Some of the world’s defensive structures have only minor military objectives. They are protecting the civilian population not against military attacks, but from forces of nature and against unidentified foes from within.
Shelters for civilians during military attacks
The obvious and positive aspect of civil defense is the effort to protect the unprotected against the consequences of military attacks. In the previous chapter we presented a number of walled cities, many Medieval, built with the purpose of protecting not only the king and the soldiers, but also the population of the city(-state).
In modern times blast shelters were built throughout the world in the last six decades of the 20th centuries. The shape, number, capacity and reinforcements varied highly in and between countries. Some shelters were even reinforced to withstand a nuclear bomb and fallout resulting from a nuclear explosion.
There were many shelters, but each one was but perhaps not very large.
Stopping civilian migration
The “Iron Curtain” in post-war Europe is an example of a militarily defended structure that was not (primarily) built for stopping a potential military aggressor, but to hold one’s own population at bay. For decades the movement of people across the borders from, essentially, Eastern to Western Europe was effectively stopped by long lines of barbed wire, fences and minefields.
The symbolically most important part of it was the Berlin Wall. I had the great joy of borrowing a hammer and chisel just a few metres off the Brandenburger Tor, in 1990 less than a year after the “fall” of the Wall. I also took this picture.
Tear down the Wall! In Berlin, September 1990
In recent years, after the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, and the opening up of most European borders, the world has seen more walls being set up.
The wall between the US and Mexico and the wall between Israel and the Palestinians are for civilian protection too. The first was built to stop illegal drug trafficking and immigration. The latter allegedly to stop terrorists, thus having a military justification as well. Some has also labelled the immigration politics of the EU a new form of Festung Europa, described in the first article of this series.
In defense of natural disasters
The dikes of the Netherlands is another kind of defensive structure. They were built to protect the Low Countries from being flooded by the ocean. This however, is different from the subjects I have been discussing in this mini-series. On the other hand it brings up a potential for another series: Large man-made structures for protection and cultivation.
This is the third chapter about Defensive Structures of the World. The series:
(1) The huge ones: There are some historically significant and physically huge military structures around the world built with the aim to protect entire countries against invading hostile forces.
(2) The smaller ones: Some defensive structures are basically walled military compounds on a limited area, fortresses. Others include entire towns.
(3) Other defensive structures: Some of the world’s defensive structures have only minor military objectives. They are protecting the civilian population not against military attacks, but from forces of nature and against unidentified foes from within.