Rural Areas in the Post-Socialist Context

The transition from socialism to capitalism has strongly affected cities, yet the repercussions have had an equal, if not far stronger, impact on rural areas. Many factors, including the socialist rural economy, socialist planning theories, the collectivization of land, and the transfer of town planning schemes on rural villages entirely reshaped the rural areas with consequences that are clearly visible today. After 1989/91, rural areas had to face completely new challenges and reinvent old systems in order to survive within the new capitalist economy. Today, thirty years after the collapse of state socialism, the impact is more present than ever: rural areas are marked by a widespread shrinkage of villages, the general absence of planning strategies for the rehabilitation of abandoned or empty buildings, and in some cases, agricultural policies that have led to the vast expansion of monoculture crops.

The scholarly study of post-socialism has largely focused on urban case-studies, sidelining phenomena currently occurring in rural areas and villages, and which are rooted in socialist political administration and economy. In this session we therefore seek to open up the central themes of the Three Decades of Post-Socialist Transition conference to the investigation of rural areas and rural/urban relationships.

Questions we wish to raise include:

  • What is the impact of socialist rural planning today?

  • What is the impact of the relation between urban and rural in the past and today?

  • How has the transition affected agricultural practices and policies?

  • How are politics of memory-making and heritage shaped in rural areas?

  • What is the relationship between the built environment and nature in post-socialist rural areas?

  • How might themes such as tourism, branding, and gentrification, typically theorized in relation to urban areas, be conceptualized or play out in post-socialist rural settings?

We welcome proposals from any discipline and with any geographic focus that investigate the cultural, political, or economic themes of the conference in rural areas. Although stand-alone case-studies are welcome, we are seeking contributions that point toward a larger theoretical understanding of rural areas and rural-urban relationships in post-socialist contexts.


Session chairs:

Dr. Vittoria Capresi, Faculty of Architecture, Technische Universität Berlin, Germany;

Dr. Vittoria Capresi is senior researcher and a Principal Investigator of the International European Research Project MODSCAPES — Modern Reinvention of the Rural Landscapes, a fully granted HERA project (2016-19). From 2011 until 2014 she was appointed as Associate Professor in History of Architecture and Urban Design at the German University in Cairo - GUC. In 2011 she funded “baladilab”, a spin-off project associated to the GUC, to work with students to discover and activate the hidden potentials of urban surroundings, linking the everyday users with the built heritage.


Dr. Emily Bereskin, Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium/Technische Universität Berlin, Germany;

Dr. Emily Bereskin is a postdoctoral fellow in HABITER Study Center, currently working as a researcher for the International European Research Project MODSCAPES — Modern Reinvention of the Rural Landscapes, a fully granted HERA project (2016-19) in conjunction with the Habitat Unit of the Technische Universität Berlin (Habitat Unit). Her work focuses on the sociological and political examination of architecture and landscape; specific research interests include heritage and touristification processes, spatial contestation, and territory and conflict studies.

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