Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are often associated with grey, anonymous, and poorly constructed post-war buildings. Despite this reputation, the regional architectural developments that produced these buildings are critical to understanding global paradigm shifts in architectural theory and practice in the last 50 years. The vast territory of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union covers about one-sixth of the world’s landmass and currently contains all or part of 30 countries.[i] Since 1960 other national boundaries have existed in this space, including East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union. Given the region’s large size, numerous languages, and tumultuous recent history—communist and authoritarian regimes, democratic revolutions, civil war and ethnic strife, political corruption, prosperity, EU accession, and economic instability—a comprehensive summary of 50 years of architectural developments cannot be achieved in one chapter. Rather than survey individual architects or projects in depth, this chapter instead explores the shared transformation in architectural discourse and practice that resulted from the region’s political and economic shift to communism after World War II, and the changes that followed the fall of communism in the 1990s.[ii]
[i] Countries include Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, East Germany (now considered Western European as part of a unified Germany), Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
[ii] Scholars use the terms communism, socialism, and state socialism to refer to the systems in these countries. For clarity, communism will be used here. Political scientist Andrew Roberts describes communist countries as “ruled by a single mass party that placed severe restrictions on all forms of civil society and free expression … [had] almost complete prohibition of private ownership of the means of production and a high degree of central planning … [and] were committed to revolution and the massive transformation of existing society.” Andrew Roberts, “The State of Socialism: A Note on Terminology,” Slavic Review 63/2 (Summer 2004): 359.
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