This project explores urban policy issues in Ukraine's "geopolitical fault-line cities," focusing on policy areas that are most exposed to the country's geopolitical and foreign policy choices. There are two main goals. Using the examples of five south-east Ukrainian case study cities, the scientific goal is to advance the concept of the geopolitical fault-line city and to contribute to the knowledge on conflict in divided or polarized cities. The main policy-related goal is to explore the urban social and identity policy challenges confronting southeastern Ukrainian geopolitical fault-line cities. The main sources of primary data include survey materials from Kharkiv, Dnipro and Mariupol and interviews with key persons, officials and residents of the case study cities, which also include Kramatorsk/Sloviansk and Luhansk (to the extent possible).
The Russian war in Ukraine dramatically altered the central characteristic of geopolitical fault-line cities, i.e., that they host significant divisions and potential for conflict related to foreign policy and geopolitical alignment preferences. The war has largely erased such divisions, while Russia’s soft power projected elsewhere has largely vanished. Instead, we found ourselves studying cities at war, while also continuing our work on the work packages (WP) that remain relevant and which have not yet been concluded. These are WP2 Countering urban disinformation in the traditional and social media, WP3 Accommodating displaced persons from the Donbas and Crimea in Ukrainian cities and WP4 Urban identities, identity politics and social cohesion during/after the Donbas war.
Our main findings from the past year are:
WP1 (concluded): to be reported in the final report.
WP2: The main recent finding is that when disinformation (based on conspiracy theories) is used as a weapon by the Kremlin, under certain conditions its impact on conspiracy beliefs held by target audiences can be both immediate and effective, rather than slow and cumulative. This was particularly evident on the occasion of the Kremlin’s propaganda attack following the rigged presidential election in Belarus in 2020.
W3: We found that internally displaced persons (IDPs) acknowledge a significant connection to their places of origin, which they refer to as “native.” Still, IDPs rarely express a desire “to return home,” seeing their former home as lost or “dead.”
WP4: Because of the war, this work package had to re-focus some of its attention onto the ongoing urbicide in Ukraine, which has two main expressions. First, it entails the destruction of both symbolic and ordinary places, including physical structures. Second, it targets the heterogeneity and socio-cultural vitality of cities.
With the escalation of Russia’s war on Ukraine, certain urban, regional and ethno-national identifications common in the Donbas have become stigmatized because of their perceived associations with (geo)political rivals, war crimes, destruction, and general decline. In order to escape from this stigmatized past, many people start searching for a new identity, but the process is neither rapid nor straightforward.
The narratives of non-return among IDPs are an expression of the indirect urbicide inflicted by the Russian Federation on the cities currently under its military occupation. Cities under occupation are characterized by depopulation, the planned or unconscious destruction of the city's infrastructure, and general neglect, and they are also subject to an illusory simulation of development. Moreover, cities under occupation struggle with problems related to poor and unprofessional urban management.
WP5 (concluded): to be reported in the final report. Overall, it has become evident that the concept of the geopolitical fault-line city needs to be revisited in the light of the changes in public opinion caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine. A new article by Gentile shows that the divided citizenries in geopolitical fault-line cities can find common ground in identifications with the global, rather than with the European.
This project explores urban policy issues in Ukraine’s "geopolitical fault-line cities", focusing on policy domains that are most exposed to the country’s geopolitical and foreign policy choices. As such, it addresses the nexus between geopolitics, urban studies and urban policy.
Building on a detailed analysis of five case study cities in southeastern Ukraine, the overarching scientific goal is to theorize the geopolitical fault-line city. The main policy-related goal is to detail the urban social and identity policy challenges confronting southeastern Ukrainian cities in order to support related decisions by local and national policy-makers. The findings will be the basis for recommendations aimed at fostering the social sustainability of urban policies implemented in Ukrainian geopolitical fault-line cities. The project includes five work packages: (1) Soviet legacies in the southeastern Ukrainian urban social landscape, with a focus on housing; (2) Countering urban disinformation in the traditional and social media; (3) Accommodating displaced persons from the Donbas and Crimea in Ukrainian cities; (4) Urban identities, identity politics and social cohesion during/after the Donbas war; (5) Theorizing geopolitical fault-line cities. The work packages use a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods appropriate to the issues and questions covered by them.