional labor colonies (Gulag).

1988 Map Shows No-Go Zones for American Travelers in the USSR

Today, 38 closed territorial-administrative entities in Russia are surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by military patrols. They belong to the Ministry of Defense, Rosatom, and Roscosmos.


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