Urban policies for a contemporary periphery : Insights from eastern Russia

Abstract: In recent decades, the notion of quality of life has been closely associated with the built urban environment and urbanistic practice. Policies addressing public space and aiming at cities’ increased international competitiveness are proliferating. The relevant body of scholarly literature is rich and has been linked to the earlier discussion on the global city and the internationalization of secondary cities under economic globalization. Many newer studies adopt a policy mobility perspective in order to capture this dynamic movement of ideas and policies. This thesis commences from this line of research. It brings into the discussion cities in the post-socialist realm, cities which otherwise remain outliers rather than contenders for international policy mobility. It is assumed that they can effortlessly inform the answer to the following question: How do peripheral and globalizing cities engage with the ideas that guide current urbanistic practice? The thesis addresses this question by drawing on unique empirical material from three case studies situated in the Russian Far East and Siberia.The thesis uses a multi-method research design. The analysis follows (a) the moments of normative change in addressing urban development, (b) a dynamic actor landscape, (c) resources allocated to the implementation of policies for urban improvement, and (d) physical, material output in the three examples provided, which are situated in the cities of Vladivostok, Krasnoyarsk, and Achinsk. These are associated with three processes of urban renewal that pertain to the quest for internationalization, revitalization, and participatory design – in short, for urban attractiveness and a higher quality of life. Analyzing and further conceptualizing these as processes of convergence, regulation, and compensation, the thesis highlights how the adaptation to international urbanistic practice has been linked to a recent problematizing of the notion of urbanity in the respective national and local policy landscape. Rather than relying on the analytical categorization of a post-Soviet city, the findings show that urban policy change can be explained in terms of the pursuit of contemporaneity. In addition to suggesting this refinement of theoretical concepts, the thesis highlights the conditioning of the mobilization and localization of policies by spatiotemporal specificities and precedents in eastern Russia. This is a contribution to the field of international urban studies, the literature on policy transfer, and Russian and Eurasian studies.