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This talk will examine the deep and often troubling change of Central European cities after the fall of state socialism by using Prague as its case. It will look specifically at following transformations: a collapse of traditional Prague-based manufacturing and relocation of labor force, the lack of socially affordable housing, the massive increase in automobile transport to the detriment of public transport, the radical change in the patterns of consumption and leisure activities, and the change in discourse about the nature of the city and its future. In the new neoliberal spirit, the city planning, as any planning, was seen as part of the suspect heritage of state socialist planned economy. The lecture will attempt to look at these and other changes as part of long term transformation that preceded the actual fall of state socialism. It also will attempt to situate those within broader trends in European urban development since the 1970s, thus revisiting the established academic debate of what is actually socialist about socialist cities.

Petr Roubal is a researcher at the Institute of Contemporary History at the Czech Academy of Sciences. He holds a PhD in History from the Central European University. His dissertation on the political symbolism of mass gymnastic performances (Spartakiads) has recently been published as a monograph in Czech, with English translation pending. The bulk of his research looks at the politics of memory in the post-communist period and the origins of post-communist neoliberalism. His current project examines Prague’s city planning of late-socialism and early post-socialism.

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