Reinventing a Russian mono-industrial town: from a socialist 'town of miners' to a post-socialist 'border town' (Evgenia Prokhorova)

Prokhorova, Evgenia
Itä-Suomen yliopisto, 2014
Yhteiskuntatieteiden ja kauppatieteiden tiedekunta

This study investigates the post-socialist transformation of mono-industrial towns in Russia at the turn of the 21st century using the case study method. To understand the mechanisms behind successful restructuring of mono-industrial towns, an explanatory model sensitive to social relations and local contexts is proposed. The model analyses an oft-neglected element of post-socialist transformation of mono-industrial towns - place image.

Soviet ‘town-forming’ enterprises, the largest enterprises in mono-industrial towns, were given dominant power over their communities in exchange for a moral obligation to ‘take care’ of their home towns. These relations of power and obligation were reinforced by the industry-centred place narratives that linked the images of the towns to their industrial specialisation. The central argument of this study is that these images and paternalistic relations legitimised the single industry economy and made it difficult for local communities to embrace the need to diversify in the early post-socialist era.

The model is developed based on a case study of the mining town of Kostomuksha situated in the Republic of Karelia. The study shows that the place image of Kostomuksha as a ‘town of miners’, inherited from the Soviet era, became a carrier of path dependence, preserving paternalistic expectations and hindering the grassroots search for an alternative development path. The study also analyses how the renegotiation of key social relations and images overcomes the initial inertia and enables the search for an alternative development path.

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