Title of the project:
Heritage in Transition – Socio-political Transformation and Reconfiguration of Post-socialist Cities in Central and Eastern Europe
In cooperation with:
Prof. Dr. Annette Rudolph-Cleff, Faculty of Architecture, Darmstadt University of Technology
The collapse of state socialism (1945-1989), followed by sudden shift towards neoliberal development agenda, enabled inclusion of the CEE region into competitive global economies. Although this transition advanced both as a temporarily and spatially uneven process, it caused reposition of cultural heritage as a resource, along with its major reconsideration. Post-socialist preservation value system, largely under the influence of national policies aiming to redefine collective and place identities, mobilised the means of the so-called historic revisionism in dealing with unwanted pasts, as shown by the process of “decommunization” of urban space. Such contestations of unwanted pasts largely resulted with exclusions of socialist legacy from both national and urban identity making processes in post-socialist Europe, and thereby also from urban development strategies. On the other hand, considering that both national and international interest in socialist heritage started to rise after about a decade following the shift, today we are also witnessing slow and selective recognition of this legacy. Besides from some efforts of a number of heritage experts and scholars, the most important role in the on-going process of rehabilitation of socialist heritage probably had dynamic development of the trends in tourism industry, being the most important sector of economy using heritage as a resource. Nevertheless, this trend could also be viewed as obstructing, particularly regarding to the official constructions of post-socialist national identities. In the core of this paradox was nostalgia for the pre-socialist history chapters and persistent contestation of the socialist ones that continued even after its appropriation and revival solely for touristic purposes. In a situation when economy verses identity construct, the priority for the CEE countries to place the communist period behind them thus seemed to become overshadowed by the resource that enabled tourism to become a source of revenue.
The exact dynamics of such complex links between urban spaces, representation of cities, post-socialist identity formation, and neoliberal development agenda still remain rather questionable, even after nearly three decades of comprehensive socio-political and economic transformation processes occurring in the region. The proposed research therefore aims at systematic investigation of the effects and consequences of the comprehensive transformation processes on dynamics and perspectives of urban transformation and representation, as well as its implications for strategic urban development in the post-socialist Europe. The research starts from the hypothesis on fluid and questionable nature of heritage phenomenon having different meanings for different groups and users, thus causing some contestations, manipulations, and appropriations during the process of construction of urban spaces and images. Of particular relevance are also highly diverse processes and varied results of the adopted strategic approaches to historical physical reconfiguration and image-making of post-socialist cities in the CEE context.