22 June 2021

Minsk - Neoliberal Shift in the Model Socialist City: Architecture and the Value of Housing

RWTH Aachen

Respondent: Maryia Rusak (The Oslo School of Architecture and Design)

This research is situated within the critical theory of neoliberalism, it investigates the neoliberal shift in housing using the city of Minsk as an example. Rebuilt from scratch after its liberation from German occupation in 1944, Minsk has become a “model socialist city” of the Soviet Union: a triumph of Soviet industrialization and a perfect example of Soviet urban planning. Years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Minsk is still often viewed as the “open-air museum of socialism.” This image of the capital city represents symbolically the development of the whole country: massive neoliberal reforms that were supposed to shock-therapy the stalled Soviet economy were implemented in Belarus on a much smaller scale. Under the authoritarian rule of Alexander Lukashenko, the country has experienced 16 years of uninterrupted economic growth and enjoyed the highest standard of living among other post-Soviet countries except Baltic States. However, in the recent decade, several economic crisis disrupted country’s economy, and the image of socialist paradise started to crack.

Recent large urban housing developments in various parts of the city provide visible evidence of this development. This research approaches these projects as manifold socio-economic phenomena, focusing not only on architecture, but also on political, economic, legal, and social aspects that underpin them. It aspires to contribute to the expanding academic debate on the global neoliberal shift in housing, as well as to the emerging discussion on the role of architecture in this process.

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