Coping with the Unwanted Past in Planned Socialist Towns: Visaginas, Tychy, and Nowa Huta

Rasa Balockaite


The article examines three cases of planned socialist towns: Visaginas in Lithuania and Tychy and Nowa Huta in Poland. The planned socialist towns, products of the socialist urban planning, were known as the workers‟ towns in the workers‟ state and as the outposts of socialism. After the fall of their respective socialist regimes, however, it became necessary to redefine the identities of these towns in order to cope with the socialist past. While the issue of socialist heritage has been researched by scholars, this research addresses an existing gap in the theory – how socialist heritage is presently used in those planned socialist towns that have little other symbolic recourse available. This paper examines the content of various institutionally produced materials, such as websites, tourism brochures, photo albums, and guided tours. The research reveals different strategies used in planned socialist towns to redefine their identities: i) active forgetting of the socialist past; ii) commercialization of the socialist past via tourism; iii) ironic imitation of the West, vis-à-vis de–ideologized images of “green and young” towns; and iv) bifurcation of consciousness into private remembrance and public forgetting of the past. The article presents the findings of the research project, „Transformations of the Socialist Urban Utopias‟, funded by CERGE-EI (Centre for Economic Research and Graduate Education – Economics Institute) Foundation, Prague, Czech Republic.

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