Pieter Troch (Ghent University) and Guido Hausmann (University of Regensburg / Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies)
Urban Legacy, Socialist Cities, Imperial Cities (Ottoman and Tsarist Russian)
Urban space is frequently conceptualised as a palimpsest of interpenetrating layers, which serve as the synchronic residues of the urban structure related to a specific socio-political order in the history of the city. To what extent legacy elements serve analytical purposes in urban studies, however, is open for debate. This session contributes to this debate from the perspective of Eastern Europe. Urban studies often categorise Eastern European cities as representatives of a particular urban type with characteristic urban structure – from the imperial, to the national, socialist, and ultimately post-socialist city. One topic of public and scholarly debate concerns the resilience and durability of these urban types across macrohistorical change, as reflected in the ongoing debate about the ‘post-socialist city’. The expansive, allochronizing and normative use of the term has been rightfully criticised, but the resilience of socio-spatial structures of socialist urbanisation signals that there is a legacy element at work in the contemporary social composition of these cities.
This session brings together studies of urban legacies at work in cities of Eastern Europe. The papers focus in particular on the intertwinement of legacy elements in the socio-spatial configuration of cities in Eastern Europe during the twentieth century. Whereas historical studies typically focus on a simple trajectory of urban transformation and legacy involving one pole on each side, the papers in this session present a more complex picture of interrelating and coexisting urban legacies across macrohistorical changes in the region’s twentieth-century history. Each of the studies analyses the interference of multiple legacies of socio-spatial urban structure, drawing on case-studies in urban anthropology, architecture and urbanism, and social history. The cases presented in the panel include cities with distinct Ottoman and Tsarist Russian urban heritages and shared experiences of socialist urbanisation, allowing analysis of the ways in which these distinct types of urban structuration interact and transregional comparisons. The papers involve not only capital cities but also secondary or peripheral cities, where the legacies of socio-spatial structure appear particularly enduring.
Commodification of Nostalgia in Tbilisi
Ketevan Gurchiani (State Ilia University Tbilisi)
Post-Soviet Nostalgia, Heterotopia, Materiality
When reading time in space, we are often tempted to reduce a place to a specific time. It is especially true for the places that evoke nostalgic feelings. The nostalgia that pervades the post-Soviet space is often not reducible to a given time. As Svetlana Boym would argue, nostalgia with its utopian dimension is neither directed towards past nor future, “but rather sideways” (Boym 2007).
Based on archival research and ethnography the study looks at the production and commodification of post-Soviet nostalgia on the example of one building in Tbilisi. The house has been built in 1908 and since then changed functions and the owner multiple times. It went from being a private house built by a wealthy merchant to become a house of Bolshevik new intelligentsia, and in recent years the house and the gathering place for the new elite. To make it a perfect place of nostalgia it is robbed of its primary function: to be a residential house. Its emptiness, especially visible during the time of the pandemic, is in stark contrast to the role it performs: a place of diverse, open, accessible Tbilisi courtyard of the nostalgic imagination.
The paper reads different layers of the building as a palimpsest. It looks at this building, which is one of the many with similar fate, as a chronotope (Bakhtin 1975) where different temporalities and spatialities meet. In the complex entanglement of time-space, the time represented by a building multiplies itself. It produces a heterotopia, not localizable on a spatial or chronological axis but still there.
The Imperial Legacy of the Cities of the USSR after World War II and the Youth Movements of Leningrad and Kharkiv (1945-1991)
Olga Malinova-Tziafeta (Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg)
Underground Culture, Urban Infrastructure, Restoration
The restoration of the old urban infrastructure in cities of Europe after WWII was carried out according to new principles. Authorities and society were forced to unite in order to carry out reconstruction, and increasing public interventionism shaped city environments. The reconstruction of cities in the USSR had its own specifics. For example, in many cases the government decided to restore the architectural appearance of cities as it was before the war. At the same time, the question of choosing the most precious building in terms of its architectural value arose sharply, since buildings were restored selectively. The interaction between authorities and experts in the field of architecture and museums became significant. The most active role in the reconstruction of the cities was played by city dwellers.
This paper deals with the perception of the new post-war city in general and its imperial legacy in particular, using the cases of Leningrad and Kharkiv, industrial cities with striking imperial architecture and the status of the “second” city in the republic. The paper analyses the degree of changes in the socio-spatial structure of the two cities. The focus is on the question of how the program for the construction of urban infrastructure in these cities, which was quite common for all European cities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was significantly extended over time. For example, in Leningrad, before the war, it was not possible to complete the construction of the sewage system and treatment facilities - and after the war they had to be built anew. Already in the 1950s, new demands for urban comfort and aesthetics emerged which were common in cities in Europe and the United States, too. This clash influenced the formation of a sharp protest in the youth groups of underground. These included young writers, artists, rock musicians and actors who were not included in official cultural programs and unions. In the era of perestroika, the ideas and activities formed since the 1950s, in turn, joined the wave of anti-Soviet and anti-socialist sentiments.
Sarajevo’s Vraca: Gates to Palimpsests of Contested Histories and Ambiguous Present
Sabina Tanović (Delft University of Technology)
Sarajevo, Historical Sites, Contested Histories
Austro-Hungarian occupation of Sarajevo (1878 – 1914) was supported by a network of fortifications installed on the mountain ridges surrounding Sarajevo’s valley. The ‘Vraca’ fortification (1989) held an important status due to its geo-strategic position on the slopes of Trebević mountain near one of the south entrances to the city. After the end of Austro-Hungarian rule that ended with the infamous assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, World War I ensued and the ‘Vraca’ fortification was somewhat forsaken until the first years of World War II when German-led Axis forces puppet state, the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), performed mass executions of prisoners and used the area around the former ‘Vraca’ fortress for a disposal of bodies of people executed elsewhere in the city.
An incentive to preserve ‘Vraca’ as one of the key locations dedicated to the remembrance on both tragedies of the war and heroic anti-fascist partisan resistance originated in the 1960ies, but it was only in 1980 that the official inauguration of ‘Vraca’ as an innovative landscape, sculptural and architectural project took place. After only a decade of its versatile existence, the disintegration of Yugoslavia began. From April 1992 until February 1996, Sarajevo was besieged by the Yugoslav People’s Army and the Army of Republic of Srpska - using ‘Vraca’ as a strategic position for maintaining the city blockade and terrorizing citizens. A large portion of the memorial site was destroyed by the Army of Republic of Srpska upon their retreat at the end of the war.
During the last three decades, ‘Vraca’ have been stuck in limbo created by different vectors of reality such as prominent political disinterest. However, in the recent years a number of more promising events took place and there is certainly more professional and scientific interest in the meaning of ‘Vraca’ as an invaluable historical site and how it fits into the contemporary Bosnian and Herzegovinian culture of remembrance and co-remembrance. This contribution aims to explore some of conceptual design proposals that call for restauration of historical significance and re-activation of the site as both an attractive public space and space of remembrance. In doing this, I aim to problematize some of the approaches to re-examine the very concept of ‘Vraca’ as a memorial site.