Monday, 9 July 2012

ingรฉnue and konkurrenz

The Iron Curtain created some interesting parallels among products and services, like the Soviet answers to the Concorde and the NASA Space Shuttle, which unfortunately was never launched due to the end of the Cold War and break-up of the Soviet Union. In divided Germany, I think the pressure to provide consumers with market analogues was especially piquant. There are food and cleaning products that still demand a high level of distinction and brand-loyalty, though the closed economies that fostered their separate identities has not existed in more than two decades. Automobiles were too a cultural aspect governed by scarcity over abundance, embarrassment of choices and ingenuity. Having loved and cared for an old Volkswagen T3, it was with more insight and respect that I could meet again its DDR counterpart: from 1961 until 1991, Barkas was the sole manufacturer of service trucks, vans and minibuses. Like its western equivalent and forebearers, these vehicles came in a huge array of different models, tailored for public and private use, as postal trucks and garbage kips and other public utilities and even, I understand, as roving paddy-wagons by the Stasi when on the prowl for thought-criminals (but I think that the fleet and compliment of B-1000s was mostly associated with caravaning and public-works), and with an equally robust and technically accessible engine. The artefacts of isolation are interesting things and the convergent determination and engineering are impressive.