Central and Eastern Europe transformed by socialism - Sample Essay

To what extent were the cities of post 1945 Central and Eastern Europe transformed by socialism? “Throughout the socialist period theories have been propounded about the role of the city and how this should be reflected in its form and appearance. Urban living has always been, and still is, seen as the highest form of socialist life-the city is the place where socialist consciousness can best develop the necessary environment for achieving the perfection of a socialist society. ” {French R. A. and Hamilton F. E. I. The socialist city.

This quotation shows the importance socialist governments placed upon their cities. This essay aims to analyse the extent socialism transformed the cities of Central and Eastern Europe after 1945 to achieve their socialist goals. Through this the essay will show how socialism did physically transform the cities but failed to achieve the social and economic plans they were designed for. New cities, planned by town planners and architects, were built in Central and Eastern Europe to combat housing shortages due to the war.

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They may have also been to facilitate the move towards socialism. Cities were planned in a linear form with housing estates close to industrial factories but separated from each other areas of green belt and public parks. In the city of Petrzula high rise flats and micro-districts were seen as areas to create the ideal communal environment for the working class. The neighbourhood organisations and unions were used to construct an environment where people formerly of different class groups could interact with one another under Marxist notions. {Unwin T. (1998)}

One of the problems socialist governments faced was transforming old cities such as Berlin or Prague. These cities were embedded with significant historical, political, and social differences. The inhabitants wanted to keep some of their heritage in which they were proud of. It is also very difficult to change the structure of an old town without knocking it down and starting again. {French R. A. and Hamilton F. E. I. (1974)} Socialist cities were planned, as discussed before, in a linear style with industrial areas close to residential areas.

One of the main reasons for this was to limit the journey of employees from their house to their place of work. It was believed that the more time spent on the journey to work the less productive employees were. The more fundamental reason was that employees were encouraged to walk to work or use public transport. Socialist ideology was against private property so if employees had far to travel they were more likely to use private transport such as cars. This planning of the linear city was clear in most soviet cities for example Stalingrad.

(See diagram 1). {Bater J. (1980)} Open space in the form of public parks, recreational areas and green belts were an integral part of the design of socialist cities. As the land was public owned this facilitated ruralising land that may have been used for industry or housing in pre-socialist times. In Poland landscape planners made a network ok of urban green space from housing estates and city centres to surrounding countryside. This showed the poles’ commitment to establish strong links between housing estates and green space.

It also showed the socialist commitment to improving the living conditions of society. {Mezga D. (2000)} There were no private businesses in the socialist cities this led to a major physical transformation. Shops no longer bared family names, the signs purely described the shops’ functions: ‘supermarket’, ‘hairdresser. Street names and monuments were also changed. They were no longer named after religious or capitalist personalities these were replaced by war heroes, socialist events and symbols and revolutionaries.

Specialised services, which required an identity, were given individual names. ” Among cinemas in Gdansk for example are the ‘fairytale’, ‘dolphin’ and the ‘Leningrad friendship’… While among these in Irkutsk are the ‘pioneer’, ‘peace’… and ‘screen’. ” French R. A. and Hamilton F. E. I. The socialist city. (1974) P6} All land and housing were owned by the state. The state also set the price of rent at a low level and all house prices were the same so that no land was unattainable on the grounds of cost, race, income or status. This was meant to cut down the class distinctions.



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