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by Andrius Ropolas written as a part of Critical urban theory course at K.U.

Leuven, Sint Lucas School of Architecture, Brussels, 2013

This paper attempts to analyze Russia’s closed cities ("closed administrative-territorial formations" or ZATO for short) through the social point of view, compare past and present situations and introduce concepts of “The Right to the City”, gated community and heterotopia in them. Two main stand points are overlooked: how and why people were and are fighting for their right to the city and what was architects role in this fight in the past and what it could be today. Paper is divided three main parts. In “Introduction”, history of Russian closed cities and situation of life, rights and freedoms meets concepts “The Right to the City”, gated community and heterotopia. It is explained how we can see closed cities and processes in them through these concepts. In the part “The right to the city, gated communities, heterotopia and ZATOs” it is explained how and why people were fighting for the right to the city before and in recent days. It is discussed if they failed or succeeded in doing that and what was the outcome of their failure or success. In addition, other concepts are elaborated - what does it mean for people to live in gated communities and heterotopian spaces, how these concepts influence their life. In the last part “Architecture and planning in restricted areas” it is explained what was the role of architects in the past in fight for the right to the city. In addition it is discussed what architects can do today to engage in this fight. Moreover Henri Lefebvre’s idea about power of proletariat is challenged in context of closed cities. Paper concludes that because of specific nature of these formations, in the past people managed to fight for their right to the city and architects involvement was not necessary, however today situation is opposite and moreover, involvement from government is necessary.

On February 11, 1943 Soviet Union started their nuclear research and development program as a response to information that other countries are also researching possibilities of nuclear power (Bukharin et al., 1999, p. 2). This led to construction of almost 100 entirely new closed cities or ZATOs across Soviet Union (Eidel, 2009b). Those cities were designed just for one main function – production of elements or objects necessary for soviet army to keep up in their race for power against United States of America (USA). Some of the closed cities were working on nuclear program, others manufacturing war machines or focusing on space programs, but all of them shared some common things – secrecy, isolation and exclusivity. The secrecy in cities was at top level, as it is mentioned in article by Michael R. Gordon (1998): “for the first few years, none of the residents were allowed to leave”. However after first satellites appeared, secrecy diminished greatly. From 1960 to 1972 USA did over one hundred satellite missions to uncover depths of these cities (Bukharin et al., 1999, p. 9). Cities often were built in distant areas, away from bigger cities to keep people and more importantly information isolated. Primary access to the cities was railway, some cities also had airfields or helicopter 1

they were planned by small group of people and built by prisoners (Gordon.. there was virtually no crime. 1998). Phone lines had direct connection just with main officials in Moscow. longer holidays. there was almost no unemployment. 2000. main conditions are the same in ZATOs. Latest movies were shown one day after their premiere in Moscow movie theaters (Gordon. because people felt that their work is very necessary. 10) government funding in 1999 was only one-seventh as it was in 1990. The space which is here and at the same time not here is a clear example of heterotopian space. protecting people inside from reality outside. nor they appeared on maps. professor Jean-Louis Cohen referred to military. because he could not pay salaries to his workers (Gordon. common pride was also very high. Today there are 47 closed cities with a population of around 1. situation started to change dramatically. After fall of Soviet Union and new disarmament agreements between Russia and USA. 2005). 174). create new work places and use existing knowledge for civil purposes. When in the rest of Soviet Union there were queues for products. In 1996 director of the nuclear design center Chelyabinsk-70 killed himself. 9) cities were fenced and protected by KGB (Lemaitre. “The Right to the City” as described by Henri Lefebvre (1968) was clearly not fulfilled. p. 1998) was accepted. nor sometimes live with their relatives. A program “Reorganization of Nuclear Industry Enterprises” had to release 30 000 workers from nuclear complexes and at the same time to create same amount of workplaces by reorienting released personnel to work in civil production and supporting development of private enterprises from period 2002 until 2010 (Rumyantsev and Kholdov p. However these harsh conditions had their advantages for workers. 2009). in these cities people could get everything without any trouble (Eidel. This could be compared to gated communities. such as ZATOs. they cannot freely change their residence location. as system of heterotopian spaces. territorial. People working in these cities had higher than average salaries. p.3 million. so in the structure of the cities it was already programmed that citizens would not have any power in decision making. Privacy and freedom of people living and working in these structures is limited. scientific complexes. 1998). Their existence was hidden from public and closed cities often did not have proper names.. after 1991 the importance of production in these cities diminished even more. Although their research is focusing on South Africa. until in 1992 a law governing “closed administrative-territorial formations” or ZATO (Lappo and Polian. Without having freedom of movement and speech it was hard to make any impact for people themselves. As stated by Oleg Bukharin and others (2000. Although already in 1980s government understood that there is no need to keep the same production pace as before (Bukharin et al.facilities (Bukharin et al. just codes. 1999. Funding from the government decreased creating social issues. local government together with USA started conversion and reorganization projects in these sensitive areas to create new products. the rules and sometimes even political situation inside was different from outside. 2009). Today visitors in closed cities mention the feeling that time in these places has stopped for last 30 years (Eidel. 1998). p. Although presence of these cities is no longer denied they are still kept in secrecy. In conversation about ZATO at Van Alen Institute. Isolation from outside world made these cities heterotopias of time. As described by Hook and Vrdoljak (2002) gated communities are symbol of prestige and places of higher security. closed cities were often more spacious and green compared to similar open cities. Most of the world and even Russians did not know about the existence of those kind of structures. 62). At the same time the idea of these places came roughly from up. Closed cities because of their mix of different functions (civil and military) in one space are heterotopias of crises. People in closed cities had certain special privileges. It means that almost every 100th person in Russia lives in a closed city under special regulations. As elaborated by Michel Foucault (1986) there are different types of heterotopian spaces. To prevent specialists from leaving closed cities and Russia for better paid jobs in Iran or North Korea. As it was reported by European Human Rights Advocacy Center in 2011 Maxim Kurpachev could 2 .

1998. which at that time was the site of biggest missile factory in Soviet Union. As researched by Sergei I. 672). when in 1970 ten young hippies were arrested and later. In his text Zhuk makes an important conclusion: “The story of “popular religiosity” and “Western mass culture” in Dnepropetrovsk during the Brezhnev era highlights the complete failure of Soviet ideologists and the KGB to protect the youth of this strategically important center of the Soviet military-industrial complex from “ideological pollution. especially Moscow. it is inevitable that most of these cities will open up” says Alexander Golts. In some cases not only people struggle for the right to the city. 2009). Existing restrictions confronted with Henri Lefebrve’s “Right to the city” ideas raises question if people living in closed cities have any rights and power at all to make any impact on their environment. It is extremely difficult for foreigner to get inside these cities.“ (Kutepova. Often easiest way to get access is to have relatives living there (Eidel. Youth were buying copies of western music on black market. It is easy to find stories of journalists who got their access denied in last minute (Hodge. it shows how the tastes and activities of the new youth culture created new values and demands for cultural consumption that gradually transformed and replaced traditional Soviet values and Communist ideological practices”. He even mentions some arrests. This just demonstrates that sometimes system was fighting against itself. Nostalgia and old feeling of prestige is such a strong factors playing big role for older residents. None of independent pressmen are allowed to visit ZATOs. not only led to changes in the city. although they were later banned people always found away how bypass restrictions. that 89% of interviewed people of city of Norilsk did not want their city to be opened (Lappo and Polian. 667).no longer live with his mother. among youth. forbidden things like religion and “westernization” were spreading. there is information about attempts to fight for the rights to the city. Here it is stated that the fight for rights to the city. forty more. “Federal and local mass media have no access to closed cities. an independent military analyst (Nemtsova. but also cities themselves: “The Primorskii Krai government has used the threat of dumping waste in international waters as leverage for more funding in Moscow” (Whittenton). were children of some high officers (p. As emphasized by Zhuk (2008). because he was convicted for some criminal offenses and after release from prison. where his mother lives. On the other hand it is not only government who wants these cities to be closed. p. However often only people from Soviet elite could afford buying these records. Same difficulties applies to media. he could no longer get permanent residence at closed city of Ozersk. of course it differs depending on the city and how heavily it is secured. 2006). 2003). However more cities are planned to be opened. 2009). 47) although younger people often strive for possibilities in bigger open cities. Zhuk (2008) in closed city of Dnepropetrovsk in 1970s. but also people. According to Roemer Lemaitre (2005) these restrictions violate freedom of movement and other international human rights. Although information and processes inside closed cities are protected and in the past were protected even more. Bigger spread of western music led to events organized by Baptists around the city with western music and radio shows (p. so hippies arrested. but also changes in ideological system and traditional 3 . “With the military reform transforming the Russian army and the market economy booming. Special limitations to get to closed cities makes these spaces heterotopias of purification. Also for Russians it is also a serous task.” At the same time. 662). the record of Jesus Christ Superstar played a big role of spreading new ideas among young people and made headaches for KGB (p. Often they look with suspicion about plans to open city they live in.

2006). not all closed cities are struggling with finance: “The nuclear facilities in three cities (Novouralsk. because of isolation and direct financial dependence from Moscow. After crash of Soviet Union and introduction of market economy needs of people changed. in Seversk by 41% and compared with years 1975 and 1995 birthrate in all Russian Federation dropped by 49% (Oleynichenko et al. younger people leave their closed cities: “We live here under a magnifying glass – every step to the left or right is noticed and discussed. In closed city of Tomsk birthrates compared to years 1965 and 1990 dropped by 20%. 2009). however market economy forced to face new challenges. religion were no more restricted. Zelenogorsk. but not only way of expressing despair. was probably most radical. “one striking plant mechanic said he could see "only one way out – to go to a nuclear submarine and do something. “For 4 .Soviet values. 2000. 10). and Ozersk) have been doing relatively well because they have been able to market uranium-enrichment and other fuel-cycle services to foreign nuclear-power utilities and have been blending-down excess weapons uranium for sale…” (Bukharin et al. music. Despite all attempts to change situation.. At least I will see people from other countries there. an 11th-grader at High School No 235 in closed city of Znamensk (Nemtsova. Former Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov was “lecturing authorities in the nuclear cities not to pay plumbers and common laborers more than nuclear scientists” (Gordon. Initiatives between USA and Russia. My friends and I plan to move to Moscow right after graduation. p. but nowadays protects people and city inside the walls from organized crime (Bunn et al. 2005. The walls keeping work and information safe inside the city does not necessarily apply to people living inside. Main reasons of slow changes are that very big changes in system and big amount of finance are needed to accomplish goals (Bukharin et al." adding that it would not be hard to cause a "tragedy worse than Chernobyl" (Whittenton). Lack of experience in market economy also keeps cities dependent on government funding (Ball. As research in closed city of Ozersk (Kozlov. “About 300 workers from one nuclear submarine factory blocked the Trans-Siberian railroad. Russian crises of 1999 also did no leave those areas untouched. 46). As an outcome. p. Nuclear defense sector did not benefit from opening up economy (Kaser. Despair of people about the future is visible in dramatically dropping birth rates. However overall situation is unkind. like Nuclear Cities Initiative and a program “Reorganization of Nuclear Industry Enterprises”.” says Olga Sibiyato. tries to help closed cities to reorient their knowledge to civil production and create new private enterprises. These are just few examples of people trying to influence decisions related to their rights. Suicide of director of Chelyabinsk-70 in late 1996 for inability to pay salaries to his workers. Another feature of gated communities is that they often are symbol of status and prestige. Isolation of cities by walls and checkpoints not only protects information inside from foreign spies and sabotage. What still keeps people in these cities are advantages of being in gated community and a heterotopian space. There are exceptions. people always found tools to fight for their rights and make change. p. 2008. demanding wages that were nearly ten months overdue”. Freedom of culture. led to new forms of protest and fights for rights. for inability to fight for their right to the city. Even with limited rights. 2001). however changes are happening very slowly. It means that highly classified status of city and work being done inside can be separated from people and their right to the city. 159) shows people are not happy with welfare. without help from up. public services and social security. people feel unappreciated. Government understands seriousness of these issues. 2000. 1998). Declining need of production from closed cities led to declining financial support for them. p. 10). 1998). 2006). Troubles with finance and inability to change anything by people themselves. medical assistance. At the same time population in ten cities in control of Ministry of Atomic Energy grew by 57 000 residents from period 1989 to 1998 (Kaser.

there was no need of architects to be involved – structure and ideology was all over the same. Moreover. the commander of the anti-terror unit at Znamensk military range (Nemtsova. conversion of closes cities and opening of some of them leads to massive changes in cities structure and economy. no newly built area differed too much in style from other. 89% of people from Norilsk said that they do not want their city to be opened (Lappo and Polian. or isolated. 2009). closed cities did not follow contemporary trends. fromer Atomic Energy Minister (Gordon. 1998) 5 . People see closeness as a special feature of their city rather than downside. medical projects were being ''People in the closed cities are like children. It is clear that ongoing changes of restructurization. At that time soviet modernistic ideas of architecture were already defined. market economy bypassed them. where presence of reality and contemporary world is most appreciable and visible. but to provide us with a special status. Only difference. but also because it will create better environment for people. And here is the place where architects can play their role in help for people to fight for their city. Remembrance of past. As it was discussed before. that as space of privilege. industrial. 1998). 60). 1998). Typical building system. ideological approach and extreme secrecy of closed cities meant that architects had limited possibilities to be involved in fight with people for the right to the city. Despite of distance. p.many. Today situation is different. closed cities were more green and spacious (Gordon. At the same time. As a reason of economical declination and inability to fight for their rights to the city. then who is going to keep Russia safe?” says Aleksei Prudnikov. For some cities is inevitable to open up. no difference if it was open or closed city. 2000. the elite of the Russian army”. conversion and private enterprises in closed cities must be encouraged and not only because Russia can no longer afford these complexes (Bukharin . “The wall is not to make us close-minded. Construction boom of closed cities was happening from 1940s to 1960s as mentioned by Xenia Vytuleva at Van Alen Institute conversation (2012). conditions were even better in closed cities. As Matthew Bunn and others (1998) think. only patriotism prevented from wide selling nuclear weapons and technologies from closed cities on black market. the gap between ordinary cities and the free market is quite big. people successfully managed to fight for their rights to the city in these conditions. but the meaning and pride of their lives” says Anna Nemtsova (2009) about people in closed city of Znamensk. makes things to have meaning.Yevgeny Adamov. which is very strong in these places. It means that closed cities today have same structure as they had 30 years ago. This planning ideology is visible in closed cities (pe-international. old ideological presence and structure are not reflecting what is happening outside the walls. Being heterotopias of time. but the gap between people who lived in a closed city and a market economy is enormous'' . Across all Soviet Union typical housing. the only way of survival is opening up and contributing to market economy. Typical planning was also big advantage for fast building. as Russian government can no longer support them and production from them is not as necessary as before. there is a tendency for youth to leave closed cities. 2009). cultural. “Thousand of missiles have gone through our hands… If not us. Housing blocks in Georgia or Lithuania were almost the same.” says mayor of Znamensk Victor Likh (Nemtsova. Opening up to the world is another side of the medal. the lock on the gate and secretiveness of their hometown is not a Soviet relic. As being places of heterotopia of time and deviation closed cities creates strong nostalgic and patriotic approach. “We are rocket specialists. These processes of reorientation. striving for more possibilities in Russia’s biggest cities.

architects can become useful and necessary in helping to control new processes and new realities. social structure. changes are happening. there was no need to fight for culture. 6 . or accepting existing setting and being passive is inevitable. They are realized utopias (Van Alen Institute. Architects did not need to be involved in these processes. government is trying to change situation.In these new conditions architects can help to understand better and plan processes of change. p. Eventually this fight had an outcome and changed all traditional Soviet values. which could reflect past of the cities. so it is very important to have visions how these cities can see themselves in the future. Architects can help to manage all these issues and provide global vision for these places. 154). Although similar rules apply to all closed cities. needs. they are still losing this fight. Only nostalgia and patriotic feelings are keeping people in cities. because without permission from up they can not even enter closed cities. 2012). even city government has no power. social and spatial consequences of fast changes in the cities can be unpredictable. even governments of cities have no power to engage in fight for the right to the city. because they cannot fight for the right to their city. New conditions will change face of the cities. in depth they are very different. Only because of changes triggered by government. dress up as they wanted. although people are fighting for their rights to the city. national security. there was need to fight for social rights. They still managed to buy desired records. with difference in size. organize events in cities. so it is natural that widely accepted philosophies work differently in these conditions. In case of ZATOs government is the trigger which can let people reclaim their city. It means that. Ofcourse we have to remember that closed cities in Russia is unique example of mix of freedom rights. Smart visions would make it easier for people to shape city themselves. because control of economy in closed cities is directly dependent from Russia’s government. earned salary and ability to work. people managed to find their ways to gain their rights and city. however they are also hostages of government. However after crash of Soviet Union. closed cities are opening up or changing their focus from military to civil production. Without them. However. Architects can be and must be involved in the fight for the right to the city. without involvement from up. architects have no power. However without changes initiated and supported by Russian government. geography and many more factors. by reclaiming and fighting for their rights to the city. 153). because architectural and planning situation was everywhere the same. It is from these social and political forces that the renewed city will become the oeuvre” (1968. When the fight for the city was about culture. It is impossible for people to influence these issues. This is materialization of Henri Lefebvre’s “The Right to the City” (1968) where he discusses that change can be only realized by working class and a “critique of the ideological and strategic implications of planning projects” (p. Otherwise situation where people are either leaving. present reality outside city walls and future needs. specific cultural and historical context and functional purpose. social classes and class fractions of revolutionary initiative can take over and realize to fruition solutions to urban problems. It is ironical example which opposes Henri Lefebvre’s idea of power of proletariat: “Only groups. And as an outcome youth is leaving.

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