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The socialist past and post-socialist urban identity in Central and Eastern Europe

Young, Craig and Kaczmarek, Sylvia (2008) The socialist past and post-socialist urban identity in Central and Eastern Europe. European Urban and Regional Studies, 15 (1). pp. 53-70. ISSN 1461-7145

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Abstract

Cities in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) are creating new urban identities under conditions of postsocialist transformation, Europeanization and globalization. Discourses about postsocialist urban identity frequently attempt to `Europeanize' these cities' identity and to obscure elements of the `unwanted past', particularly the socialist, Soviet and Russian pasts. However, those pasts can return to disrupt dominant narratives of postsocialist urban identity. This article analyses how the past of socialism and relationships with Russia and the Soviet Union are treated in the construction of new urban identities in postsocialist CEE, particularly in the case of Lódz, Poland. After outlining the treatment of the socialist past in Polish society and politics, the article analyses the contested construction of a new identity for Lódz. The analysis focuses on the construction of a past multicultural `European' `Golden Age' for the city to create a new identity for it, and how that identity is contested and disrupted by the re-emergence of the city's socialist past and the history of its relations with Russia and the Soviet Union.The article concludes by outlining the broader implications of the case-study for the understanding of postsocialist urban identity formation.

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