Travelling around and between NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

May 2019
145
Northern and Western hemispheres
I have some questions regarding travelling between NATO and Warsaw Pact countries. Would someone who lived in a Warsaw Pact country have been permitted to visit a NATO member (and vice versa)? How would someone travel between say for example Czechia and Poland in 1969?
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,427
Very few from Communist countries were allowed to travel to the west. Westerners could visit Communist countries, but were watched, usually in groups, and limited where they would go.

US citizens were not allowed to travel to Cuba and a few other places. The US retaliated with restrictions on where people from Communist countries could go.
 
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Tulun

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
3,875
Western Eurasia
I posted this some years ago from Hungarian perspective, this was the way as far as I know:

"I don't know what was the rule in other countries, as far as i know in Hungary in the fifties and sixties it was very difficult to travel abroad. Until the seventies you needed special permission every time you wanted to travel abroad, even if you intended to go to another socialist country. In 1972 they introduced the red passport, with that you could go to the other socialist countries without much restrictions (i think except to the SU, my parents went there in the late seventies but they still needed to get a letter of invitation even with the red passport thingy) and there was also the blue passport with it you could travel to capitalist countries. Of course this later was more difficult to obtain (for the request form you also needed the signature of your employer, local party secretary and labour union secretary...), if you were politically risky or you worked in a more sensitive workplace (army, police for example) you couldn't get it. And as a tourist you could travel to a capitalist country only once within 3 years. In 1984 the two passports were merged so the people only had blue passport but it was maintained that it made you eligible to only travel to socialist countries without restriction, you still needed special exit permission stamped in the passport to travel to capitalist countries. This was finally abolished in 1988. And there was another trick that made travel to capitalist countries difficult, it was strictly restricted how much foreign currency you can take with yourself, the limit was initially 50, then 70 and later increased to 100 dollars."

A sample from a red passport issued in Hungary
The passport is valid to the territory of the countries below:
Bulgaria - Czechoslovakia - Yugoslavia - Poland - German Democratic Republic - Romania - Soviet Union


 

At Each Kilometer

Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
4,004
Bulgaria
For COMECON countries we had a mere addition to our internal pass in Russian and Bulgarian, not so fancy as Hungarian one from Tulin's post :)
pass.jpg
For any other country in order to leave People's Republic of Bulgaria, apart from the visa from the host country, one had to get also an exit visa from the Ministry of Interior, valid for certain period / the exit visa was most often in form of a stamp with description at which border checkpoint one must leave and go back to Bulgaria. In addition to this there was a requirement for citizens who had passports for traveling abroad to hand them over to the Ministry of Interior when they are in Bulgaria and it was like that till the very end 1989.
 
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May 2019
145
Northern and Western hemispheres
Germans fleeing East Germany into West Germany was nearly impossible.
It would have been pretty hard to get from East Berlin to West Berlin without being shot. I saw this one documentary on tv about Germans who tried to escape to West Germany. Their methods included underground tunnels and flying over the border in an ultralight aircraft(which might have succeeded).
 
Sep 2019
310
Slovenia
I would like to add that of course people in eastern Europe were so fed up with Soviet totalitarian regime and its satelites that many tried to escape to the west risking their lives. According to East German secret police or Stasi documentation, 916 people were killed while attempting to cross over the border from east to west. And this was going on also on other borders between communist countries and the west. For example on border between Yugoslavia and Italy quite some people from Romania were killed trying to escape the regime of dictator Ceausescu. After democracy was introduced some of those responsible for border shootings were put on trial at least in Germany. For example Egon Krenz, Gunther Kleiber or Gunther Schabowski.


 

Willempie

Ad Honorem
Jul 2015
5,495
Netherlands
For traveling east (ie visiting the DDR) you would need a special visa. At the border your car would be turned inside out (in particular when for some reason they had orders to create a huge line), unless you left D-Marks or dollars with the border guards.
It would help if you were a member of certain organizations with friendly ties to the country in question.
Once there your movements would be watched and I suspect your contacts questioned afterwards.

The opposite way I don't know much, only from chess. An eastern player would be allowed a limited time to play a certain tournament (usually accompanied by some guardian/official). When they won a price they would have to buy something with it since they weren't allowed to take the money with them. They were paid a salary however and I think it was more when the results were good. However the difference of having extra Rubles or having $1000 (what a chess player could normally win) in DDR or USSR was more than substantial.