METROPOLITAN PROCESSES IN POST-COMMUNIST STATES: AN INTRODUCTION

© The authors 2007
Journal compilation © 2007 Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography

95

METROPOLITAN PROCESSES IN
POST-COMMUNIST STATES: AN INTRODUCTION

by
Thomas Borén and Michael Gentile

Borén, T. and Gentile, M

., 2007: Metropolitan Processes in Post-
Communist States: an Introduction.

Geogr. Ann

., 89 B (2): 95–
110.
ABSTRACT. This study introduces a collection of theme issue
papers on metropolitan processes in post-communist states. We
first identify and discuss five key significant socialist-era legacy
aspects that continue to mould the course of events in the post-
communist urban scene. These are central planning, land alloca-
tion, the second economy, defence considerations, and the impli-
cations of the ideological leadership of the communist parties. We
then procede to investigate the literature on the unfolding urban
geography of post-communism and the factors underpinning its
development, and we place the papers collected in this theme issue
into their context.

Key words

: Post-communist city, socialist legacy, cities, post-so-
cialism

Introduction

Arguably, post-socialist

1

transformation, under-
stood as the economic, political, institutional and
ideological changes associated with the discarding
of “communism” or “state socialism” and the em-
bracing of “capitalism” in Central and Eastern Eu-
rope (CEE), has been taking place for at least twen-
ty years. Its seeds were sown during the economic
stagnation of mature socialism, and its first sprouts
appeared among the grass roots in the 1980s (even
earlier in Hungary and Czechoslovakia). By the
early 1990s, it had flowered throughout most of the
former realm of Soviet control, accompanied by
overwhelming changes in the spatial organization
of the respective societies and of the cities hosted
by them. After the failed attempt at rescuing the so-
cialist system through moderate economic and po-
litical reforms in some countries (i.e. through

glas-
nost’

and

perestroika

in the USSR), post-socialist
Central and Eastern Europe had embarked on a
long and challenging return journey to Europe
(Linnet, 2003; Bunk



e, 2004; Musil, 2005), with
the promise of future prosperity as a guiding light,
but also with many casualties on its way.
For post-communist Europe, this return journey
means being increasingly subject to cross-former-
iron-curtain economic, social and political process-
es. Locally, these processes blend with the legacies
and systemically unique processes attributable to
the region’s past experience of socialism and cen-
tral planning and the transition therefrom. The
post-communist city may be viewed as the out-
come of an unfought struggle between legacy and
transition (Tammaru, 2001a), or as the urban

mé-
lange

produced by double transition; that is, the
transition from an industrial to a post-industrial
economy characterizing the developed nations on
the one hand, and the economic, political and ideo-
logical transition away from region-specific state
socialism on the other (S

=

kora, 2000).
However, it is becoming increasingly clear that
there is no single path of post-communist urban
transition (see Tosics, 2005) – after all, the commu-
nist legacies of Albania and Russia are perhaps as
far apart from each other as are the economic re-
structuring strategies adopted by Slovenia and Be-
larus during transition. Likewise, there is no one
post-communist

urbs

, but a range of urban places
which have been subject to a grand political and
economic experiment whose dramatic impacts will
be evident to the eye for many years to come. The
strongest socialist legacies are evident where so-
cialism was kept alive longest (i.e. in most of the
Former Soviet Union), where it coincided with
mass urbanization (e.g. in Poland), where the pres-
tige of the system was given top priority (e.g. the
central Moscow or Berlin showcases), in areas
which hosted grand industrial projects (e.g. Nowa
Huta near Cracow in Poland), and in areas endowed
with certain natural resources (e.g. the Soviet coal
basins). The socialist new cities – the ultimate ur-
ban expression of the communist project – were of-
ten located in the latter two. It is clear from the
above, that sustainable theories of the post-commu-
nist city cannot be achieved without an appropriate
understanding of the centrally planned geographies
underlying it. Therefore, one of the objectives of
this introduction is to revisit the significance of the
communist heritage.
During the past two decades there has been an

THOMAS BORÉN AND MICHAEL GENTILE

© The authors 2007
Journal compilation © 2007 Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography

96
accumulation of research and knowledge on the
post-communist urban scene. The contributions
roughly deal with three interrelated broad themes:
(1) urban management and governance (including
the political processes embedded in transition); (2)
social issues and processes; and (3) urban morphol-
ogy, including the changes in land use which have
become apparent since the demise of state social-
ism (see Gentile and Sjöberg, 2006, for a review).
Thus far, much research has been concerned
with geographical differentiation and patterns, so-
cial or physical. Although full agreement has yet to
be obtained regarding the nature and character of
these patterns, and of the socialist-era socio-spatial
ones in particular (see Smith, 1996), it is clear that
the post-socialist city – in whatever regional guise
– stands as a rather unique creature evolving from
past experiences of specific land use patterns (e.g.
Bertaud and Renaud, 1997) and socialistic patterns
of residential segregation (e.g. Szelényi, 1996).
However, many of the processes which underlie the
observed geographical patterns have yet to be un-
derstood, and the social complexity and differenti-
ation embedded in them has only recently come to
the fore (as in Tammaru, 2005, concerning subur-
banization).
To give an example, the much acclaimed process
of residential suburbanization in the major cities of
post-communist Europe has been described care-
fully, and its institutional setting has been dissected
(see e.g. Ioffe and Nefedova, 1998; Kok and Ko-
vács, 1999; Timár and Váradi, 2001; Nuissl and
Rink, 2005), but crucial questions such as who sub-
urbanizes and how suburbanites live have not been
adequately addressed – yet. Likewise, occasional
excesses in “transitionmindedness” have often ob-
scured the role played by global or at least cross-re-
gional trends in the shaping of the post-communist
city. For instance, residential suburbanization’s
counter-flow, reurbanization, has only recently
emerged to the surface of the academic waters
(Haase

et al

., 2005; Buzar

et al

., 2007).

2

By approaching the three aforementioned
themes of urban management and governance, so-
cial issues and processes, and urban morphology
with fresh methods and new datasets, the contribu-
tions gathered in this special issue improve on some
of these lacunae. The result is a palpable leap for-
ward with insights into hitherto poorly explored
fields: the daily rhythm of the suburban household,
its social anatomy and geography of (suburban)
destinations, the varieties of suburban develop-
ment, the impact of demographic change on urban
spatial structure, and the underlying mechanisms
of post-communist inner city regeneration.
This theme issue introduction is structured as
follows. First, we will identify and discuss five key
significant legacy aspects – by no means an exhaus-
tive list – that retain a passive or at times even quite
active role in moulding the course of events in the
post-communist urban scene. These are the (1) cen-
tral planning, (2) land allocation, (3) the second
economy, (4) defence considerations, and (5) the
implications of the ideological leadership of the
communist parties. We then investigate the litera-
ture on the unfolding urban geography of post-
communism and the factors underpinning its devel-
opment, and we place the papers collected in this
theme issue into their context.

One-way ticket to the marketplace?

By the turn of the new millennium, most of the
growing pains associated with transition had been
mitigated by the ripening of “entrepreneurialisa-
tion”, the legal system and democratic values.
Largely, the countries of CEE have returned to Eu-
rope, for post-socialist transition is not only an eco-
nomic process whereby the socialist administrative
allocation of goods is replaced by market mecha-
nisms of allocation, but also a choice of disassoci-
ation from the ideological, political, social and mil-
itary context of the past. A reasonable assumption
at this point would be that Central and Eastern Eu-
ropean urban development is or will increasingly
resemble the urban of Western Europe, for as Enye-
di (1992) clarifies, state socialism should be seen as
an intervening rather than a decisive factor in
moulding the course of urbanization. But is this re-
ally the case?
Both yes and no.



There is increasing evidence –
including some of the papers in this special issue –
that the decades of communism are more than a
temporary historical parenthesis, and recent trends
in the transformation of the spatial structure of the
settlement system in Central and Eastern Europe
support this. For example, is the rapid process of
suburbanization that we are currently witnessing in
the Czech Republic, as indeed in most other Euro-
pean post-socialist states, merely an expression of
the suppressed demand for suburban living under
state socialism, or could it be that the socialist sys-
tem, coupled with the diseconomies generated by
central planning, may have exerted an empowering
influence on the course of events during the post-
socialist era, driving it towards a new, perhaps hy-

METROPOLITAN PROCESSES IN POST-COMMUNIST STATES: AN INTRODUCTION

© The authors 2007
Journal compilation © 2007 Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography

97
brid, form of urban development? By the same to-
ken, are the extensive brownfields resulting from
the previous socialist practice of heavy industrial-
ization, low technological innovation and absence
of incentives for the recycling of land (Bertaud and
Renaud, 1997) not factors which may impact on the
future spatial structure of the cities of CEE to such
an extent that they may intrude in the overall proc-
ess of these cities’ return to Europe?
This could be the case, but does it really matter?
The communist legacies may likewise be viewed as
yet another aspect of the diverse ideological, polit-
ical and economic heritage which characterizes Eu-
rope, and communism as such was a European in-
vention aimed at solving European (and later glo-
bal) problems. Its urban by-products were designed
in Europe, but were also made and assembled else-
where. In sum, the post-socialist city seems to be
developing into a new form of European urbanism
which may be distinct from that in Western Europe,
but no more so than the latter is distinct from the
Mediterranean or Nordic city.
The differences between the

socialist

and the
Western European city are certainly worth empha-
sizing, but the fact that there were some important
similarities between the two is often neglected and
should be acknowledged. During the post-war
epoch of welfarist Keynesianism, the Western Eu-
ropean city was rebuilt and modernized largely
through the implementation of modernist ideas,
such as those contained in Corbusier’s projects.
Such ideas were often conceived within a socialist
ideological context, and they were extensively put
into practice in socialist CEE following the mid-
1950s’ dismantling of the Stalinist architectural
paradigm of neoclassical grandeur and façadism.
As a result, the socialist and capitalist European
postwar urban peripheries can be remarkably sim-
ilar, perhaps even more similar than they were be-
fore the advent of socialism in CEE. In this light,
the developments which have been taking place
since the demise of the latter point towards in-
creased diversity and the rediscovery of national
heritage within a context of global influences, rath-
er than towards homogeneous Europeanization.
For example, as Martin Ou

®

ední

π

ek will tell us in
his article in this issue, the wave of middle-class
suburbanization which has invested the Prague
metropolitan region during the past years is largely
the result of the population’s pursuit of the Czech
dream of a single family house with a private gar-
den. In Russia, on the other hand, Tsarist and Sta-
linesque grandeur are being rediscovered or rein-
vented (Glasser, 2004). Further east, in the Central
Asian Republics, the City Beautiful movement has
regained much of its former glory, eased by the
emergence and persistence of autocratic govern-
ments which value the grandeur of the architecture
and planning solutions that it professes (see Anack-
er, 2004, for the case of the new Kazakhstani capital
of Astana). Meanwhile, inner city gentrification
and regeneration are reversing the socialist-era
trend of deterioration, while restoring (and possi-
bly accentuating) the specific urban forms which
characterized the pre-socialist epoch.
Socialist spaces linger ubiquitously, whether they
be hidden behind large advertisement billboards,
preserved within the confines of inner city brown-
fields, or between the inner walls of the large mo-
notonous housing estates built since the early 1960s.
While post-socialist transition as a broad societal
process involves the creation of a socio-economic
order almost

ex novo

, post-socialist transformation
is constrained by the inertias of the built environ-
ment and therefore characterized by the addition of
new urban layers rather than the eradication of ex-
isting ones. The socialist period left the countries of
CEE with a rather large layer of urban development
(and an even larger one in the Former Soviet Union),
not only due to the sheer length of the period, but
also due to the socially (and spatially) revolutioniz-
ing ambitions of the system itself (Stites, 1989).
This layer was shaped by numerous spatially differ-
entiated and space-differentiating systemic factors,
including the economic and political priority mech-
anisms embedded in central planning (Kornai,
1992; Tammaru, 2001b; Gentile and Sjöberg, 2006),
the specifics of land allocation and use (Bertaud and
Renaud, 1997), defence considerations (French,
1995; Samuelson, 1999), the second economy
(Arnstberg and Borén, 2003), and the ideological
leadership of the Communist Party (Åman, 1992).
Let us explore these factors in greater detail.

Central planning

Let us start with some basic tenets of the dynamics
of the centrally planned economy. During the so-
cialist period, all but a handful of economic sectors
suffered from more or less regular shortages – of
raw materials, intermediary goods, labour and cap-
ital.

3

The cumulative effect of the shortages in-
curred at different levels in the production process
was such that the ultimate burden was placed on the
consumers, who were often faced with the choice
of buying poor-quality goods (if available) or ob-

THOMAS BORÉN AND MICHAEL GENTILE

© The authors 2007
Journal compilation © 2007 Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography

98
taining nothing at all. Furthermore, the non-com-
petitive nature of the business environment, cou-
pled with technological backwardness (obviously,
with some exceptions), implied that the few goods
that made it on to the shelves did not necessarily de-
serve the honour. Since quality problems were
widespread, they too tended to acquire a cumula-
tive character – in Åslund’s (2003, p. 125) words,
‘much of Soviet manufacture was sheer value de-
traction’, and ‘Soviet raw materials were excellent,
Soviet intermediary goods were shoddy, while con-
sumer goods and processed foods were substand-
ard’. The same is true for the made-under-central
planning built environment, including factory
buildings and housing. Thus, the socialist city ex-
isted in a context of shortage; under such circum-
stances, the players in the urban game operate un-
der different rules and conventions than they would
in a market economy.
Shortages notwithstanding, the essence of a cen-
trally planned system is that there is a plan – or rath-
er countless plans – and that there are plan targets
to be met. This had far-reaching implications. First,
the incentives to invest in technological improve-
ments or other measures aimed at increasing pro-
ductivity were insufficient: faced with the immedi-
acy of the plan targets, managers preferred hoard-
ing labour and inputs rather than exploring the field
of increased productivity (Kornai, 1980, 1992;
Sjöberg, 1999).

4

Moreover, since substandard
products could be sold, obsolete production facili-
ties peacefully coexisted with more modern ones,
as new technologies merely supplemented, rather
than supplanted, the previous one. The ensuing
‘technological pluralism’ (Teodorescu, 1991, p.
75) literally had the effect of ‘petrifying’ (Åslund,
2003, p. 38) or ‘stiffening’ (Borén, 2005) the in-
dustrial landscape to the extent that many pre-so-
cialist industrial facilities not only outlived the so-
cialist period itself, but also set the course of post-
socialist urban development as the extensive inner
city industrial areas have succumbed to market
pressures and deindustrialization, turned into
brownfields, and selectively been rediscovered and
regenerated (Kiss, 2002).
Second, some plan targets are more important
than others, but the resources are few, and in the ab-
sence of market pricing, this means rationing under
the guidance of the ideological expertise of the
Communist Party. Put differently, under conditions
of shortage, it is vital that the production targets
deemed most important be given priority expressed
in the form of adequate funding, effectively at the
expense of the non-priority economy. In general,
heavy industry and the military-industrial complex
enjoyed priority over agriculture, light industry and
the services (see Doma

~

ski, 1997). For the individ-
ual production unit, the socialist enterprise, priority
was inversely proportional to budget discipline,
with priority enterprises being subject to soft (flex-
ible on request) budget restraints, whereas the rest
were subject to hard budget restraints (Kornai,
1992, pp. 140–145). Certainly, softness was not
only a matter of the authorities’ rationalistic plan-
related considerations but also of the political clout
and negotiating skills of the enterprise managers –
softness was thus at least partly prepared in the in-
formal economy (Doma

~

ski, 1997).
The impacts of the priority-based system were
manifold. First of all, given the shortage context,
the enterprises with the greatest budgetary ma-
noeuvring ability were also the ones best equipped
to tackle the shortages. As an example, faced with
chronic labour shortage, priority enterprises were
more likely to be able to afford to offer non-wage
benefits such as access to the enterprise-owned
housing stock, to short-supply consumer goods, to
special healthcare facilities and so on, in order to at-
tract and retain workers (Shomina, 1992; Do-
ma

~

ski, 1997; Szirmai, 1998; Gentile and Sjöberg,
2006). Furthermore, although most of the enter-
prise social infrastructure was usually for the ex-
clusive use of the workers and their families, its
mere existence discouraged parallel investment on
behalf of the municipal administration (Doma

~

ski,
1997).
The unintended spatial outcome of such tenden-
cies demonstrates inequalities on both the physical
and the social level, for the priority-based differen-
tiation of the economic organizations active in any
city is echoed by spatial disequilibria in the quality
and, especially, the location of the urban infrastruc-
ture. The latter was not equally accessible to all,
even though the extent of this inequality was rather
modest compared to that found in cities in market
economies. Nevertheless, as Szelényi (1983) argued
convincingly in connection with the housing alloca-
tion system in Hungary, the socialist urban social in-
equalities were created by mechanisms which are
inherent to the socialist system itself. A crucial set
of these mechanisms stems from the priority sys-
tem, whose spatial implications have been recently
conceptualized in the so-called landscape of priority
model at the settlement system (Sjöberg, 1999) and
intra-urban level (Gentile and Sjöberg, 2006). Cru-
cial to the model, and following Kornai (1992, p.

METROPOLITAN PROCESSES IN POST-COMMUNIST STATES: AN INTRODUCTION

© The authors 2007
Journal compilation © 2007 Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography

99
143), is the recognition that priorities are relative.
Furthermore, they were subject to fluctuations in the
political and economic mood of the time, and could
therefore vary from year to year, or at least plan to
plan (even though some sectors were granted stable
high or low priority, the military-industrial complex
and the shoe industry being cases in point).

The specifics of land allocation and use

Land had no market value under socialism and,
therefore, its use was not determined by competi-
tive bidding but by administrative decisions (Ber-
taud and Renaud, 1997). However, since land is a
scarce resource, it too was subject to the aforemen-
tioned rationing game, where the interests of the in-
dustrial enterprises and of the “non-productive” el-
ements of the city had to be weighed against each
other (Ruble, 1995). The outcome of this bargain-
ing process was usually to the advantage of the en-
terprises, for as French (1995, p. 67) puts it, ‘in a
conflict of interest, it was no contest’. As a result,
industry had first choice, while the town planner
was near the bottom of the food chain (with the
populace immediately beneath). The details of
town planning – like many other spheres of public
administration – were treated as a state secret, and
to a certain extent, therefore, town planning was
akin to town lobbying (Gentile, 2003).
Furthermore, in the absence of market pricing,
the recycling of land (i.e. the replacement of obso-
lete forms of land use by economically more effi-
cient ones) was unintentionally discouraged, while
the demand for land tended to be satisfied through
the allocation of peripheral greenfield sites (Ber-
taud and Renaud, 1997) – the socialist version of
inner city regeneration did not take off until the
1980s, and even then at a rather modest pace. In ad-
dition to the allocation of greenfield sites to the in-
dustrial enterprises, the latter were often also able
to secure land for future use, freezing it for many
years to come by prohibiting the activities present
on it from developing (because they were to be ter-
minated at some point), and the area’s inhabitants
from improving their housing situation (see Do-
ma

~

ski, 1997; Axenov

et al

., 2006, p. 11; for hous-
ing cf. Borén, 2005, pp. 96–97).
This, together with the spatial corollary of tech-
nological pluralism outlined above, contributed to
the formation of land use curves specific to social-
ism on the one hand, and to disproportions in the in-
dustry’s share of the urban land total on the other.

5

Unlike in market cities where the population den-
sity is inversely proportional to distance from the
city centre, socialist cities were relatively densely
populated at their outskirts. There are three main
reasons for this. First, like industry, housing was
usually built on greenfield sites (see Szelényi,
1983; French, 1995). Second, large-scale housing
estates were the norm in the post-Stalin era (And-
rusz, 1984; Borén, 2005); and third, because indus-
try occupied extensive inner city territories and was
not under recycling pressure (Bertaud and Renaud,
1997; Kiss, 2002; Bertaud, 2006). However, it
should be noted that the inner parts of the socialist
cities were often densily populated (and in some
cases even more so than in market cities), and that
the CBD did not exist as it is conventionally under-
stood. In the post-socialist era, where market fac-
tors toll urban space for the most profitable loca-
tions, we may notice a clear “CBD-ization” proc-
ess, whereby centrally located residential space is
squeezed by the advancement of commercial and
office functions.
In sum, compared with the market-based model
of land use, land allocation under socialism fos-
tered the formation of distinct patterns which are
characterized by rusty inner city over-industriali-
zation along with extensive new industrial zones on
the outskirts, rather than high population densities
in peripheral areas, and the asymmetrical spatial
outcome of the preferential treatment of industry

vis-à-vis

the non-productive functions. These pat-
terns have challenging implications for the present
and future development of the post-socialist city.

The second economy

The prevalence of shortages throughout most of the
economy encouraged the growth of a comprehen-
sive informal second economy which deeply in-
volved both individuals and organizations (Samp-
son, 1985; Ladányi and Szelényi, 1998; Ledeneva,
1998; Arnstberg and Borén, 2003; Pavlovskaya,
2004; Smith and Stenning, 2006). For the individ-
ual, the second economy was a means of securing
goods and services which were otherwise unavail-
able or inaccessible; for the organizations, it was a
way to ensure the fulfilment of plan targets. How-
ever, individual and societal interests were not nec-
essarily in harmony, and urban spaces today are
still affected both by the spatial legacy of the sec-
ond economy and by the remnants of the economic
practices connected to these kinds of economies.
The following example reveals how the second
economy directly influenced the physical spatial

THOMAS BORÉN AND MICHAEL GENTILE

© The authors 2007
Journal compilation © 2007 Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography

100
structure of the socialist cities and the lives of their
inhabitants. Construction workers often removed
building materials from the building site in order to
barter them within the economy of favours (Le-
deneva, 1998) or sell them on the black market to
other private persons (for whom it would be very
difficult to obtain them through formal channels) or
to use them for their own needs, thus delaying or
impeding the progress of the works.

6

In turn, the
enterprise responsible for the object under con-
struction used the ensuing unfinished objects as in-
struments in the budget bargaining process

vis-à-
vis

the central authorities in order to obtain addi-
tional funding for investment.
As a result, socialist landscapes are scarred by
countless unfinished objects (Åslund, 2003), often
– it should be added – in peripheral areas, since new
construction usually took place on greenfield sites
for the reasons outlined above. Typically, such un-
finished spaces (the so-called

dolgostroi

in the
USSR) include various structures (be it future fac-
tories, housing or public buildings), armed con-
crete carcasses and foundations, or simply semi-
prepared or prepared land. In terms of these unfin-
ished sites, three developments may be noticed dur-
ing the post-socialist epoch. First, those located on
high-value land, such as in most large or particu-
larly prosperous cities and central locations in other
cities, became subject to redevelopment due to
pressure from the market. This may presuppose
demolition and typically results in different or
more intense land use. Second, those located on
medium-value land, including most areas in medi-
um-sized cities and the central parts of small cities,
are completed or converted if this does not require
excessive investment. Finally, those located on
low-value land preserve the status quo, with nega-
tive aesthetic and other impacts on their surround-
ing areas.
The second economy also had socio-spatial ef-
fects on the city, which is best clarified by the actual
way the administrative allocation of housing was
carried out. Given that housing was in shortage, the
system strongly encouraged taking advantage of
social networks (Bodnár and Böröcz, 1998),

7

and/
or purely illegal methods in the transaction be-
tween the state and the (housing) supplicant (Mor-
ton, 1984). Illegal methods may include the abuse
of influence and bribes (e.g. in the form of con-
struction materials). Although the extent of this
parallel network economy within housing cannot
be estimated in numbers, it is clear that having ac-
cess to it was crucial in order to satisfy one’s hous-
ing needs, while lacking such access seriously
damaged a household’s prospects for receiving ac-
ceptable accommodation. In the post-socialist era,
personal networks continue(d) to play an important
role in urban affairs, not least so for individuals and
households needing to loan cash for pre-mortgage-
era real estate transactions.

Defence considerations

A relatively neglected aspect of the development of
the socialist city is the degree to which it was sub-
ject to the requirements of the (high-priority) de-
fence sector and its associated industries. The de-
fence expenditure in the late years of the Soviet Un-
ion has been estimated at up to 25 per cent of the
country’s GDP (Åslund, 2003), and the military-
industrial complex certainly employed a large
share of the urban population.
In the socialist states, as elsewhere, the military
and its associated industrial complex operated in an
atmosphere of secrecy to which the hosting cities
were required to adapt in a number of ways. At the
same time, it posed concrete and coercive demands
as to the shaping of urban space. These two factors
had a fourfold physical impact on the city. First,
military-industrial objects often occupied large ter-
ritories and, given that they were part of the same
structural context as any other enterprise (albeit as
privileged entities), they too tended to expand in
time. As such, they could occupy entire urban
wedges, creating significant physical barriers be-
tween neighbourhoods and extensive no-go zones.
Second, military-related concerns restricted the ur-
ban development (land use) options available to
planners based on the military’s perception of the
“defence value” of the city’s localities. The latter
factor was and is of certain importance to market
cities as well; the difference is in scale. Third, de-
fence considerations also actively participated in
shaping the urban environment and its components.
For example, the production facilities of most in-
dustrial enterprises had to be built so that they could
be converted into military-industrial units within a
week, if necessary (Samuelson, 2000; Inga Gold-
berga, former Chief Architect of the city of Dau-
gavpils, Latvia,

personal communication

, January
2006). Likewise, defence considerations were in-
strumental in influencing the width of some strate-
gic avenues, the depth of the underground system,
the distance between buildings, and so on. (Ruble,
1990; Kotkin, 1991; Gaddy, 1996; Borén, 2003b,
pp. 122–123). Finally, the fourth area of impact was

METROPOLITAN PROCESSES IN POST-COMMUNIST STATES: AN INTRODUCTION

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101
in the semiotic sphere: the socialist cities were (and
usually still are in the ex-USSR) saturated with
parks, monuments, sculptures, altars, obelisks, se-
lect military paraphernalia and so on, reminding
passers-by of the glorious achievements of the re-
spective military forces during the Second World
War. Certainly, as Borén (2005, p. 89) reminds us,
‘the symbolic power [of the war] was used by the
central authorities as a uniting historical factor in
forming a supposedly Soviet identity’.
Defence concerns also had important – and
mainly deleterious – social impacts. First, they seg-
regated the population employed by the military
and within the military industrial complex from
each other and from the rest of the population (so-
cially or socio-spatially). Those employed by cer-
tain sensitive enterprises (commonly referred to as
“postal boxes” in the USSR), and their families, en-
joyed significant non-wage benefits at the consid-
erable social cost of severe restrictions on private
movement and social contacts (Samuelson, 1999;
Gentile, 2004a).

8

Second, they indirectly (or direct-
ly via the agency of the secret services) fostered an
atmosphere of fear and suspicion. Third, they lay
behind the real socialist fear of accurate informa-
tion, which took form in the (mis)representation (if
any) of cities on maps of all scales. Borén (2005,
ch. 6) points out that the lack of urban spatial in-
formation during the socialist period forced citi-
zens to acquire this information in other ways; for
example, through personal experience. Given that
most urban communal and commercial services
such as shops and other objects – not only the fac-
tories – tended to stay put under conditions of cen-
tral planning, the inhabitants of the socialist

urbs

generally knew their city better than their capitalist
city counterparts.
Finally, defence-related activities often carried a
negative ecological impact, which is particularly
true for defence-related heavy industry. Further-
more, because the activities that took place within
the military-industrial complex were kept secret, so
too was their ecological footprint. Without delving
into the ecological failures of the socialist city, it
shall here suffice to note that the concrete location
of concrete defence-related factories had concrete
effects on concrete urban areas and their inhabit-
ants. This raises the issue of environmental justice,
as it has been noted that the neighbourhoods most
exposed to the negative externalities of hazardous
industrial production tend to be inhabited by poor
and socially vulnerable groups (Gentile, 2003,
2004b). Although a similar phenomenon existed in
market economies as well (Boone, 2002), it was
particularly unjust under socialism because it was
kept entirely secret; if the emissions were such that
they could not be detected by the five senses, there
was no way for the inhabitants to realize what they
were being affected by. When they could be detect-
ed, any sign of discontent was effectively sup-
pressed by the “organs”.

Implications of the ideological leadership of
the party

The ideological leadership of the party had a varying
impact on the urbanization process under socialism,
although the result was quite consistent under the
two major planning paradigms which characterized
it. Thus, the ideologically grounded extreme focus
on industrialisation which characterized the Stalin
era in the USSR (1929–1953) and the satellite
states’ Stalin-inspired regimes of the early post-Sec-
ond World War period exacerbated the housing
shortage; at the same time, these regimes’ appreci-
ation of grandeuristic forms of architectural expres-
sion had a highly visible impact on the cityscapes of
the larger cities (Bater, 1980; French, 1995). Later
on, and for the remainder of the socialist period,
cheap homogeneous prefabricated housing ar-
ranged in self-contained neighbourhood units,

mikrorayony

, became the rule (French and Hamil-
ton, 1979; Bater, 1980; Pallot and Shaw, 1981; An-
drusz, 1984; French, 1995; Bernhardt, 2005; Borén,
2005), while the housing shortage inherited from
the previous period was not eradicated due to the
continued pattern of investment in industry; that is,
the productive activities in Soviet talk, and disin-
vestment in housing and institutions supplying basic
social needs – the non-productive functions (Szy-
ma

~

ska and Matczak, 2002).
The discrepancy between the supplies of indus-
trial jobs and housing created a number of prob-
lems which undermined the legitimacy of the so-
cialist regimes, as the related inequalities in access
to housing were hardly consonant with the Marxist
ideological tenets on which the system was based.
For this reason, as well as for the aforementioned
defence-related purposes, most socialist polities
adopted various measures aimed at limiting urban
growth and achieving an optimal city size. The
most important measure was that of the internal
passport combined with restrictions on urban-
bound migration, with local variations across the
socialist realm (see Lewis and Rowland, 1979;
Sampson, 1979; Ronnås, 1982; Matthews, 1993;

THOMAS BORÉN AND MICHAEL GENTILE

© The authors 2007
Journal compilation © 2007 Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography

102
Sjöberg, 1994; Buckley, 1995; Gang and Stuart,
1999; Höjdestrand, 2001, 2004; Gentile, 2004a, for
examples of literature explicitly dealing with this
issue within the Soviet, Russian, Kazakhstani, Al-
banian and Romanian contexts).
Although mostly limited to the largest cities,
these policies failed on at least two accounts. First,
they did not succeed in effectively curbing urban-
bound migration since they did not address its main
reasons, including the persistence of an acute so-
cio-economic urban–rural divide; second, they di-
vided the urban population into a mainstream legal
stratum which was entitled access to the urban
service structures, and a marginalized illegal stra-
tum lacking such privileges. Therefore, at best,
these methods had the effect of concealing the most
blatant inequalities of the socialist city from its reg-
ular inhabitants, its visitors and, possibly, a share of
the core of party officialdom.
In short, the administrative restrictions on mi-
gration and city growth did not succeed in breach-
ing the gap between socialist theory and (not so) so-
cialist practice. Rather, they probably contributed
to its exacerbation; since the semi-coercive meth-
ods did not suffice, additional tools of persuasion
had to be implemented. This is where the state
propaganda apparatus came in, its goal being to
convince an under-housed population that things
are much better, and much more equal, than they at
first sight might appear to be. Hence, an entire com-
munist semiotic landscape layer was applied to the
socialist city. Although it was also the first to dis-
appear, at least in Central Eastern Europe, the Bal-
tics, and gradually in the major cities of the CIS, its
legacy is re-emerging in the form of new spaces of
communist nostalgia (Young and Light, 2006),
themselves a product tailored for the growing com-
munist heritage tourism rather than for the needs of
the local population, and in the form of the neo-Sta-
linistic spaces and semiotic landscapes which are
emerging in Russia, Belarus’ and, to a certain ex-
tent, the Ukraine.

Realities at the destination

Although the social and physical spaces of the so-
cialist city were moulded by the legacy factors out-
lined above, the local mix of ingredients differed at
most scales, producing heterogeneous urban out-
comes both within and across the socialist states
(Axenov

et al

., 2006, p. 11). Nevertheless, the main
characteristics of the structural context of socialist
urbanization were such that they produced predict-
able spatial patterns and structures which are char-
acteristic of the socialist city or, rather, of the city
under socialism. These patterns and structures are
gradually being eroded by strong westerly winds,
revealing previous pre-socialist structures on the
one hand, but depositing new layers of urban “sed-
iments” on the other. If the restitution of national-
ized property to former owners or their descendants
contributes to the re-instauration of pre-socialist
social structures (see Dawidson, 2004), the “inva-
sion” by foreign companies has prompted changes
in land use which interfere with the spatialities of
socialism and pre-socialist capitalism alike. But
westerly winds tend to wane while crossing the Eu-
ropean continent: post-socialist Europe is redis-
covering difference.
The literature has thus far identified a number of
striking phenomena, all somehow interrelated, in
the physical and socio-spatial development of the
post-socialist urban areas. Prominently, these in-
clude: (1) residential, commercial and industrial
suburbanization; (2) land use changes, particularly
from residential to commercial/offices in central
locations; (3) the formation of inner city brown-
fields as a result of deindustrialization; (4) residen-
tial and commercial gentrification, and (5) increas-
ing socio-spatial polarization. The latter theme in-
cludes a rising interest in literally or “psychologi-
cally” gated communities (Bachvarov, 2005;
Badyina and Golubchikov, 2005; Stoyanov and
Frantz, 2006; Blinnikov

et al

., 2006; Hirt and Ko-
vachev, 2006).
Behind these processes lie the return of private
property and restitution (re-privatization) of real
assets to their pre-socialist owners, the privatiza-
tion of former state assets and, above all, the reas-
sertion of competitive-bid land markets (Pichler-
Milanovi



and Andrews, 2005; Bertaud, 2006).
Likewise, their intensity and geographical patterns
are affected by the cities’ increasing exposure to
global influences and to the competitive inter-urban
environment of the post-socialist non-autarkic eco-
nomic setting (Hamilton, 2005; Pichler-Milanovi



and Andrews, 2005; Axenov

et al

., 2006; S

=

kora,
2006). The five articles collected in this special is-
sue deal specifically with suburbanization (Novák
and S

=

kora, Leetmaa and Tammaru, and Ou

®

ed-


π

ek), inner city regeneration (Temelová), and de-
mographic change under transition (Steinführer
and Haase), but they also relate directly or indirect-
ly to all five of the above themes.
Almost the entire former socialist block has al-
ready embraced the market economy, for, as Kunz-

METROPOLITAN PROCESSES IN POST-COMMUNIST STATES: AN INTRODUCTION

© The authors 2007
Journal compilation © 2007 Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography

103
mann (2006, p. 19) Thatcherianly explains, ‘obvi-
ously experience shows that there is no alternative’
to it. Nevertheless, the image of the socialist period,
or rather of the Soviet Union, has partly resurrected
in much of the Former Soviet Union, and especially
in Russia.

9

As a consequence, the East Central Eu-
ropean post-socialist and the city of the Slavic parts
of the FSU city are gradually growing apart. Fur-
thermore, as the process of urbanization in socialist
Europe occurred at an unequal pace, with some
countries remaining little urbanized throughout the
length of the period (e.g. Albania), while others had
been substantially urbanized even before the ad-
vent of socialism (e.g. the Czech Republic), the
preconditions for urban growth clearly differ, as do
the outcomes. Suppressed urbanization (rural re-
tention; see Sjöberg, 1992) and the poor develop-
ment of the infrastructure in the Tirana hinterland
under socialism are the principal determinants of
the current seemingly uncontrolled sprawl and
population growth of the Albanian capital and its
environs (Aliaj

et al

., 2003; King and Vullnetari,
2003; see also Deda and Tsenkova, 2006; Tahiraj

et
al

., 2005). Conversely, the high degree of urbani-
zation in the Czech Republic at the outset, coupled
with the socialist regime’s preference for industrial
growth over increased (high-rise prefabricated
block) housing supply, meant that

suburbanization

as the next stage of urban development after con-
centrated urbanization was suppressed; most of the
peri-urban growth that did take place under social-
ism should be seen as a pre-urban – not post-urban
– phenomenon (Murray and Szelényi, 1984). As a
result, with the right economic and legal context,
the Czech-suppressed demand for suburban living
has now been released.
Suburbanization is widely viewed as the most
conspicuous phenomenon in the spatial develop-
ment of post-socialist urban Europe (Timár and
Váradi, 2001; Tammaru, 2005). Although the de-
velopment is far from ubiquitous – most small and
medium-sized cities, not to mention those located
in economically depressed regions, have, for in-
stance, yet to make serious acquaintance with the
process – it is safe to say that the most comprehen-
sive changes in land use that have been taking place
in the larger urban areas of post-socialist Europe
may be identified in their respective hinterlands.
Former rural settlements have been subject to par-
tial gentrification (Kok and Kóvacs, 1999), satellite
urban-type communities have increased their ties
with their core cities through denser commuting
ties (for Latvia, cf. Bauls, 1992, and Kri



j

7

ne,
2007), new suburban functions are emerging as a
result of investment in suburban greenfield (former
green belt areas) and cheap conversion-cost brown-
field (former outer industrial ring) developments in
the form of new industries, commercial facilities
and, therefore, employment opportunities at major
transport nodes and along the main arteries (Lo-
rens, 2006, p. 105).
Although the process of residential suburbani-
zation is common to all developed post-socialist
states, the universality of its specific forms may be
questioned, especially with regard to the social
composition of the population segments that are in-
volved in it and to the way it is produced in bricks
and mortar. There are three main possibilities. One
is that residential suburbanization under post-com-
munist transition might have an evolutionary char-
acter, whereby the final result will be similar across
nations. Alternatively, it may be developing unique
features which reflect its regional cultural, politi-
cal, economic and institutional setting. Finally, the
evolutionary character of suburbanization might
blend with the peculiarities of place, producing
moderately similar outcomes.
The evolutionary perspective is appealing be-
cause the economic factors that underlie post-so-
cialist suburbanization – suppressed demand under
socialism, increased disposable incomes for some
and, later on, the availability of affordable long-term
mortgage options – are or (presumably) will be
shared by all post-communist states. As a matter of
fact, for most countries, the following sequence may
be observed: (1) pre-urban socialist-era suburbani-
zation caused by urban housing shortage (Szelényi,
1983; Murray and Szelényi, 1984; Sjöberg, 1992);
(2) modest post-urban socialist-era suburbanization
directed towards profitable collective farms (if any)
located near large cities (Tammaru, 2001b); (3) a
short period of no or very little activity; (4) the for-
mation of small clusters of luxury single-family
dwellings for the new elite; and (5) intense (“mass”)
suburbanization led by the emergence of a substan-
tial middle class and the availability of low-interest
loans. Throughout this evolutionary process, popu-
lation movements have been taking place between
the existing settlements and the core city for various
reasons (e.g. unaffordable housing in the city core,
supplementing household income with home-
grown food). As the stages of this model progress,
the determinants of suburbanization gradually shift
from legacy-related to transition-related.
The problem of the above evolutionary perspec-
tive is that many countries have not experienced the

THOMAS BORÉN AND MICHAEL GENTILE

© The authors 2007
Journal compilation © 2007 Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography

104
fifth stage. In some cases there may simply be a de-
lay caused by the slow implementation of the ju-
ridical and economic reforms necessary for subur-
banization to take off. However, in other cases, the
enlargement of the middle class and the populari-
zation of housing mortgages have led to different
outcomes despite similar land use patterns at the
outset. In Moscow and Kiev, for example, vertical
housing developments – even at peripheral loca-
tions – take precedence over sprawling low-density
suburbanization. This is not to say that the latter is
not developing at all, but rather that it continues to
be the domain of the economic elite (and therefore
more modest in terms of its territorial extent), as the
case of the Bulgarian capital city region testifies
(Hirt and Kovachev, 2006). Hence, we find support
for the idea that suburbanization is developing
unique features in different developed countries,
and that there seems to be a distinction between the
urban areas of the Slavic republics of the Former
Soviet Union on the one hand and those in Central
Europe and the Baltics on the other. The case of
some countries in the Balkans, the Caucasus and
the Central Asian republics is yet another story, as
these regions are still undergoing urbanization,
while the established urban population was subject
to the same suppressed suburbanization as else-
where in the socialist world, which could lead to yet
another variant of metropolitan development (see
Tosics, 2005, for an attempt at classifying the range
of post-socialist cities).
At this point the third alternative would seem
most plausible, since it embraces both the similar-
ities and the differences outlined above – at a first
glance. The problem is that the fifth and most im-
portant stage does not seem to take place at all in
some countries, whereas it is fairly similar else-
where. However, it is still too early to say whether
the Russian one is a case of unfulfilled delayed sub-
urbanization, or whether the stage has been by-
passed altogether. In either case, awaiting the final
verdict from further East and Southeast, it appears
that an evolutionary model may be helpful to un-
derstand residential suburbanization in some coun-
tries, whereas the unique path perspective may ex-
plain the rest. In the meantime, while the broad spa-
tial articulations of intense residential suburbaniza-
tion have been analysed in previous research, its
social content has not yet been dissected. Likewise,
the spatial behaviour of the suburban newcomers
remains relatively unknown. Three of the articles in
this special issue address these lacunae, filling im-
portant gaps in our knowledge by delving into the
anatomy of Central European (Prague) and Baltic
(Tallinn) mass suburbanization.
Martin Ou

®

ední

π

ek’s study of differential migra-
tion in the Prague urban region shows that there are
more forms of suburban development than is usu-
ally perceived. His article discusses seven different
urban migration processes from the suburbaniza-
tion viewpoint, highlighting their significance for
the formation of the social and physical urban en-
vironment. The empirical material is unique and
the analysis emphasizes the structure of the resi-
dential preferences of the citizens. Taking into con-
sideration the different social status of the migrants
and their various reasons for migration, and in con-
trast with much of the literature, Ou

®

ední

π

ek argues
that suburbanization and the subsequent changes
both in the migrant-sending and the receiving dis-
tricts need not have negative consequences for the
overall urban environment.
Kadri Leetmaa and Tiit Tammaru take us to the
Tallinn metropolitan area of the fourth and early
fifth stages of suburbanization with a study in
which the people behind the process of suburbani-
zation are allowed to emerge from the depth of the
rich data used by the authors. Leetmaa and Tam-
maru demonstrate that the process leads to in-
creased socio-economic polarization in the urban
region: the majority of those who leave the metro-
politan core for the districts in the outskirts have
poor levels of (formal) education and tend to occu-
py the existing Soviet-era housing stock with its
monotonous high-rise buildings – now at a greater
distance from the city. People with higher attained
educational levels, on the other hand, generally re-
main in the central parts of the city. When they do
move, they tend to resettle in newly produced sin-
gle-family houses in the more prestigious districts
closer to the city or along the coast. The first wave
of suburbanization in Tallinn is, in other words, a
spatially segmented process with increasing subur-
ban residential segregation as a consequence.
With Jakub Novák and Lud

]

k S

=

kora we return
to Prague and its new suburbs. The new urban
forms and patterns of habitation in the former so-
cialist cities structure the daily activity and mobil-
ity patterns of the suburbanites: Novák and S

=

kora
explore the ensuing new patterns by making use of
a time-geographical approach. Their article shows
how the urban environment and the actions of in-
dividuals, such as commuting to work, supplying
the household with everyday goods or taking the
children to school, structure each other. Weekend
and leisure activities are also included in this care-

METROPOLITAN PROCESSES IN POST-COMMUNIST STATES: AN INTRODUCTION

© The authors 2007
Journal compilation © 2007 Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography

105
ful analysis of how the post-socialist city is func-
tionally integrated – and how it is not – with its sub-
urbs.
With respect to the force of its spatial impact, the
process of suburbanization is well matched by the
transformations which have been taking place in
the post-socialist inner city. Several factors have
been of especial importance here. First of all, under
socialism, commercial properties were virtually
non-existent (S

=

kora, 1998). With the advent of the
market economy, and with the aid of foreign and,
later on, domestic capital, the situation was recti-
fied, with new retail and office facilities appearing
at high-value locations to such an extent that, for
example, by the early 2000s Tallinn even experi-
enced a temporary decline in the price of modern
office space as a result of oversupply. Second, pri-
vatization and property restitution created the pre-
conditions for significant reshufflings in the own-
ership structure and socio-economic composition
of the residents of the pre-socialist housing stock.
In socialist times, when it was mostly inhabited by
an ageing and socially marginalized population,
this stock was largely left to decay (Szelényi, 1983;
Musil, 2005). However, disinvestment in the inner
city meant that many historical and architecturally
appealing buildings were preserved, albeit in a di-
lapidated condition, providing fertile ground for
post-socialist gentrification (see S

=

kora, 2005).
Third, the transformation of the inner city was
made possible by its rapid deindustrialization,
which left extensive brownfields – essentially va-
cant, high-value plots with high conversion costs
and, in some cases, occupied by valuable pre-so-
cialist industrial heritage objects (Kiss, 2002).
Jana Temelová’s article takes us to the recently
deindustrialized and reinvented working-class
community of Smíchov, an inner part of Prague. In
her case study, foreign capital and architectural ex-
cellence merged to create a high-profile (flagship)
building at a nodal location within the neighbour-
hood. Before long, the new structures acted as a cat-
alyst of renewal for Smíchov, and a positive radi-
ating regeneration effect is demonstrated. Unlike in
Western cities, where comparable large-scale
projects are often carried out as public–private part-
nerships, Temelová shows, in post-socialist cities,
that the public part of the partnership tends to be
weak and the private side strong.
An often forgotten aspect of urban change is its
underlying demographic component (Buzar

et al

.,
2005). Almost all European countries are experi-
encing natural population decline. While the dis-
mal fertility performance of the Western and South-
ern European countries has been taking place for
several decades now, it was not until recently that
the countries of Central and Eastern Europe have
followed suit. However, when they did, the decline
in fertility rates was dramatic – in

first

demographic
transition terms roughly a jump from late stage
three (high fertility and low mortality) or early
stage four (low fertility and low mortality) to an ad-
vanced stage five (somewhat higher mortality but
low fertility; see Jones, 1990). As a result, the size
of the young adult cohorts in many CEE countries
is still rather large

vis-à-vis

that of the previous and
following generations. In the medium term, this
carries the potential for a significant beneficial
macro-economic age dividend (see Malmberg and
Sommestad, 2000; Bloom

et al.

, 2003), but it also
means that the demand for certain types of housing
and public services will fluctuate according to the
life cycle stages of the dominant cohort.
Nevertheless, the changes in age composition are
more predictable than changes in household struc-
ture. The latter represent the focal point of the Sec-
ond Demographic Transition (SDT) theory, accord-
ing to which the nexus between lowest-low fertility
and the “higher-order needs” of educated young
adults is self-perpetuating (Surkyn and Lesthaeghe,
2004). This is the issue which Annett Steinführer
and Annegret Haase address in their article with re-
spect to East Central Europe and in particular the in-
ner city districts of its urban areas, where signs of the
“SDT lifestyle” are appearing in the form of loca–
lized reurbanization in the cities of the former East
Germany. The implications of their discussion are of
particular importance to the ongoing research on
gentrification, where the economic and institutional
settings appear in the foreground. As post-socialist
forerunners, Steinführer and Haase argue that the
cities of the new

Länder

most likely offer an indica-
tion of the possible future directions of urban change
in post-socialist Europe as a whole, possibly echo-
ing the post-suburban experiences of many North
American and West European cities.

More on the menu

The papers presented in this special issue are im-
portant steps in the advancement of the field of – if
we may – post-communist urban studies. By way of
conclusion, we would now like to suggest four ar-
eas which we believe require further research.
First of all, the

post-Soviet

case



is largely still

terra incognita

. Studies similar to the ones carried

THOMAS BORÉN AND MICHAEL GENTILE

© The authors 2007
Journal compilation © 2007 Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography

106
out by the authors of the articles in this special issue
should be repeated in the cities of the Common-
wealth of Independent States, where the past expe-
rience of socialism has been longer and the main di-
rections of urban development seem to be depart-
ing from those observed in East Central Europe.
What is it that makes the post-Soviet case different?
Second, the analysis of the



macro-context



of ur-
ban change should expand by embracing the

eco-
nomics of out-migration

from the CEE cities. Since
the EU accession of all of the post-socialist Central
European countries, of the three Baltic States, and
now of Romania and Bulgaria, the migration bal-
ance of these countries has deteriorated, particular-
ly with regard to the younger educated groups. If
the out-migration of these groups is temporary, the
return migrants are likely to bring improved skills
– and therefore wealth – with them. If it is not, the
risk of labour market bottlenecks (some of which
have already appeared, for example, in the con-
struction industry) and brain-drain will materialize,
reducing or obliterating the competitiveness of the
region’s urban nodes and depauperating the periph-
eral and inter-metropolitan spaces (Kunzmann,
2006). More research is needed on the effects of the
post-EU accession migration with the objective of
devising policy solutions aimed at capitalizing on
its advantages and minimizing the damages.
Third, within the micro-context, we may note
that most detailed studies of the changing spatial
structure of the post-socialist city have thus far
tended to emphasize the areas where the changes
have been most evident; that is, the suburban fringe
and the city centre. The areas which were forgotten
during the socialist era remain forgotten, and this is
particularly true for the declining transitional zones
at the outskirts of the inner city areas – areas whose
social depletion falls under the shadow of the par-
allel processes of reurbanization and gentrification.
Finally, the

small and medium-sized cities

still
remain in the periphery of post-socialist urban sci-
ence. Although the majority of the urban popula-
tion of the post-socialist world resides in such cit-
ies, they remain virtually unstudied.

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank the Bank of Sweden Ter-
centenary fund for their support granted to this
project by co-funding the ‘Urban Geographies of
Post-communist States I–VII’ sessions at the Inaugu-
ral Nordic Geographers Meeting in Lund, Sweden,
10–15 May 2005 (Project No. F2005–1370:1-E).
Thomas Borén thanks

Lillemor och Hans W:son Ahl-
manns fond för geografisk forskning

for a project
grant (Project: Inaugural Nordic Geographers Meet-
ing) that supported the work with this theme issue,
and the participation in the conference mentioned
above. Michael Gentile thanks the Wallander-
Hedelius Research Foundation of Svenska Han-
delsbanken for its generous financial support in the
form of a Wallander bursary. We also thank Örjan
Sjöberg and Lud

]

k S

=

kora for their highly useful
comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this pa-
per.

Thomas Borén
Stockholm University
Sweden
Michael Gentile
Stockholm School of Economics
Sweden

Notes

1. In this paper, the terms “socialist”’ and “communist” are
used interchangeably.
2. Other inner city transformation processes have been the fo-
cus of a large volume of research (see e.g. S

=

kora, 1999;
Nagy, 2001).
3. However, such shortages did not exclude the existence of
goods in long-term excess supply, flooding the warehouses
and ultimately generating large amounts of waste (see Ås-
lund, 2003, pp. 132–133, for more on this topic).
4. To a certain extent, this was also ideologically endorsed by
the party doctrine of full employment, at least before the
years of stagnation.
5. In fact, Bertaud and Renaud (1997, pp. 144–155) report that
31 per cent of the total built-up area in Moscow was occu-
pied by industries in 1992, as compared to a mere 5 per cent
in Paris. Furthermore, at certain intermediate distances from
the city centre (i.e., those corresponding with the first major
ring of industrial development), factories are reported to oc-
cupy more than two-thirds of all land.
6. Although all land was owned by the state, privately occu-
pied single-family housing (“private housing”) was permis-
sible to varying degrees in all socialist polities, although
convincingly discouraged at times (through heavy taxation,
excessive restrictions on plot size and general propaganda
means) and merely tolerated otherwise (for more on private
housing in different real socialist contexts, see Szelényi,
1983; Andrusz, 1984, ch. 9; Bater, 1989, p. 118; Ashwin,
1999, pp. 39–41; Gentile, 2004b). Towards the end of the
Soviet epoch, private housing was occasionally even en-
couraged (see Gentile, 2003).
7. In the USSR, the so-called

blat

was an economic system
based on the non-alienated exchange of favours and goods
within personal networks. It was normal, more or less ubiq-
uitously used and not illegal, although ideologically incor-
rect (Ledeneva, 1998; Borén, 2003a). For post-socialist eco-
nomical networks, see Lonkila and Salmi (2005), Round
(2006) and Ledeneva (2006); also Williams (2005).

METROPOLITAN PROCESSES IN POST-COMMUNIST STATES: AN INTRODUCTION

© The authors 2007
Journal compilation © 2007 Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography

107

8. In some cases, entire cities – as well as their inhabitants –
were kept secret (for more on secret cities, see Tikhonov,
1996; Lappo and Polyan, 1997; Rowland, 1998; Gentile,
2004a).
9. At the time of writing, the ensuing ideological rift has bub-
bled up to the surface of the Tallinn urban scene and of the
Muscovite streets. Plans to move a Soviet-era bronze statue
commemorating the Red Army soldiers killed in the Second
World War while liberating or occupying (depending on the
point of view) Estonia from the city centre to a different lo-
cation have resulted in lively “anti-fascist” protests on the
streets of Moscow (

Postimees,

25 January 2007, ‘Na miting
v zashchitu bronzovogo soldata v Moskve vyshli 2000
chelovek’).

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