Planners contra geopolitics in communist and post-socialist Russia and China

Authors: Megan Dixon*, The College of Idaho
Topics: Urban Geography, Eurasia
Keywords: postsocialist, urban, scale
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Balcony L, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In earlier research by the author related to contact between individual Russians and Chinese in the urban planning sector of economic development in European Russia, a major focus was the possible neglect of “essential conditions at the microlevel for productive economic interaction between independent subjects of the two countries, for the civilized entrepreneurial activity of the population” (Gel’bras 2001: 110, emphasis added).

In the current paper the question is whether consideration of this ‘microlevel’ and the evidence it offers can bring together research on contemporary Sino-Russian cooperation in St. Petersburg with analysis of cooperation between Soviet Russian planner-architects with their Chinese counterparts in newly Communist China. Assumptions of the moral content and intent of space are examined both in the ongoing Baltic Pearl housing complex outside Petersburg and Soviet-Russian input into Chinese redesign of Beijing in the 1950s.

Discovering the spaces in which individual life strategies are worked out is crucial for understanding how and whether cities are developing in new ways or still “transitioning” out of old ones, and also for discerning cities’ political and cultural stability in the face of an ostensible return to authoritarian governance. There is a danger of accepting and becoming overly persuaded by the state’s chosen depiction of itself; thus, in order to test entities at other scales than the “nation” as the primary unit of analysis, as well as the potential insights from a more “flat ontology,” the paper considers the discourse of individuals.

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