Contentious Mobility Governance: Mobility as an entry point to understanding urban governance in post-Soviet Cities

The statement that mobility ‘is the predominant means by which one engages with the modern world’ (Adey 2010)is especially true for the urban environment. The post-Soviet city is no exception in this regard, inhibiting layers of ‘modern worlds’ in heterogeneous transport infrastructure assemblages and at the same time mirroring the multifaceted challenges and disruptions and developments during the last three decades. At large, often due to multiple and overlapping reasons – lack of public transport provisioning, ever increasing motorization levels, poor vehicle maintenance and technical quality assurance – mobility practices in post-soviet settings are by a majority perceived as inadequate, challenging and time consuming. Despite the socio-spatial importance of urban mobility governance and bottom-up mobility practices, research on urban mobility has so far received marginal and at best sporadic attention in understanding  the multifaceted trajectory of post-soviet transformations.

Building upon the conviction that urban mobility is best understood as a ‘politicised armature’ and a ‘potential venue of new articulations of politics’ (Jensen 2009), the session will be exploring conflicting considerations of stakeholders in shaping urban mobility governance. Although post-soviet mobility governance revealed more about non-governance practices of municipal and national authorities rather than about master plans and long-term strategies – even more so against the backdrop of Soviet-era investments into public transport systems – recent efforts to change the urban transport assemblage serve as an important entry point to understand how urban politics play out in post-soviet cities.

Therefore, we will touch upon transport modernisation endeavours, aiming at drawing public legitimacy and enthusiastically trying to approximate what is imagined as “European” urban transport. On the other hand, road construction and widening is still widespread, coupled with lack of effort in regulating private taxi sector, private car inspection and unruly parking practices – often to the detriment of marginalised groups. Bringing in empirical evidence of significant urban struggles with their mobility regimes applied in very different locations and under various preconditioning obstacles, the session aims to map the major contentious point of post-Soviet urban mobility governance, and identify future research agendas in this direction.


Session chairs:

Wladimir Sgibnev, Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, Leipzig, Germany:

Wladimir Sgibnev defended his PhD degree at Humboldt University's Central Asian studies department addressing the production of social space in urban Tajikistan. Currently, he is Senior Researcher at the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography (Leipzig), working on urban processes in post-Soviet countries, particularly urban development and mobility in peripheralized locations.


Dr. Lela Rekhviashvili, Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, Leipzig, Germany

Lela Rekhviashvili is a post-doctoral researcher at Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, Leipzig. Her research interests include political economy of transition, informal economic practices, social movements, everyday resistance, and urban mobility. Her academic publications discuss post-soviet shared taxies in a comparative perspective with ride-sharing and informal transport, impact of institutional change, particularly of marketization policies on informal economic practices, and the role of everyday resistance in production of public space.


Tonio Weicker, Technical University, Berlin

Tonio Weicker is a Research Associate at Technische Universität Berlin. His PhD-thesis addressed marshrutka-minibuses as a target of transition processes and political reforms in everyday life of Russian cities. After his graduation in East-European-Studies, he worked as a lecturer at the State University of Volgograd in Southern Russia.


Tauri Tuvikene, Tallinn University

Tauri Tuvikene is an urban geographer at Tallinn University. His research deals with comparative urbanism in relation to post-socialist cities. He has published on conceptualisations of post-socialism, garage areas in (post-)Soviet urban spaces and urban (transport) infrastructures, including the politics of parking and walking in urban environment.

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