Cultural Diversity in Russian Cities. The Urban Landscape in the Post-Soviet Era.

Author:Stella, Francesca
Position:Book review

Cultural Diversity in Russian Cities. The Urban Landscape in the Post-Soviet Era. Edited by Cordula Gdaniec. Space and Place Series, vol. 2. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2010. Pp. x+185. Illustrations, references and index. ISBN 978-1-84545-665-8.

This edited volume explores the themes of multiculturalism and competing claims to urban spaces in Russian cities. Published as part of Berghahn Books' Anthropology of Space and Place series, the collection is a welcome addition to existing literature on post-Soviet Russian cities, which has tended to focus on macro-level issues of regional development and capital accumulation, rather than on social divisions, spatial segregation and individual negotiations of city space (see for example the collection edited by Axenov, Brade and Bondarchuk, The Transformation of Urban Space in Post-Soviet Russia, London 2006).

The volume includes contributions from researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds, including human geography, sociology and anthropology; each of the nine case studies featured is based on empirical qualitative research and focuses on "a group, a phenomenon or a space that is a constituent part of cultural diversity" in Russian cities (13). The aim of the book, as stated in the introductory chapter, is to explore two dimensions: first, how city authorities manage cultural diversity, and how this diversity is reflected (or not) in the image of the city they promote; second, how different cultures are inscribed in urban space, and what strategies are used to navigate, inhabit and claim urban space by different marginalized or subaltern groups, including migrants from China, Africa and the former Soviet Union, lesbian women, youth subcultures and street beggars (3). In fact, most of the case studies privilege the second dimension, focusing on the 'everyday' social and cultural practices used collectively and individually to navigate and appropriate urban space.

The preface and introduction chart the evolution of the book, which originated as one offspring of a broader research project on urban cultures in Berlin and Moscow at Humboldt University, Berlin. A workshop organized in Moscow in 2005 at the Russian State Institution for the Humanities brought together researchers from Russia, Germany and nations further afield, and one of the collection's undoubted contribution is that it makes available to an English-speaking global audience valuable new research on urban Russia. The...

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