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Introduction: modernism and the (post-)socialist


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Kip, Markus; Sgibnev, Wladimir

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Markus Kip, Wladimir Sgibnev: Introduction: Modernism and the (Post-)Socialist City

Introduction: Modernism and the (Post-)Socialist City


Markus Kip, Wladimir Sgibnev*

Abstract Zusammenfassung
“Post-modernism” and “post-socialism” are two frames that Einführung: Modernismus und die (post)sozialisti-
have been widely applied to account for urban changes over sche Stadt
the past decades. It is a common statement to consider socialist „Postmodernismus“ und „Postsozialismus“ sind zwei Rahmen-
urbanism as the pivotal embodiment of modernist thinking. konzepte, die häufig verwendet werden, um während der
The transformation to post-socialism consequentially appears letzten Jahrzehnte aufgetretene städtische Veränderungen zu
as an instance of post-modernization. This overview article erklären. Es ist eine weit verbreitete Auffassung, dass das
challenges such identification, arguing that modernist endeav- sozialistisches Städtewesen als zentrale Verkörperung einer
ours and the experience of the modern have been more diverse modernistischen Denkweise zu betrachten sei. Die Transforma-
and complex than such periodization imply. In the present tion des Postsozialismus erscheint folgerichtig als Beispiel für
paper, we want to make the distinction between a narrow and Postmodernisierung. Dieser Überblicksartikel hinterfragt eine
broad conception of modernism. In the first part, we begin by solche Festlegung und argumentiert, dass modernistische
discussing the “high modernist” approach, often conflated with Bestrebungen und die Erfahrungen der Moderne vielfältiger
modernism in toto. In such a narrow understanding, “modern- und komplexer waren, als eine solche Periodisierung beinhal-
ism” amounts to a particular style in architecture and ap- tet. In der vorliegenden Arbeit möchten wir zwischen einem
proach in urban planning and governance. Next, we present a enger und einem weiter gefassten Modernismus-Begriff
broad conception of modernism as a cultural response to the unterscheiden. Im ersten Teil erfolgt eine Diskussion des
experience of modernity and the yearning for being modern. „hochmodernistischen“ Ansatzes, der häufig mit dem Modernis-
We argue for the necessity of addressing the complexity and mus als Ganzem in Verbindung gebracht wird. In einem solchen
breadth of modernist visions. In conclusion, we pinpoint the begrenzten Verständnis steht „Modernismus“ für einen beson-
major themes addressed by the contributors to this special deren architektonischen Stil und einen entsprechenden Ansatz
issue and highlight how we think this volume contributes to im Hinblick auf Stadtplanung und städtische Verwaltung. Im
scholarly debates about the merit of revisiting and resurrecting Anschluss daran präsentieren wir ein weiter gefasstes Konzept
modernist urbanism in twenty-first century post-socialist des Modernismus: Modernismus als kulturelle Erwiderung auf
urban contexts and beyond. die Erfahrungen der Moderne und als Streben danach, modern
zu sein. Dabei argumentieren wir, dass es notwendig ist, die
Post-modernism, post-socialism, transformation, planning in Eastern Komplexität und die Vielfältigkeit modernistischer Ideen
and Western Europe ebenfalls zu thematisieren. Abschließend benennen wir die
wichtigsten Themen, die von den beitragenden Autoren
hinsichtlich dieser besonderen Fragestellung behandelt
werden. Zudem heben wir hervor, warum wir denken, dass
dieser Band einen wichtigen Beitrag zur wissenschaftlichen
Debatte über den Wert, die städtebauliche Moderne in postso-
zialistischen urbanen Kontexten des 21. Jahrhunderts und
darüber hinaus erneut aufzugreifen und wiederzubeleben,
darstellt.

Postmodernismus, Postsozialismus, Transformation, Planung in Ost-


und Westeuropa

* Special issue coordinators

3
Europa Regional 22, 2014 (2015) 1-2

У Корбюзье то общее с Люфтваффе, The overcoming of socialist urbanization more than a one-size-fits-all approach in
что оба потрудились от души strategies does not necessarily entail a socialist urban planning; on the other, in
над переменой облика Европы. “post-modern” outlook, but can involve a post-socialist context, modern lifestyles
Что позабудут в ярости циклопы, alternative articulations of the modern. and modernist thinking still hold sway
то трезво завершат карандаши.1 The contributions explore in greater even in the midst of “post-modern” archi-
(Joseph Brodsky, excerpt from depth the relationship between socialism tectural styles and planning practices.
the “Rotterdam diaries”, 1973) and modernism, and how this has chan- We want to make the distinction bet-
ged with “post-socialist” transformation. ween a narrow and broad conception of
“Post-modernism” and “post-socialism” These papers take case studies in the for- modernism. In the first part, we begin by
are two frames that have been widely ap- mer Soviet Union, in contemporary Rus- discussing the “high modernist” appro-
plied to account for urban changes over sia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Bulgaria and ach that Sonia Hirt (and several other
the past decades. There is ample litera- East Germany. A focus on cities seems authors) conflate with modernism in toto.
ture to explain urban changes, on the one useful as loci in which modernist and In such a narrow understanding, “moder-
side, as a process of post-modernization, post-modernist visions were advanced nism” amounts to a particular style in ar-
and on the other, as related to a post-so- and implemented. The main questions we chitecture and approach in urban plan-
cialist transformation in former state so- address are: What role did modernist ning and governance. Its rise and fall in
cialist countries. To the extent that these ideas play in socialist urbanism? And both (socialist) “East” and (capitalist)
literatures overlap, it is a common state- how are the socialist and modernist ur- “West” will be historically contextualized
ment to consider socialist urbanism as ban landscapes negotiated today in a and critically appraised. Next, we present
the pivotal embodiment of modernist post-socialist condition? the broad conception of modernism as
thinking, as evidenced in the book Seeing In particular, this issue problematizes proposed by Marshall Berman and
Like a State by James C. Scott, professor the equation of modernity and modernist others. Here, modernism is much more a
of Political Science and Anthropology at visions with “high-modernist” state-pro- cultural response to the experience of
Yale University (Scott 1998). The trans- jects that were particularly pronounced modernity and the yearning for being
formation to post-socialism consequen- in socialist contexts. Although moder- modern. Against this backdrop, we
tially appears as an instance of post-mo- nism in the post-socialist context is wi- should conceive the counter-movements
dernization. The article “Landscapes of dely associated with vast areas of mass to high modernist planning as modernist.
Postmodernity: Changes in the Built Fa- housing estates, in our eyes there are In the second part, we revisit Hirt’s ar-
bric of Belgrade and Sofia Since the End more fundamental aspects that define gument about the relationship between
of Socialism” by Sonia Hirt, professor for modernism. This special issue shows post-modernization and post-socialist
Urban Affairs and Planning at Virgina Po- that, on the one hand, modernism was (urban) transformation. We claim that
lytechnic Institute and State University
(Hirt 2008), is exemplary of this line of
thinking. This essay engages with her ar-
gument “that postsocialist cities provide
highly vivid examples of the rupture bet-
ween the modern and the postmodern,
perhaps as vivid as examples in the
so-called Western world” (Hirt 2008, p.
787). In other words, the socialist city
was modern, the post-socialist city is
post-modern.
This special issue challenges such iden-
tification. In this introduction, we lay
some groundwork to argue that moder-
nist endeavours and the experience of the
modern have been more diverse and
complex than such periodizations imply.

1 What Corbusier has in common with the Luftwaffe


is that both tried very hard
changing the face of Europe.
What cyclops have forgotten in their wrath
The pencils will soberly accomplish.
Photograph 1: Ruins of of modernity? Ruined modernisms? Abandoned Soviet-era cinema
(Authors' translation) in Khujand, Tajikistan, 2010 (Wladimir Sgibnev)

4
Markus Kip, Wladimir Sgibnev: Introduction: Modernism and the (Post-)Socialist City

her notion of post-modernism does not haus”, “Neues Wohnen”, and “Sotsgorod” (...) [At its] center was a supreme
address the complexity of modernist vi- were attempts at realizing the emancipa- self-confidence about continued li-
sions and breadth of its scope as outlined tory potential of a new society. For several near progress, the deve­lop­ment of
by Berman. In conclusion, we pinpoint revolutionaries in the early 20th century, scientific and technical knowledge,
the major themes addressed by the con- modernism thus appeared as the cultural the expansion of production, the
tributors to this special issue and high- complement to a fundamental reshaping rational design of social order, the
light how we think this volume contribu- of society. Applying rationalist principles growing satisfaction of human
tes to scholarly debates about the merit to architecture and planning raised the needs, and, not least, an increasing
of revisiting and resurrecting modernist prospect of creating cities with reasonab- control over nature (including hu-
urbanism in twenty-first century post-so- le standards of living, including dwelling, man nature) commensurate with
cialist urban contexts and beyond (Buck- work, leisure and transportation for the scientific understanding of natural
Morss 2000; Beck et al. 1994; Giddens masses. Against the inequalities created laws. High modernism is thus a
and Pierson 1998). by liberal capitalism, high modernism lar- particularly sweeping vision of
gely emphasized the goal of building a so- how the benefits of technical and
What modernity? ciety of equals. scientific progress might be ap-
The historical-geographical context of re- Insofar as these were attempts at ad- plied − usually through the state −
levance to our discussion of modernism dressing the problem of modernity − the in every field of human activity”.
(and high modernism) is Europe starting crisis of social order − we can consider all
in the late 19th century.2 Industrialization of them as “modernist”. Although moder- High modernism demands a radical bre-
in countries such as Great Britain, France, nity facilitated them all, we think that it ak with history and tradition. Inherited
and Germany brought about significant is important to emphasize their differen- or adopted practices and institutions
changes to the social order. In fact, it was ces. Unfortunately, we detect a certain were thought of as obstacles to a rational
this situation that created anxieties and a narrowing of such terms as “modernism” and scientific ordering of human habits.
societal discourse around “social order”. and “modernity” in several disciplines This called for a radical re-examination
Plural, individualized, and impersonal that detaches them from the social and and re-designing of various realms of hu-
forms of sociality (“Gesell­schaft” in Tön- political context. In architecture, for ex- man activity from family to factory pro-
nies’s terminology) increasingly replaced ample, modernism often becomes re- duction, leisure and residence by ap-
traditional forms of belonging (“Gemein- duced to a repertoire of style; in planning, plying scientific methods. This practice of
schaft”). The crisis of laissez-faire libera- as we argue in the following, modernism “high modernism” was clearly facilitated
lism became particularly striking with the is often equated with a particular state by the postwar context and Harvey
experience of the First World War and the approach to urban development. (1990) locates the high-point in this pe-
economic crisis in the late 1920s. It made riod. On the one side, cities destroyed in
the quest for an alternative even more “High modernism” and its limits war had to be urgently reconstructed. Fa-
pressing. Zygmunt Bauman (1991) thus In much of the scholarly writing on urba- cing a scarcity of resources, the situation
situates modernity in this context as an nism and urbanization from the 1960s called for efficient and no-frills solutions.
era in which the dissolution of traditional on, twentieth century modernism figures On the other side, civil society, as a poten-
lifeworld orientations was engaged with as an undemocratic imposition on urban tial site of resistance against state pro-
various ordering attempts. While losing citizens (Jacobs 1961; Sandercock jects, had been silenced by wartime au-
conventional forms of social order was 1998a, 1998b). As Marshall Berman thoritarian politics.
perceived with a sense of crisis, moderni- (1988) and David Harvey (1990) point At the same time, modernist visions
ty is also characterized by the promise of out, this reaction is aimed at a specific also went beyond the idea of fast relief to
planning the future of society. While to idea and embodiment of modernism postwar cities: The destruction also fun-
Bauman (1989) modernity was respon- which is sometimes referred to as “high ctioned as a pretext for a slash-and-burn
ded to with a desire for “racial homogene- modernism” (Harvey 1990). Although approach for the sake of implementing
ity” leading to the Holocaust, it also made the first major experiments were carried visions of urban functionalism, as para-
possible the conceiving of “working class out in the 1920s and 1930s, this kind of digmatically espoused in Le Corbusier’s
solidarity” and emancipatory political pro- modernism became politically hegemo- (1973, orig. 1943) Athens Charter follo-
jects. Several architectural and planning nic in the first three postwar decades in wing the 4th CIAM (Congrès International
initiatives carrying labels such as “Bau- Western capitalist and Soviet socialist d’Architecture Moderne) in 1933. Parti-
countries, as well as beyond. Scott cularly in war-torn societies, the appeal
2 There are various other modernisms emerging in
(1998, pp. 88-90) describes it as of such functionalism was in overcoming
other parts of the world (colonies, North America “the aspiration to the administrati- the painful past with the promise of a
etc.) that are connected to the “European” kinds
(Robinson 2006; Gaonkar 2000). ve ordering of nature and society freer and more exciting future. The claim

5
Europa Regional 22, 2014 (2015) 1-2

talist ‘model’; accelerated in accor-


dance with the model, planned
growth accentuates the privileges
of ‘implantations’, those of indust-
ries and the decision-making cen-
ters; the other places remain pas-
sive (peripheral)”.

Lefebvre castigated state socialism, as he


calls it, for spatial disparities have not
been alleviated, but expanded in scope
and intensity. He saw the same undistin-
guishable mode of space production on
both sides of the Iron Curtain, two “bu-
reaucratic regimes of controlled
Photograph 2: Model of the former GDR-City Centre of Berlin in scale 1:500, Berlin,
Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment, 2011 (Markus Kip) consumption, oriented toward economic
growth”; with the Soviet distinction of an
was to improve living conditions not only tional Style” was invoked in order to “emphasis on collective consumption”
for the elite, but also for the masses. justify and ideologically transfigure the (Stanek 2011, p. 64).
The modernist vision of the Athens no-frills (and cost-saving) approach in ar- Soviet planning theory established the
Charter distinguished four essential ur- chitecture and planning. city as “the cradle of progress and […] a
ban functions (dwelling, recreation, work, generative model of transformative mo-
and transportation) that were to be spa- High modernist planning in dernity” (Alexander, Buchli, and
tially separated to maximize (economic) Eastern and Western Europe Humphrey 2007, p. 3). The significance
efficiency and improve living quality. This There are striking similarities in terms of of the city in Soviet society is also un-
planning vision drew on Fordist produc- high modernist planning in Eastern and derscored by the fact that it “underwent
tion strategies that were to be applied in Western Europe. In the West, it hardly a process of urbanization unparalleled in
the building of cities. Cities were concei- challenged capitalism per se, merely see- European history” as Thomas M. Bohn
ved as “living machines” (Harvey 1990, king to tame its excesses and give a rati- (2014, p. 121) argues. Although Soviet
p. 31) to be modelled rationally in analo- onal framework for the sake of (capita- modernity took several twists and turns
gy to the “machine” or the “factory”. The list) economic growth. Le Corbusier’s − Stefan Plaggenborg (2006) describes
“traditional city” with its mixed-usages Athens Charter for example, emphasized this history as an “experiment” − an ins-
clearly was anathema to this vision. the significance of reigning in land spe- trumentalist understanding of the city is
Further, the “traditional city” was percei- culation and private interests through en- characteristic of Soviet urbanism throug-
ved as overcrowded and unhygienic, a forcement of major planning schemes in hout. Caroline Humphrey (2005, p. 39)
concern that several architects and plan- the “public interest”. In this view, the pro- argues that “the task of Soviet construc-
ners hoped to eradicate once and for all. blem was the fragmented character of ca- tion was to build material foundations
Frequently, social reformers also viewed pital interests and thus potential conflicts that would mould nothing less than a
the prevalence of crime and violence as that would work to the detriment of col- new society”, with architecture being
correlated with spatial conditions. A most lective interests. “one of the key arenas of ideology” on its
radical disavowal of traditional urbanism Even if economic regulation differed in way towards the creation of the Socialist
can be found in Space, Time and Architec- socialist countries, applying “the yard- Man. Architecture, and Soviet mega-pro-
ture, in which Sigfried Giedion (1967, stick of space – or, more precisely, the jects in particular, were called to strengt-
orig. 1941) made the case for the ‘slash yardstick of spatial practice – to societies hen societal bonds and safeguard a par-
and burn’ method of revitalizing existing with a ‘socialist’ mode of production” (Le- ticular interpretation of the past (Gest-
cities in conformity with urban functio- febvre 1997, p. 54), Henri Lefebvre sug- wa 2004). Soviet architecture ran
nalism. In this book, Giedion executes Le gests that the socialist model did not dif- through a variety of transformation as
Corbusier’s battle cry to “Kill the street!” fer much from their capitalist counter- Bohn (2014, p. 119-120) points out, from
and elevates the car as a central conside- parts. As Lefebvre (2009, p. 206) notes, the constructionist “Sotsgorod”, to the
ration for planning, thus giving priority “with regard to the treatment of “socialist realism” of the Stalinist era and
to highway construction as the main tool space, the ‘model’ of (Soviet) State finally to the functionalist “Soviet” or
of urban planning. In this approach, the socialism offers only a buttressed “Communist city” beginning with Khrus-
aesthetics of “Bauhaus” or the “Interna- and worsened version of the capi- hchev. Throughout these periods, Soviet

6
Markus Kip, Wladimir Sgibnev: Introduction: Modernism and the (Post-)Socialist City

authorities “perceived the policy of a con- cialist countries than in liberal capitalist lives, including social control, crime pre-
certed regulation of space (Raumord- countries in which the polity had checked vention, communication, and mutual aid.
nungspolitik)” as the key to domination unrestrained exercise of power by the po- Since these relationships also have the
and re-creation of the social body (Gest- litical elite, particularly through their capacity to adapt to new and unforeseen
wa 2004, p. 43) – and this instrumenta- specific institutionalizations of privacy, purposes, Jacobs advocated for the jum-
list conception of space has survived in economy and political representation. ble and seeming chaos that she identifies
many contemporary post-socialist set- One important avenue for high moder- as characteristic of urban space. High mo-
tings. nist aspirations was the field of urban dernist approaches, from her perspecti-
In the past, researchers debated planning. The promise of planning was ve, fail to see social problems as the re-
whether this mode of development was that knowledge of social laws could bring sult of historical and structural causes
evidence of a specifically “socialist city” about a rational steering of social relati- which call for a different engagement
(French and Hamilton 1979; Morton onships and phenomena (Sandercock than just planning and design. Due to her
and Stuart 1984) or rather a blending of 2003, p. 26). Planning called for uncover- opposition against official modernist en-
historical (capitalist) patterns of indust- ing the laws of morality and society and deavours of New York’s arch planner, Ro-
rialization and new socialist planning po- legitimated scientific experts’ ability to bert Moses, Jacobs’s account has often
licies. Hartmut Häussermann (1996) influence social organization in order to been described as “anti-modern”. Several
uses the notion of “city under socialism” bring about desired goals. Not only that, scholars, however, have tried to resuscita-
to refer to this amalgamation (see also the determination of social goals was be- te a modernist conception of such oppo-
Szelényi 1996; Bodenschatz and Post lieved to be best left in the hands of “ob- sition, including Marshall Berman, for
2003). Both socialist as well as capitalist jective” scientists. Scholars like Bauman whom Jacobs is just another hero of mo-
versions of high modernism preferred (1989) thus argue that the modernist dernism.
large-scale urban and industrial develop- faith in rationality assumed the character
ment projects that were to boost growth of a substitute for de-legitimized reli- Modernism as an unfinished
and national economic competitiveness. gions. project of modernity
Explaining such similarity on both sides The state figured as a benevolent and The broader conceptualization of moder-
of the iron curtain, Scott (1998, p. 99) all-powerful agent for the sake of reali- nism draws from Marshall Berman’s
writes: zing a better future for all. Scott (1998) works on the subject. Modernism, accor-
“The vision of society in which so- thus points out that high modernist thin- ding to him, refers to a set of visions and
cial conflict was eliminated in favor king was inherently authoritarian and approaches responding to a “mode of vi-
of technological and scientific im- sought to justify privileges of the ruling tal experience [...] that is shared by men
peratives could embrace liberal, so- elite of state intellectuals. In this vein, and women all over the world today”
cialist, authoritarian, and even James Holston (1989) argues that “The (Berman 1988, p. 15). The notion of mo-
communist and fascist solutions. Modernist City” was realized by abstrac- dernism relates to human attempts to
Productivism, in short, was politi- ting from concrete everyday life concerns shape the future, aware of the continual
cally promiscuous.” and denying the significance of history. maelstrom of modernity that subjects
Its implementation made use of ruthless purposes, methods, and meanings to an
In this respect, it is also instructive to techniques for uprooting a population ongoing process of change.
read Scott’s discussion of Le Corbusier’s (Sandercock 2003, p. 33). “To be modern is to find ourselves in
career and work. Among his far-reaching Eventually resistance against such high an environment that promises us ad-
lobbying efforts to various countries East modernist practices and their unde- venture, power, joy, growth, transfor-
and West, North and South, Le Corbusier mocratic implementation grew and de- mation of ourselves and the world—
lobbied the Soviet elite for his new plan veloped into counter-movements. Proba- and, at the same time, that threatens
for Moscow in the 1930s, which he later bly, the first major systematic criticism to destroy everything we have, ever-
reused “virtually intact − aside from re- against high modernist approaches of ything we know, everything we are”
moving all references to Moscow . − (…) city planning, was formulated by Jane Ja- (Berman 1988, p. 15).
as La ville radieuse, suitable for central cobs (1961) in her book “The Death and
Paris” (Scott 1998, p. 114). Thus, Scott Life of Great American Cities”. Jacobs cri- Berman’s conception of modernism is
(1998, p. 113) claims that Le Corbusier ticizes that planners’ accounts of the city thus a paradoxical one: The ostensible
“would clearly have settled for any state only bring limited aspects of social reali- aim to assert dignity and find oneself at
authority that would give him a free ty into view. Below the radar of rationa- home in modern times is consistently un-
hand”. Nevertheless, Scott (1998, pp. list planning, everyday life is made up by dermined by the modernizing process in
101-102) contends that the high moder- a myriad of practices and relationships which (following Marx’s dictum) “all that
nist planning had greater inroads in so- that fulfill important functions in peoples’ is solid melts into air”. The challenge then

7
Europa Regional 22, 2014 (2015) 1-2

is, in Baudelaire’s words, to “extract the and its legacies and suggests the possibi- common pursuits. What we can learn
eternal from the ephemeral”. lity of adopting a critical position that from this experience, however, is a
Given its radical promise of overcoming falls somewhere between ‘modernolatry’ re-imagination of planning as “transpa-
chains of tradition and convention, in the and modernist-bashing (Jencks 2007). In rently” political. In essence, she makes a
early 20th century, modernism was often particular, a historical contextualization similar argument to Jürgen Habermas’s
linked with the political left. At the same is critical in this endeavour. Contempla- (1990) attempt to resuscitate “The Unfi-
time, scholars such as Bauman and Har- ting on the abandonment of high moder- nished Project of Modernity” by differen-
vey argue that modernity’s upheaval in nist approaches (aimed at an overcoming tiating realms of social life that require
all social realms and its causation of un- of history), that is often equated with a different rationalities, instrumental and
certainties in the foundations of indivi- post-modern rupture (and its nostalgia communicative.
dual and social life opened the path for for the past), Berman (1988, p. 332) wri- It is worthwhile remembering Ber-
reactionary political responses. The high tes: man’s account of modernism, in which
modernist approach and its faith in scien- “What happened in the 1970s was not only Le Corbusier, Giedion, and Ro-
ce and progress pretended to fill this that, as the gigantic motors of eco- bert Moses pose as figureheads of moder-
foundational void. Frederic Jameson nomic growth and expansion stal- nist thinking, but also Jane Jacobs and
(1984) is therefore right to point out that led, and the traffic came close to a Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Thus, historically,
the appropriation of modernism by hege- stop, modern societies abruptly modernism was not just about what we
monic powers brought about a loss in its lost their power to blow away their would call the “narrow” conception of
revolutionary appeal throughout the first past. All through the 1960s, the modernism, the “high modernist” plan-
half of the 20th century. As a result, in the question had been whether they ning visions of the 20th century state pro-
post-World War II context, Harvey should or shouldn’t; now, in the fessionals, but also about several mo-
(1990, p. 37) argues that “artistic and cul- 1970s, the answer was that they vements against such top-down moder-
tural, as well as ‘progressive’ political re- simply couldn’t.” nization projects. In particular, Berman
volt had to be directed at a powerful ver- (1988, p. 318) recognizes Jacobs’ contri-
sion of modernism itself”. Apologists for modernism like Berman bution in the following terms:
Berman makes a useful distinction and others (Dekker 2000; Higgott ”Jacobs’ point is that the so-called
between modernism, modernization, 2007) highlight the plurality of twentieth modern movement has inspired bil-
and modernity. These moments are dis- century modern ideas and modernism’s lions of dollars’ worth of ‘urban re-
tinct, yet in a dialectical relationship to embrace of more than architecture or newal’ whose paradoxical result has
each other. Modernism seeks to guide the planning alone. Jennifer Robinson been to destroy the only kind of en-
process of modernization and bring mul- (2006) cautions, though, against an vironment in which modern values
tifaceted developments into some kind approach that is limited to a range of can be realized. The practical corol-
of coherence with a specific purpose. Western-centric concepts alone (refer lary of all this − which sounds para-
Modernization unfolds in various fields, also to Mitchell 2000). In other words, doxical at first, but in fact makes
developments in science, technology, modernism is far from being a homoge- perfect sense − is that in our city
economics, art and culture, morality and neous set of ideas, nor should it be mis- life, for the sake of the modern we
law. The process of modernization con- taken to have originated in a geographic must preserve the old and resist the
tinually brings about unintended social region such as “Europe”, “the West” etc. new. With this dialectic, modernism
consequences and changes the condi- (refer to Gaonkar 2001). takes on a new complexity and
tions for conceiving of a modernist pro- While accepting that many twentieth depth.”
ject. The experience of this dynamic is century modern dreams ended in catas-
called modernity, and, in turn, shapes trophe, Susan Buck-Morss (2000) argues For Berman, modernism is thus much
how subjects engage in these moderni- that we should work through the ruins of more than a simple denial of history and
zing processes as well as their (moder- twentieth century modern dreams to an effort to wipe away the remnants of
nist) ideas about them. The distinction reassess and redeem the modern ideas the past, in both conceptual as well as
between these moments helps to clarify behind them. In trying to turn modernist physical terms. In his view, many moder-
that not everything modern is necessa- legacies constructively, Leonie Sander- nists (such as Walter Benjamin) have
rily modernist, and that not everything cock (2003) claims that modernism’s emphasized the significance of history as
that is modernist will, in fact, advance major fault was its pretence of objectivi- an accumulation of catastrophes that
the process of modernization in any stra- ty and (political) impartiality. It denied weighs on the present. A liberating en-
ightforward way. communicative rationality that takes (dif- gagement with the present means co-
This division into three moments al- ferent) subjectivities and their interacti- ming to terms with the unfulfilled promi-
lows for a reassessment of modernism on as the starting point for developing ses of the past.

8
Markus Kip, Wladimir Sgibnev: Introduction: Modernism and the (Post-)Socialist City

Exploring modernism and in the Hirt thus agrees with Bauman’s (1991, modernity, radical change and diversifi-
context of the post-socialist p. 38) assessment of socialism as “moder- cation.
transformation nity’s most devout, vigorous and gallant In this respect, it might be asked to
Let us take a look a Sonia Hirt’s argu- champion” (quoted in Hirt 2008, p. 791). what extent modernist desires under-
ment about post-modernization in a With the breakdown of socialist regi- mined such state-directed modernization
post-socialist context from this perspec- mes, the political economy, that had ba- in Hirt’s case studies of Belgrade and So-
tive. Hirt (2008, p. 785) claims that cked up the emphasis on production, the phia. Why not understand these changes
“postsocialist cities represent textbook public realm and discipline, collapsed, in analogy to Jacobs and her fellow acti-
examples of urban postmodernization, and was replaced by a rather radical im- vists’ opposition to urban renewal in the
much as socialist cities epitomized the es- plementation of a market economy. As a United States? To be sure, architectural
sential legacy of modernist urbanity”. Al- result, as Hirt outlines in her article, the styles, planning approaches and forms of
though her case studies, Belgrade and So- strict spatial segregation of functions was governance have changed, but does this
fia, show differences in terms of the watered down, space became a regular imply a fundamental break with the mo-
speed and course of transition, Hirt con- commodity, real estate was bought and dern experience that promises “adven-
siders them confirmations to her argu- sold, and commercial enterprises emer- ture, power, joy, growth, transformation
ment. The overall direction of develop- ged throughout the city in an almost un- of ourselves and the world – and, at the
ments is clear for Hirt and she further regulated legal environment. In the same same time, that threatens to destroy ever-
hypothesizes that these changes are “in- process, public space was increasingly ything we have, everything we know,
herent to East European postsocialism” subjected to private vested interests (also everything we are” (Berman 1988, p.
(Hirt 2008, p. 786). refer to Stanilov 2007, p. 272) and the 15)? Here, we would highlight the fact
Hirt starts from a characterization of state no longer sought the implementati- that we should not deduce cultural and
the socialist city, drawing on the work of on of large-scale master plans, which it social shifts à la “post-modernization”
sociologist Ivan Szelényi (1996, pp. 300- could not afford to implement in any from changes in state governance of ur-
303) who highlights three distinctive fea- case. Instead, private development acti- ban development. Modernism and
tures: “(1) lack of functional diversity vities assumed increasing importance in post-modernism might just exist in a
(especially shortage of commercial func- urban development. Furthermore, the more complex jumble than the “frame-
tions); (2) striking grandeur and rigid or- privatization of city spaces also made work of a global modern-to-postmodern
der of spaces and buildings, as exhibited possible the diversification of architectu- urban change” (Hirt 2008, p. 787) assu-
in colossal but visually disciplined public ral styles, advanced by the “nouveau ri- mes. Just as the political economy re-
plazas and massive housing estates; and che” who desired radically individualist mains a contested terrain in post-socia-
(3) oppressive monotony of architectural architectural expressions (Hirt 2008, p. list contexts, we should also expect strug-
styles” (quoted in Hirt 2008, p. 786). 790). gles over the meaning of modernism and
These features are logically connected to It should be clear from the prior dis- post-modernism. In this respect, dealing
the ideology of the socialist regimes as cussion of modernism that Hirt’s discus- with the built legacy of high modernism
they respectively prioritize production sion, in fact, relates to the high modernist is a politicized endeavour as several con-
over consumption, the “public” over the approach, but hardly modernism in toto. tributions to this issue discuss.
“private” and discipline over diversity What she describes as distinctive for the
(Hirt 2008, p. 789). modernist approach in socialist regimes Discussion of contributions
These features of the socialist city, as thus was the radical implementation of In the course of the following articles, the
Hirt (2008, p. 791) emphasizes, were a the (natural) science-based administra- special issue scrutinizes modernist arti-
radical realization of modernist princip- tion and organization of space. Her iden- culations in the socialist period and their
les: tification of the “high modernist” appro- legacy in the post-socialist context. Com-
“Indeed, it was under socialist ach with modernism per se confronts two plicating simple identifications of socia-
auspices that the modernist dream significant problems. First, as we have lism as quintessentially modernist, we
of limitless industrial progress (at seen, this approach was fraught with con- start out with highlighting historical and
the expense of simple, everyday tradictions, since its inherent belief in the geographical variance in modernism and
pleasures), and an omnipotent, ra- state and natural scientific approaches urban modernity in the socialist period.
tional, and ostensibly just public was at odds with the radical distrust of Further on, we turn to the transformati-
realm (at the expense of small, pri- modernism against anything seemingly on of urban realities that carried a strong
vate freedoms) was pushed to its “solid”. Second, the high modernist stra- socialist imprint. Instead of being ex-
limits and executed, so vigorously tegies were also subjected to modernist amples for a wholesale post-moderniza-
and meticulously, in the organiza- critique for imposing homogeneous spa- tion, the cases presented demonstrate the
tion of urban space.” ces while undermining the essence of ongoing hold and re-interpretations of

9
Europa Regional 22, 2014 (2015) 1-2

modern imaginaries and modernist from radical neglect within an eclectic ur- scribed as a “society of remont” (Gerasi-
structures in the post-socialist everyday. ban chaos to a more respectful, clear-si- mova and Čujkina 2004), striving for an
The paper by Markus Kip, Douglas ghted upgrading. everyday remedy to the Soviet state’s
Young and Lisa Drummond proposes a Whereas under Soviet rule, state autho- unfulfilled promises of modernity. Yet re-
notion of “socialist modernism” to under- rities decided on the growth of cities as in- mont is more than a remnant of the Sovi-
stand the development of Alexanderplatz dustrial or administrational bases, cities et era, but a practice to reach a culturally
in the German Democratic Republic in post-Soviet Russia have to compete in a regulated normative set of spatial mora-
(GDR) in the 1960s. While the socialist globalized economy. Searching for inves- lity. Remont is intimately tied to life-cyc-
era development on Alexanderplatz was tors and new residents, city-branding and le rituals such as circumcisions, weddings
staged as a realization of the modernist the production of images have become im- and funerals. It is therefore performed in
vision, the 1960s design of Alexander- portant tasks. Using the case of the Russi- a way which has to accommodate both
platz also includes distinctive ‘socialist’ an city of Perm’, Daniela Zupan examines traditional spatial patterns and constant-
features, notably the emphasis on cen- the role of the Soviet modernist urban he- ly changing aesthetic requirements of
trality and visually dominant tall struc- ritage in the production of these new modernity. The paper proposes a “rhyth-
tures that are in striking contrast to the images. Her goal is to go beyond an under- mic” reading of spatial features of moder-
(Western) high modernist canon. The standing of the modernist urban heritage nity and strives to add to the discussion
contribution shows how the GDR-era as a failed experiment and to reassess the on post-socialist modernity – highly rele-
“Alex”, as the square is colloquially underlying ideals and guiding principles vant for contemporary Central Asia, and
termed, contrasts with stylizations of the of the Soviet socialist city, while at the in a process of constant renegotiation.
“socialist city” as proposed by Hirt or same time drawing attention to occurring The appropriation and transformation of
Szelényi. The authors argue this point in disparities between these ideals and their Soviet central spaces after the demise of
view of the functional diversity and vari- realization. Through top-down initiatives state socialism and their integration into
ety of architecture at Alexanderplatz. an attempt was being made to create an a new modernist nation-building agenda
The socialist modernist project also en- image showing Perm’ as a prospering, in- is the focal point of Tsypylma Darieva’s
compassed recreation, as analysed by ternational, European city, mirroring the contribution. Using the example of public
Anke Hagemann. Between the late 1950s modernizing paternalism of the Soviet era, space in Baku, she explores how indust-
and early 70s, four big holiday resorts yet with a different aesthetics this time. rialization, urbanization, Europeanizati-
were built from scratch on the Black Sea The desired urban vision consists of on and secularization come together to
Coast of Bulgaria and became testing images focusing on European and interna- form a modernist urban project in the
grounds for an uncompromisingly mo- tional standards and drawing attention to post-socialist period. The revitalization
dern architecture, urbanism and lifestyle. the pre-socialist ‘European’ past, while of the waterfront promenade as the
Sun, sand and sea were turned into an all- blaming the socialist era and the Soviet showpiece of a new Eurasian capital is
round “tourist product”, comprehensively modernist urban structures for many of controlled by elite groups, the govern-
developed, neatly packaged, and marke- the current problems. However, neither ment, and commercial interests, just as it
ted internationally to the masses. Soon, the cultural nor the urban transformation was at the beginning of the twentieth
holiday resorts and tourism infrastruc- process, both implemented as century. What is different about contem-
ture became ‘an exciting new polyglot top-down-initiatives, were based on exis- porary urbanism is the desire to link the
playground for the world’ (1960s promo- ting resources. This has resulted in the city status and its aesthetic to a new glo-
tional film) and the primary showcase of emergence of a broad opposition among bal geography distinct from the Soviet
contemporary Bulgarian architectural the local elite and the general population one. The local confrontation over efforts
practice. Yet planning practices and ar- in Perm’. to make the waterfront more attractive
chitectural images of modernism in the The remodelling of Soviet housing to tourists and investors involves an acti-
Bulgarian seaside resorts have shifted stock after the fall of the USSR provides ve attempt to create a global image of
from era to era: from the history of the insight into contemporary negotiations Baku as “Dubai of the Caspian Sea”.
first centrally planned holiday resorts of of modernity. This is the aim of the paper These papers have been presented and
the late 1950s to the 1970s mass tourism, by Wladimir Sgibnev, which deals with discussed in the framework of a joint pa-
all the way to privatization and the cons- spatial expressions of modernity in con- nel at the 2013 “Cities after Transition”
truction boom and bust on the Black Sea temporary urban Tajikistan through an Conference in Tbilisi, Georgia. The con-
Coast in the last decade. Case studies of exploration of the notion of remont. The venors, Markus Kip and Wladimir Sgibnev,
the resorts Sunny Beach and Albena de- importance of this concept, imported are deeply grateful to the conference or-
monstrate how differently tourism, plan- from the Russian language and adopted ganizers and the contributors who made
ning and real estate actors deal with the in Tajik since, is rooted in the Soviet past: this special issue possible. We also extend
built heritage and modernist ideas today: already the Soviet society could be de- our thanks to the anonymous reviewers

10
Markus Kip, Wladimir Sgibnev: Introduction: Modernism and the (Post-)Socialist City

for their insightful and detailed comments Harvey, D. (1990): The Condition of Post- Sandercock, L. (1998a): The Death of
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of Cultural Change. Oxford. a Postmodern Age. In: Douglass, M. and
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Europa Regional 22, 2014 (2015) 1-2

Peзюме Résumé
Маркус Кип, Владимир Сгибнев Markus Kip, Wladimir Sgibnev
Введение: Модернизм и (пост)социалистический город Introduction: le modernisme et la ville (post-)socialiste
«Постмодернизм» и «постсоциализм» – две основные кон- Le «post-modernisme» et le «post-socialisme» sont deux ap-
цепции, часто используемые для объяснения урбанисти- proches très largement utilisées ces dernières décennies afin
ческих изменений, произошедших в течение последних d’interpréter les transformations urbaines. L’urbanisme socia-
десятилетий. Существует широко распространённое мне- liste est souvent considéré comme la personnification centrale
ние, что социалистическое градоведение должно рассма- de la pensée moderniste: la transformation vers le post-socia-
триваться в качестве квинтэссенции модернистского мыш- lisme apparaît par conséquent comme un exemple de post-mo-
ления. Трансформация постсоциализма таким образом dernisation. Cet article de synthèse remet en cause une telle
логично представляется в качестве примера пост­мо­ identification, justifiant que les initiatives modernistes et que
дернизации. В обзорной статье такое положение ставится l’expérience du moderne ont été bien plus diverses et com-
под вопрос и утверждается, что модернистские подходы и plexes que ce que cette périodisation ne laisse entendre. Dans
опыт модерна были более разнообразными и сложными, cet article, nous souhaitons faire la distinction entre une
нежели предполагается в соответствующей периодизации. conception large et étroite du modernisme. Dans la première
В статье предлагается различать узкое и широкое толко- partie, nous commençons par parler de l’approche «haut-mo-
вание понятия модернизма. В первой части обсуждается derniste», souvent assimilée au modernisme dans son en-
традиционный подход, который часто и ассоциируется с semble. Dans une compréhension aussi étroite, le «moder-
модернизмом как таковым. В таком узком понимании «мо- nisme» représente un style architectural particulier ainsi
дернизм» относится к определённому архитектурному сти- qu’une approche de planification et de gouvernance urbaine
лю и соответствующему подходу к городскому планирова- particulière. Nous offrons ensuite une conception large du mo-
нию и управлению городским хозяйством. Затем представ- dernisme en le présentant comme une réponse culturelle à l’ex-
лена широкая концепция модернизма, а именно, périence de la modernité et au désir ardent d’être moderne.
модернизм как культурный ответ на опыт модерна и Nous défendons la nécessité de faire face à la complexité et à
стремление быть таковым. При этом доказывается, что не- l’ampleur des visions modernistes. En conclusion, nous identi-
обходимо также проанализировать сложность и многооб- fions les principaux thèmes abordés par les contributeurs sur
разие модернистских идей. Наконец, определяются основ- cette question particulière et mettons en valeur la manière dont
ные темы, рассматриваемые авторами предлагаемых в nous pensons que ce volume contribue aux débats intellectuels
сборнике статей по конкретным вопросам. Кроме того, ука- sur l’intérêt de revisiter et de ressusciter l’urbanisme moder-
зывается, почему данный сборник представляет собой важ- niste dans les contextes urbains post-socialistes du XXIème siècle
ный вклад в оживление научных дискуссий о значении мо- et au-delà.
дернистского градоведения в постсоциалистическом ур-
банистическом контектсе 21-го века. Post-modernisme, post-socialisme, transformation, planification dans
l’Europe orientale et occidentale
Постмодернизм, постсоциализм, трансформация, планирование
в Восточной и Западной Европе

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