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Winds of change and the spatial Transformation of post-socialist cities

Author(s): Sasha Tsenkova, Professor of planning and international development

Journal: Baltic Worlds
ISSN 2000-2955

Volume: VI;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 20;
Date: 2013;
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Keywords: planning regimes | democratic governance | post-socialist cities | path dependence | divergence

The paper explores the new planning regimes and planning processes in post-socialist countries and their ability to influence the spatial transformation of cities. It views planning institutions as culturally embedded in the overall process of economic, social and political transition, while recognising the power of specific local imperatives and market pressures to shape their response. The paper draws on empirical evidence in four countries and their capital cities to highlight the links between the transition to democracy, markets and decentralized governance on the spatial transformation in post-socialist cities. The main argument is that the new planning institutions have different ability to direct these processes of change, depending on the legal framework, the availability of plans and the institutionalisation of the plan-implementation process. Despite the diverse mosaic of urban experiences in Prague, Riga, Belgrade and Tirana, planning institutions are viewed as path dependent, influenced by a common socialist legacy. Further, changes in the exogenous environment—economic, social and institutional—are perceived to be important sources of difference shaping divergent planning responses and policy choices. The article explores these differences as well as the new patterns of spatial transformation in three principal domains: i) spaces of production/consumption reflecting economic restructuring; ii) social differentiation in residential spaces associated with new housing demand and growing inequality; and iii) new approaches to planning and service delivery.The conclusion is that despite the common challenges facing planning systems in post-socialist countries, there are deeply embedded differences in terms of political and administrative structures, which existed historically. There are also significant differences in the political, economic and social transitions affecting the post-socialist urban transformation, which challenge the idea of the convergence.
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