20.02. until 21.02.2020 in Erlangen, Germany

Cities in the USSR and the Eastern Bloc. Urbanization, Ecology and the Municipal Economy (1917-1991)

  • 20.02. until 21.02.2020
  • Event language: English
  • Deadline for submissions: 01.10.2019
  • Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
  • Event location: Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (Germany), Department Geschichte Lehrstuhl für Neuere und Neueste Geschichte mit dem Schwerpunkt der Geschichte Osteuropas, Bismarckstraße 12, 91054 Erlangen
  • Type of Event: Conference

Link to this post: https://www.pol-int.org/en/node/7840

This conference will focus on the challenges of socialist urbanization in the RSFSR and other USSR republics, as well as socialist countries of Eastern Europe. The aim of the conference is to bring together representatives of different disciplines: history, anthropology, urban studies, literature studies, history of science and technology and others, to share a discussion on the problems of socialist urbanization and urban history.

The towns of the Russian Empire have been studied relatively well, but urban challenges and policies under Soviet rule, especially during the post-war period, have attracted far less attention. Topics such as the construction of urban infrastructure, the municipal economy, policies and concepts around urban nature spaces and the urban ecology, as well as the place of flora and fauna in cities, have escaped academic attention. Papers on environmental history tend to focus on the largest pollution sources: major engineering facilities, mostly built and operated far beyond city limits. Urban infrastructure is often described in academic research solely from an organizational or technological viewpoint, while relatively little is known about problems of hygiene, changing ideas about health, cleanliness and pollution in the urban environment, as well as the strata of city populations who discussed these issues.

Cities are an interesting and important gateway topic for studying socialist modernity. A core characteristic of the Soviet period was active, centralized urbanization and industrialization, via interaction between municipal and state agencies. This approach to city planning, coloured by a specific ideological regime, generated a unique matrix of rules and patterns of urban life, as certain infrastructure and development programs were given the green light and others were blocked. A recurring theme was Soviet adoption and assimilation of new technologies and scientific breakthroughs in city planning and urban ecology borrowed from Western countries —a trend that was subject to either explanation or some form of censorship in the mass media and public discussion.

Despite the appearance of several important studies in recent decades, we do not yet have complete answers to a number of questions: What is socialist urbanization? Is it possible to identify the traits and processes that typically distinguish it from capitalist urbanization? How was it portrayed by journalists, in literature, in the municipal services themselves, and in the cinema? In the final analysis, can we talk of modern socialism as a phenomenon that is more-or-less typical of all (or several) Eastern bloc countries?

Papers may cover any of the below aspects, or a combination thereof:
- Urban infrastructure
- Urban ecology and (non-)state environmental movements
- Physical and social spaces in cities that influence residents' sense of identity
- Interrelations between city residents, the municipal or state authorities, and experts in the municipal economy
- The restoration of cities after WWII
- The urban municipal economy and its management
- The municipal economy and overcoming emergency situations such as: abnormal snowfall, fires, earthquakes, floods, torrential rain, etc., and their consequences for urban infrastructure
- Adaptation and escape strategies for intractable and long-term urban problems: for example, suburban dachas, etc.

Applications are welcome from a wide range of disciplines, including history, anthropology, literature studies, urban studies, economics, ecology and cultural studies. We look forward to reading abstracts of up to 500 words with a brief CV, both documents in English or in Russian. Please submit to: olga.malinova@fau.de before 1 October 2019.