Reurbanisation in Postsocialist Europe – A Comparative View of Eastern Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic
Since the 1990s, reurbanisation has become an increasingly frequent trajectory for urban development. Many formerly shrinking cities have been able to stabilise their population or even see new growth. Especially prominent in regions like Germany and the UK, but also observed across the whole continent, a lively debate on reurbanisation has developed as a reality of today’s, and a potential trajectory for tomorrow’s, cities in Europe.
Postsocialist Europe has not so far been central in the reurbanisation debate, either empirically or theoretically. Subsequently, the postsocialist experience is missing in the discourse and the existing body of evidence. There is, however, some evidence that Czech and Polish cities are also seeing signs of new inner-city growth and a trend towards core city stabilisation.
Against this background, the paper scrutinises the issues of reurbanisation and new growth after the shrinking of postsocialist cities. The paper uses the approach of a contrastive comparison between cities in eastern Germany, where reurbanisation has developed as the predominant trajectory for many large cities, and for cities in Poland and the Czech Republic, where this trend is considerably less prominent. It analyses the development of reurbanisation in these cities and their urban regions over the last few decades, its characteristics and the determinants triggering or impeding it. The paper includes data on a national scale as well as from relevant case studies of cities and their urban regions.
It argues, among other things, that there is no “postsocialist model” with regard to influencing factors for reurbanisation. Eastern Germany, due to its specific postsocialist situation and transformation trajectory, can be viewed as an “outlier” or “hybrid” which exhibits characteristics typical of postsocialist and western welfare contexts and which is seeing especially dynamic reurbanisation after a phase of extreme shrinkage. Although there are clear signs of inner-city reurbanisation in Polish and Czech cities as well, it seems relatively unlikely that this process will reach the same high levels as in East German cities within the coming years.
* This article belongs to a special issue on reurbanisation.
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