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Anna Badyina and Oleg Golubchikov
Badyina, A. and Golubchikov, O., 2005: Gentrification in central
Moscow – a market process or a deliberate policy? Money, power
and people in housing regeneration in Ostozhenka. Geogr. Ann.,
87 B (2): 113–129.
ABSTRACT. The recent process of housing redevelopment in
central Moscow is examined in the light of the theory of gentrification. The study is based on the case of Ostozhenka as an emblematic example of a large-scale transformation of a central residential neighbourhood into the most expensive quarter of central
Moscow. Using data collected through interviews, archive enquiries and field surveys, the paper addresses the preconditions,
dynamics and mechanisms of this socio-political process. It is argued that gentrification in Ostozhenka shares many features observed in the other large cities of the world but, as predicted by
theory, is locally embedded. It has been a product of a complex
interplay of the market pressure aiming to meet demands from
Moscow’s successful post-Soviet economy and Moscow government’s entrepreneurial and pro-development strategy for the city
centre regeneration. The government privileges market forces: it
empowers them vis-à-vis the original population and allows them
to circumvent conservation institutions, while the achieved profit
is shared between the private and public sides. Whereas the physical improvement of the city centre signifies departing from the
Soviet legacies of under-investments in the housing built environment, the growing socio–spatial polarization undermines the social achievements of the Soviet system and denotes the triumph
of the neoliberal urban regime in Moscow.
Key words: gentrification, market, policy, housing regeneration,
Since the 1970s the institutional arena in cities
throughout the globe has experienced similar tendencies often connected with the rise of neoliberal
ideology and its influence on the political and economic landscape. The principles of the new political economy have been found in untrammeled market forces and non-interventionist government – in
direct contradiction with the previous Fordist or
Keynesian state. The implementation of the new
liberal ideology has been through different channels: deregulation, commercialization, privatization, downsizing government, flexible labor marGeografiska Annaler · 87 B (2005) · 2
kets, free trade, public–private partnership – all of
which give greater privilege to the private sector
(Amin, 1997; Bourdieu, 1998; Beck, 2000; Brenner and Theodore, 2003a). The triumph of neoliberalism has been backed by the fall of the state socialisms in Eastern Europe. The very process of
transition to the market may be regarded as a neoliberal politico-economic project (Pickles and
Smith, 1998). As time passes, however, it is becoming evident that the neoliberal project does not have
a single outcome. The reason is believed to rest
with the path-dependent character of reforms and
‘contextual embeddedness’ of restructuring projects (Brenner and Theodore, 2003b; Pickles and
Smith, 1998). Instead of the triumph of the faceless
universal neoliberal capitalism with similar structures across all countries and ‘removed’ government, a great variety of local practices has arisen,
sometimes the opposite of what was expected.
Moreover, the neoliberal rhetoric often disguises
proactive and even authoritarian government,
which plays an enabling role for market forces and
is often repressive in relation to the local population
(Moulaert et al., 2001).
An example of the forces of neoliberal urbanism
that have been manifested globally but have unfolded differently in different contexts is the modern phase of gentrification. Gentrification has been
a major theme in urban geography attracting much
academic debate (for an overview see Lees, 2000).
It is usually understood as a complex socio–spatial
phenomenon, which involves physical upgrading
of low-status residential neighbourhoods in inner
cities and large-scale displacement and replacement of their residents by wealthier newcomers
who carry their own lifestyles into the renewed
neighbourhoods (Smith, 1987; Hamnett, 1991;
Warde, 1991; see Clark, 2004 for a broad discussion of gentrification in geographic and historic
perspective). The recent accentuation of gentrifica113
tion worldwide is often connected to the rise of
service-based economy changing the function and
status of inner cities, as well as to the neoliberal approach to urban development. As Smith (2003) argues, an initially marginal urban process first identified in the 1960s in a few major capitalist cities,
gentrification has evolved into global urban strategy, deliberately pursued in different parts of the
world, where it shares the features of the systematized large-scale rebuilding of inner-city dwellings,
corporate–government partnerships and a repressive attitude towards native people. Gentrification
thus suggests particular power relationships and
struggle for urban space, which are in many respects similar to those of colonialism (Atkinson
and Bridge, 2004). However, what fits together as
a global process comes from diverse, even contrasting urban experiences. Moreover, a variety of manifestations may appear even within the same urban
Gentrification encompasses redevelopments
that involve large-scale corporate investment
as well as the more piecemeal sweat equity/
small builder renovations of historical inner
urban housing.
(Bridge, 2003, p. 2547).
The acknowledgement of this contextuality and diversity has resulted in a call to excavate the detailed
‘geography of gentrification’ (Ley, 1996; Lees,
Our article contributes to the mapping of gentrification by considering some aspects of this process
in post-Soviet Moscow. In central Moscow, gentrification has been remarkable since the introduction
of the market economy in the early 1990s. However, there has been a lack of detailed documentation
of this socio-political process. To fill this gap, we
present a study of one of Moscow’s central districts
– Ostozhenka – as a prominent example of a neighbourhood-scale transformation of a once-neglected
residential area into the most exclusive quarter. Ostozhenka may not be the most typical experience
for the city but it carries so much symbolism that it
may be regarded as a symbol for the new Moscow.
An elegant story of successful regeneration for
some, and a disgraceful piece of urban tyranny for
others, Ostozhenka richly portrays all the contradictions of urban change in post-socialist society.
Although market forces drive the process, the Moscow government has actively facilitated gentrification in Ostozhenka. A kind of boosterism has
played a very important role in the recent renovation of the city centre in sharp contrast with the late
Soviet period, but ignored social costs involved are
leading to growing economic segregation as well as
partial degradation of Moscow’s historic value.
Post-Soviet Moscow, gentrification and the
study area
The discussion of gentrification in the context of
post-socialist cities should take into account their
only recent liberalization. The logic of state-led urbanism produced a somewhat different type of the
city from the Western capitalism regimes (French
and Hamilton, 1979; Bater, 1980, 1989; Andrusz et
al., 1996). The noteworthy features of the ‘mature’
socialist city were a low degree of social segregation and polarization, a moderate representation of
the tertiary sector, and overall under-investment in
the aesthetics of new housing estates – even in central, prestigious locations. The introduction of the
market economy has unlocked the mismatch between, on the one hand, the function and the morphology of the socialist cities and, on the other, the
logic of the market. A consequence has been a flood
of new urban processes, which have rapidly
changed the function and appearance of cities.
However, the intensity of this flood has been asymmetric and asynchronic. Bigger cities and inner cities are, literally, first and foremost bearing the signs
of post-industrial transformation, tertiarization and
commercialization (Bater et al., 1998). The social
topography of urban space has also changed. While
housing privatization has formed the supply end of
the residential market, socio-economic stratification has created differential demand for dwellings
and differential ability to maintain the conditions of
homes. This has resulted in growing socio–spatial
The post-socialist transformations are especially
visible in the cities high in the urban hierarchy, such
as Moscow. Soon after dissolution of the Soviet
Union in 1991, Moscow has undergone very rapid
reconstruction. City policies and business interests
have been inextricably interwoven in this process,
which many link to the re-establishment of Moscow as a world/global city (see Kolossov et al.,
2002; Brade and Rudolf, 2004; Gritsai, 2004; Kolossov and O’Loughlin, 2004). The concentration
of Russian financial wealth has led to the rapid deployment of the post-industrial economy in Moscow, while mushrooming financial and business
services have required the built environment to be
Geografiska Annaler · 87 B (2005) · 2
renovated to suit the new socio-economic conditions. These changes are particularly noticeable in
central Moscow. According to Kolossov and
O’Loughlin (2004, p. 424) the historic centre, accounting for 6.4% of the total city area and 8% of
its population, has captured 40% of capital investment and construction. Along with retail and office
developments, the inner city has also experienced
rehabilitation and redevelopment of its housing.
The concentration of the Russian financial sector
and major headquarters in Moscow has resulted in
a considerable segment of the very well off living
in the city. Already at the beginning of the 1990s affluent people were buying privatized apartments
near the centre and renovating them to the highest
standards. However, a central location and an expensive renovation of an apartment turned out to be
not quite enough. A building constructed as luxurious from the very beginning and the ‘appropriate’
social milieu became increasingly important factors for so-called ‘elite housing’, which came to
connote deluxe accommodation for the new rich.
The evolution from apartment-by-apartment to
house-by-house and then to block-by-block elite
housing (re)construction signified the emergence
of systematic gentrification in inner Moscow. The
result has been not only changes in property but
also social change. The limited residential segregation of the Soviet-period Moscow that was based on
non-economic factors (Morton, 1980; Andrusz,
1984; Bater, 1989) yielded to the pronounced socio-economic polarization of Moscow’s space.
The capital flows, which direct the city centre in
general, intensify in particular locations, with the
Ostozhenka residential neighbourhood having become one of the most attractive areas. This is in
striking contrast with its history during the Soviet
period when the district stood out in central Moscow for its desperate state. For a long time, the district was zoned for rebuilding into administrative
use, and even if this was never done, it remained
without proper repair. After a long period of disinvestment, however, this neighbourhood has become the first area in close proximity to the Kremlin with such large rebuilding that has wholly
changed its appearance. An official goal of redevelopment policy towards Ostozhenka has been the
restoration of its historic value, but in reality its historic ambience has been destroyed and the area has
been transformed into a new neighbourhood that
celebrates its privilege and satisfies the tastes of the
new upper class.
The underlying mechanism of the post-socialist
Geografiska Annaler · 87 B (2005) · 2
gentrification process may be explained by the
‘rent gap’ (Smith, 1979, 1987; Clark, 1987, 1995).
In the context of the capitalist city, disinvestment in
the built environment is essential for the production
of opportunities for capital accumulation in a later
stage of reinvestment. These opportunities can materialize when the gap between the potential and actual ground rents grows ‘sufficiently large’. Continuous shifts of investment and disinvestment in
the built environment are considered as a repetitive
cycle of capital flows. The post-socialist context is
different in the sense that ‘the mobilization of urban
real-estate markets as vehicles of capital accumulation’ (Smith, 2003) has appeared only recently, as
has entrepreneurial capital accumulation. Nevertheless, the mechanism of the rent gap seems to be
similar, as the emergence of a housing market has
created the opportunity to make profit out of past
under-investment under socialism (see S=kora
(1993) for post-socialist Prague). The ‘meta-scale’
rent gap resultant from the macroeconomic shift
from the socialist past to the capitalist present has
further translated into neighbourhood-scale rent
gaps depending on the local context. Ostozhenka
has been prominent among other districts in Moscow because during the Soviet period it suffered
from relatively poorer investment and was thus a
victim of the ‘administratively led’ uneven development. Although the neighbourhood continued to
suffer from economic deprivation in the aftermath
of the collapse of the Soviet Union, in the subsequent stage of market mobilization, the use of the
rent gap of the neighbourhood became real. However, as Hamnet (1991) notes, the existence of the
rent gap is not a sufficient condition for gentrification to occur. The power of this theory is greatest
when it attracts a wider politico-economic perspective in explaining the choreography of gentrification in a particular situation. As in many other capitalist cities, it is the interplay of power and capital,
public policy and private interests, bureaucracy and
the market that has deployed and shaped the gentrification practice in Ostozhenka.
In this article we therefore focus on the circumstances that have triggered and followed the use of
the rent gap potential of the Ostozhenka area. Our
study is based on material collected between 2003
and 2004. The qualitative part of the data were
gathered through in-depth interviews with representatives of Moscow’s real estate businesses, planning, architectural and local administrations, as
well as with residents. Our professional experience
in the Moscow development market also made it
Fig. 1. Ostozhenka district within
central Moscow
possible to benefit from the ‘insiders’’ or ‘participants’’ views and observations. In addition, archive
enquiries allowed earlier planning materials for
Ostozhenka to be analyzed. On the other hand, to
analyze quantitatively the changes in the Ostozhenka area is very problematic because there are no official statistics on the neighbourhood. Various public and private organizations hold relevant pieces of
information which, even if accessible, are often of
unsatisfactory quality. We therefore made an effort
to systematize available data, and conducted our
own surveys to estimate changes in the neighbourhood.
The Ostozhenka phenomenon: legacies of
plans for unplanned experience
The Ostozhenka neighbourhood is a ‘microdistrict’
in Moscow (c. 0.5 sq. km), which is located within
the Garden Ring, only one kilometre to the southwest of the Kremlin (Fig. 1). Today it is one of the
most expensive districts in Moscow, which the estate agents metaphorically call ‘the Golden Mile’.
Depending on a micro-location, a specific project
and a stage of construction, the prices for new condominiums in Ostozhenka varied in January 2005
between $4000 and $12 000 per sq.m. (with average being $7500) with some penthouses exceeding
$20 000. This was well above the average price for
residential properties in the Central Administrative
District (approximately $2800) and Moscow as a
whole ($1800 after it increased by more than 20%
in the dollar equivalent in 2004). Obviously, the
majority of the clients of Ostozhenka projects are
people who, at the time of writing, had between one
and more than eight million US dollars cash for an
apartment. This money is normally paid as a cash
lump sum – although the proportion of mortgage
deals is also increasing. Against a background of
lower incomes in Russia than in the West, it seems
that the incomers to Ostozhenka are not the ‘new
middle classes’ who were the classical gentrifiers
in Western cities (e.g. Ley, 1996; Butler, 1997), but
their profile is more in line with the very well-off
gentrifiers of the modern stage of high-end gentrification in major global cities, whom Lees (2000)
calls ‘financifiers’.
The reason for the highest prestige of Ostozhenka is, of course, its proximity to the Kremlin, to the
Christ the Saviour Cathedral and to the picturesque
Moskva river embankment, but it is not only this
that has made Ostozhenka stand out. It is the large
scale of rebuilding that has created the Ostozhenka
phenomenon. Ostozhenka is becoming the first
neighbourhood in the heart of Moscow that will be
totally rebuilt into a large agglomeration of wealthy
properties. Existing houses dating from the nineteenth–early twentieth century give way to new exGeografiska Annaler · 87 B (2005) · 2
clusive condominiums, as well as offices and restaurants.
A precondition for the comprehensive reconstruction of the Ostozhenka neighbourhood lies in
the fact that it was the only district so close to the
Kremlin that had a large portion of pre-revolutionary properties in very poor condition. After the
1917 October Revolution this predominantly residential area of bourgeoisie and noblemen became
housing for working-class people who moved into
the spacious apartments of the former owners and
split them into ‘communal apartments’ (kommunalki) where several families shared a bathroom
and a kitchen. In contrast to other similar locations,
this district was neither rebuilt nor considerably
renovated in the Soviet era, since it happened to
border the ill-fated Palace of the Soviets. The Palace was planned to be the tallest building in the
world to be constructed on the place of the Christ
the Saviour Cathedral, a monument to the Russian
victory over Napoleon, which was dynamited in
1931. Soviet architects left Ostozhenka untouched
in order to redevelop it in a single architectural ensemble with the proposed Palace. However, the
problem with the foundation for the Palace and
then the Second World War delayed implementation of the plan, which was finally abandoned in the
1950s, the area of the former Cathedral being transformed into the largest open-air swimming pool in
Moscow. But even after giving up the idea of the
ambitious Palace, Ostozhenka was considered as
doomed for redevelopment. Lack of funding meant
that these plans being delayed but never abolished,
which resulted not only in new construction being
limited in the area, but also in the neglect to maintain the existing housing stock – in the wait of the
rebuilding such investments were considered a
waste of public resources.
It was not until the 1980s that the attention of
conservationists was turned to Ostozhenka. The
untouched neighbourhood seemed to preserve a
pre-revolutionary spirit of traditional Moscow.
However, the physical condition of the neighbourhood was poor. In 1989 Soviet planners designed a
programme for neighbourhood regeneration which
was approved in 1990 and upheld by the already
post-Soviet Moscow administration in 1992. In
contrast with the 1971 Moscow City General Plan,
which envisaged the transformation of Ostozhenka
for administrative use, the new programme sanctioned the maintenance of its residential function.
The programme sought to establish harmony in the
built environment through a ‘contextual’ approach,
Geografiska Annaler · 87 B (2005) · 2
which meant comprehensive rehabilitation of the
structural and aesthetic values of the territory as a
whole and restoration of its historic ambience. The
social aspect was also articulated, stressing that the
current residents were to remain in the district but
had to improve their housing conditions.
Like its predecessors this programme has failed.
The economic crisis of the early 1990s diverted the
budget money from heritage restorations, while
private capital had a somewhat different interest in
Ostozhenka. Because the Ostozhenka plan was not
legally binding, and was neither participatory nor
externally controlled, the destiny of the district became the subject of closed negotiations between
property developers and city administrators, the result of which was far from the intentions of the programme. The historic buildings have been swept
away and often replaced with modern-style houses.
Instead of following a single design, each plot was
allocated its own architectural concept separate
from its surroundings. Only some buildings on the
outer edges of Ostozhenka have been restored or remain under protection, but even there the pressure
to replace them has been intense. Although at first
the Ostozhenka programme was ‘adjusted’ after
each new project, it was simply abandoned at the
end of the 1990s.
From proletarization to gentrification
In the late imperial period, Ostozhenka was overall
a residential area housing the bourgeoisie and the
aristocracy. The 1917 Revolution shook up the district’s profile. Properties were nationalized and
split up into kommunalki for families of the proletariat. However, as the Soviet social stratification
developed as a result of new social engineering, Ostozhenka found itself socially mixed. Although residential areas near the centre were always favoured
by Soviet political and professional elites, segregation based on special connections in the housing
market was much patchier than is sometimes imagined. Different social groups typically found
themselves living next door to each other in central
Moscow. The social profile of Ostozhenka was
even more diversified than in many other districts
because of its generally lower quality. The district
was lacking in interest to Muscovites, and since the
state was improving their living standards, in-migrants from the provinces replaced them in shared
At the time when the 1989 reconstruction programme for Ostozhenka was drafted, planners con117
Table 1. Occupational profile of the working-age respondents: 1989 (percentage)
Intelligentsia and administration
Professionals without higher education
Sale and social service personnel
Plant operators and labourers
Transport labourers
Construction labourers
Police and security personnel
In-migrants to Moscow
Source: adopted from unpublished materials placed at the Architectural Bureau ‘Ostozhenka’.
ducted a survey of the district’s social make-up.
The registered population of the neighbourhood
was 3.8 thousand. People born outside Moscow accounted for almost half of the working-age population and around 60% of pensioners. Those without a higher degree dominated in the neighbourhood – almost 70% of the adult respondents. However, as may be seen from Table 1, the occupational
structure was diverse. In a capitalist society, an occupational profile may also be discerned in the picture of social class and status. However, this would
be difficult for the Soviet ‘classless’ society, where
the interrelationship between occupations, earnings and social status was much more complex and
indirect. As a general approximation we can still
note that persons classified as intelligentsia, administration and professionals were roughly equal in
number to those employed in occupations such as
sales, social services and security personnel, labourers and related occupations. The latter cohort
was, however, more frequent among incomers to
Moscow than among Muscovites – roughly 60%
versus 40%. This is because during the Soviet period in-migration to Moscow was restricted and it
was easier to obtain a Moscow resident permit
when taking less prestigious jobs. Hence, even if
similar in terms of ethnicity, education or skills,
many work migrants were lower status in the eyes
of Muscovites. Overall, both the occupational profile and the background of the residents indicate
that Ostozhenka was a neighbourhood with a truly
mixed social composition – although it was less attractive in central Moscow for its poorer conditions.
The largest proportion of the Ostozhenka population lived in shared kommunalki. According to
material of the Ostozhenka General Directorate (ad
hoc local administration), in 1992 as many as 70%
of the total number of Ostozhenka apartments were
‘communal’ (519 out of 738 units). This was well
above the average of 45% in central Moscow
(Vendina, 1997). The kommunalki accommodated
80% of Ostozhenka’s population and 86% of Ostozhenka households. The low living standards
may be partly evidenced by the fact that 40% of the
population was acknowledged in various years after 1992 as living in poor housing conditions.
The introduction of the market economy opened
up opportunities for private investment in housing
rehabilitation. By the 1990s, the major tenure form
in Ostozhenka was ‘long-term use’ of municipal/
state housing. This was a standard form for apartment buildings in Moscow (less common being
tenant-owned ‘cooperative housing’). Since the
start of housing privatization in 1991, Moscow’s
residents have been granted the right to privatize
the dwellings where they live permanently – free of
charge. By 1993 more than one third of all apartments in Moscow had been privatized. This established the necessary precondition for the residential change in Moscow. Wealthy individuals, as
well as real estate agencies, started buying privatized rooms in shared kommunalki and amalgamating them into spacious apartments and offices. This
process in central Moscow is documented by
Vendina (1997, pp. 358-359):
Mediating firms would select the options of
resettling a communal flat and would find a
buyer for it, paying for the operation. Separate
apartments on the city periphery would be
purchased for all the families leaving the centrally located communal flats … the profit was
as high as 150-200%.…The fact that within 2
years [1992-1993] the ratio of communal flats
in the centre fell from 45% to 22% is a good
illustration of the process intensity.
In Ostozhenka, the conversion process was conducted mostly on the more prestigious northeastern
edges – along Ostozhenka Street and closer to the
Kremlin. But together with the city programmes
Geografiska Annaler · 87 B (2005) · 2
Fig. 2. Building activity in the Ostozhenka neighbourhood in 1994
to 2006
for rehousing the kommunalki dwellers, it did affect
the social structure of the neighbourhood – its total
population decreased while the share of high-income people started to rise. The newcomers were a
very heterogeneous group and attracted at that time
a generic label of ‘the New Russians’– all those
who succeeded in the early stage of economic transition.
This ‘unmediated’ process of ‘buying into’ Ostozhenka was, in effect, the first phase of gentrification in the neighbourhood. It was not, however,
until a critical moment when corporate capital
came into the neighbourhood that most intensive
redevelopment started. In the early 1990s corporate
developers were reluctant to invest in the neighbourhood because they believed the high cost of restoring old buildings would not be met by the property prices in a low-quality district. The city administration even provided incentives for investors but
this was only partially successful. Prior to 1998,
building activity in Ostozhenka was sluggish –
three or four projects of residential and commercial
use were being carried out concurrently. But already at that time Gdaniec (1997) noted that the
preservationist rhetoric of the Ostozhenka regeneration programme was forgotten in setting up these
new projects. She noted the role of personal connections between developers and top administrative circles in the circumvention of planning and
heritage control, and changing priorities of the administration. These first projects created an adverse
precedent for the heritage value of Ostozhenka.
Towards 1997 the economic potential of the disGeografiska Annaler · 87 B (2005) · 2
trict attracted greater attention. Due to the lack of
institutional capital developers set up forward
funding investment schemes, in which they raised
finance by pre-selling apartments in condominiums even before the start of the construction activity. The scheme was risky for the buyers, but provided them with a good saving, whereas developers
had interest-free capital. Housing construction became very profitable and developers were looking
for new markets. This became especially visible after the financial default in Russia in August 1998
when the speculative bubble of the state short-term
bonds burst and more investments were channelled
into the real sectors of the economy. In the context
of increasing scarcity of land in central locations
and growing prestige of Ostozhenka’s areas, more
developers found it worthwhile to work in the
neighbourhood, where entire blocks of buildings
could be rebuilt on the comparatively relaxed city’s
conditions. Because of its entrepreneurial strategy
(see Pagonis and Thornley, 2000; Kolossov et al.,
2002) the city administration was already ignoring
the preservationist guidelines for Ostozhenka and
allowing whole blocks to be demolished and rebuilt
in order to create elitist environments. After a halt
in the wake of the 1998 financial default, more and
more comprehensive building projects – mostly
homes but also offices – appeared in the district, at
the same time as an aggressive marketing campaign
was launched promoting the ultimately elitist environment of Ostozhenka. The rebuilding of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in 1994 to 2000, one
of the most spectacular cathedrals in the world, was
Fig. 3. The number of residential houses by construction period
in 1992 and 2006
yet another attracting factor. Eventually a cumulative effect started to gather momentum-the greater
the number of rich people came to Ostozhenka, the
more prestigious it became.
This more recent process may be seen as the second phase of gentrification in Ostozhenka, distinguishable from the first in many respects but most
visibly in the scale of construction. Figure 2 shows
the ‘net added floorspace’ each year (brand new
construction minus demolition plus rebuilding)
and the consequent increase in the ‘aggregate residential’ and ‘non-residential floorspace’ (the latter
category includes underground car-parking, offices, restaurants and shops). In 2004 the volume of
building space in Ostozhenka may be estimated as
twice as high as it was at the beginning of the 1990s
and, in 2006, when ongoing projects will be realized, it will be three times as high. After that the rate
of new construction is likely to drop due to lack of
Although a lot of non-residential property and
public space has been recycled for the new projects
in Ostozhenka, the change has been conducted
largely at the expense of existing residential buildings. We predict that by 2006 only seventeen houses will remain standing of the fifty-one existing at
the beginning of the 1990s, while the 1989 programme envisaged that forty-four houses would be
saved and only those without historic or architectural value replaced. Even if the new projects in Ostozhenka have been officially described as ‘reconstruction’, they are so in a sense of demolition of
old buildings and replacing them with new buildings of a modern design. In some cases the original
façades of demolished buildings were saved (or re120
built), but genuine restoration became very limited
after 1998. The cost of restoration is three times the
cost of brand new construction, while underground
car-parking, which is extremely profitable, cannot
be achieved without demolition. In the meantime,
the city government was neither strict enough to
protect the historic heritage, nor prepared to subsidize developers for its preservation. Quite the contrary, the government itself enabled the downgrading of listed buildings ‘by reason of a state of disrepair’, as well as their ‘reconstruction via demolition’, while the Russian monument preservation
law, one of the most advanced in the world, was ignored. If in 1992 more than 80% of the total number
of residential houses dated from the Tsarist period,
by 2006 their share will have fallen to less than onefifth (Fig. 3) and their relative space will be much
less because the new houses are larger than predecessors. Such a trend is not unique to Ostozhenka,
since the destruction of historic buildings and monuments has become a plague in the new Moscow
(e.g. Izvestia, 15 April 2004; Independent, 20 April
2004, Globe, 13 July 2004). In this way, Moscow
shares the experience of other successful Eastern
European cities – as, for instance, the case of
Prague demonstrates:
As available sites in the centre are now almost
exhausted, the pressure to demolish and replace is increasing for prestigious developments, with conflicts over monument preservation and with local citizenry
(Maier, 2003, p. 210)
The interplay of power and capital in
conquering ‘the Golden Mile’
The interplay of the market and public forces in the
redevelopment of Ostozhenka has been significantly determined by the specifics of Moscow city
where property ownership is divided between the
ownership of land and ownership of buildings.
Land within the city has largely stayed in city ownership and may only be leased, while constructions
may be privately owned. The concentration of landownership, alongside centralization of power in the
City Hall, removes external control over Moscow’s
planning and land allocation decisions. The advantageous position of the city also enables it to capture its monopolistic rent. At the time of writing,
the system works in the following mode. To be able
to build housing in Moscow, developers have to
conclude ‘an investment contract’ with the city adGeografiska Annaler · 87 B (2005) · 2
Fig. 4. A building in Ostozhenka
Street under reconstruction; the
historic façade has been saved but
the interior has been rebuilt and
extra stories added. The placard
says: ‘Let others dream! VIP
apartments’ (May 2003).
ministration. This is in the form of a public–private
partnership agreement in which developers take financial responsibilities in exchange for their land
leasehold, building rights and access to the city infrastructure. Since the post-default market stabilization, the investment contracts for house building
in central Moscow require investors to transfer as
much as 50% of the construction-ready ouput to the
city. If previously developers were able to compensate the city ‘in kind’ with equivalent building
space or social infrastructure elsewhere in Moscow, more recently the city has demanded only
cash for the market value of its share.
As mentioned above, at the beginning of the
1990s interest in Ostozhenka was low and a strategy of the Moscow government was to attract corporate investors. Prior to the 1998 financial default
this strategy did not succeed, but as soon as the residential market intensified in Ostozhenka, the city
support became much in demand. With the government’s proactive help the process of acquiring a site
for redevelopment became straightforward. The
Moscow government’s entrepreneurial strategy
and its own share interest in all new developments
allowed developers to enjoy relaxed preservation
regimes and even to circumvent the city’s own
planning. Many historic buildings were thus classified as in disrepair and in need of rebuilding – although not always legitimately. The architectural
organizations responsible would find ‘evidence’ of
their physical obsolescense and, if necessary, the
Moscow Administration for the Preservation of
Monuments would validate their conversion from
the heritage protection list (e.g. Vesti Moskva, 6 AuGeografiska Annaler · 87 B (2005) · 2
gust 2004), while others would put forward economic, ecological and social justifications for rebuilding. The painful procedure of rehousing existing residents or compensation for expropriated
owners was executed in an authoritarian manner
(see the next section).
This support was never free from the benefaction
of privileged developers, and as soon as the district
became prestigious it became particularly difficult
to penetrate the successful pool of Ostozhenka’s
developers. The relationships between the authorities and investors took on an intimate character, involving a complex web of personal relationships.
Developers who possessed the necessary connections with the city administrative elite got through
the land allocation process much easier than those
who did not have this ‘administrative resource’. Although the investment contracts to access land have
to be concluded through competition, non-transparent ‘closed competition’ has often been used for
choosing particular developers.
More transparent schemes have involved ‘open
competitions’ and ‘auctions’ for the investment
contracts. A few projects in Ostozhenka were allocated in this way. The procedures here are guided
by the city development plans and other publicly
stated obligations. It is often the case that Moscow
government’s building organizations, which have
many properties under supervision, are in need of
outside support. The Moscow government owns a
number of such organizations that have the right to
build using the city budget and have access to land
without investment contract competitions. One example is the Department for Investment Pro121
grammes in Building, which is the ‘general investor’ for house-building in central Moscow. According to the Department’s website (, by
2004 it had been responsible for the ‘reconstruction’ of 150 buildings in the centre alone. Such quasi-public organizations have played a major role in
the Moscow development market and kept the monopoly on the most required areas. They can initiate
an open competition to find a sub-investor. In general, however, open competitions have not been
particularly popular among Moscow developers. It
has often been the case that the projects which are
sold at these competitions have involved a lot of
problems at the post-competition stage. Moreover,
it has happened that legitimate rivals are avoided in
the stage of the ‘qualification selection’.
In the absence of the land market, ‘the administrative resource’ was also a valuable asset for developers who wanted to ‘resettle’ a public organization or a residential house from Ostozhenka taking its site for redevelopment. Officially, out-ofcompetition projects may only be for those who
build using the city’s budgetary funds. However,
developers may apply to the Moscow Mayor with
an offer to assist a public organization (such as cultural, scientific, sporting or educational) to improve
the quality of its premises through its reallocation
to another area. In exchange, the developer is allowed to take the land that the organization has
used. Developers could also gain access to a land
plot in Ostozhenka through buying the majority of
apartments in a house or through a buyout of a company that is situated in the area and owned constructions. According to Federal legislation, the
owner of a building has a preferential right to the
site on which the building is situated. However, the
ability to retain this right out of the investment contracts competition depended on whether the developer had enough support at the city’s top level.
As practice shows, in the rush for the ‘Golden
Mile’ of Ostozhenka, less transparent (often semiand extra-legal) ways of getting land and building
permits have been more popular than open and
democratic ways. The pro-development ‘closed
schemes’ helped builders to avoid barriers associated with the potential conflicts between the public
and private interests in the built environment and
the necessity of carrying out democratic procedures. Developers took an active role in the processes, and their success largely depended on their
personal connections with the city administration
elite and their abilities to ‘induce’ this elite. The
open strategies, on the other hand, are more com122
plicated and therefore more costly. The most lucrative sites did not show up at the ‘open investment
competitions’, while the official arrangements took
a long time due, understandably, to the complicated
system of public sanctions and regulations. The existence of a specific pattern of interaction between
possessors of power and owners of capital is, of
cause, by no means unique to Ostozhenka, to Moscow or even to a post-socialist city. When the most
desired urban sites are at stake, the relationship between developers and public officers is far from being transparent even in the most developed countries – from the USA to even Sweden. However, because of the lack of the participatory mechanisms,
the degree of building business dependency on the
discretion of the city leaders and personification of
their interactions did seem to be quite remarkable
in booming Moscow (Golubchikov, 2004).
Social displacement and change: towards a
gated quarter?
The social structure of Ostozhenka has undergone
change following the physical renovations in the area. Displacement of Ostozhenka’s native residents
happens either through purchase/exchange of their
rooms by developers and estate agents or through the
government’s ‘resettlement schemes’. The latter
case has been less beneficial for the residents but
cheaper for developers because it takes place outside
of the market and allows them to economize on time
and money. Each year the city assigns residential
buildings for demolition due to their ‘state of disrepair’ and, consequently, the households for resettlement. Legislation requires the dwellers to move
from such buildings at the expense of the city budget. The city has either to rehouse the tenants in nonprivatized (and therefore municipal) rooms in other
apartments in accordance with the established norm
of space per inhabitant, or, in the case of privatized
dwellings, to compensate the owners in kind or in
cash. This resettlement mechanism has turned out to
be an ‘effective’ tool in authorizing an immediate
displacement of a large number of residents. As the
old housing stock in Ostozhenka remained highly
depreciated it was easy to recognize which buildings
were in need of reconstruction (in effect, demolition
and rebuild) and, subsequently, which inhabitants
were in need of resettlement. In general, the former
tenants improve their living conditions by being rehoused, but the location, the quality, and consequently the value of their new dwellings depend
greatly on their bargaining power. Although people
Geografiska Annaler · 87 B (2005) · 2
are not resettled within the Ostozhenka district, its
close vicinity or other expensive areas, the location
can be as different as the least prestigious outskirts
of Moscow or more central areas. The bargaining
position of the residents depends on their ownership
status. If resettled, the owners of privatized dwellings can claim greater compensation for their expropriated property than can municipal tenants. Although in-cash compensation for owners has been
calculated in accordance with the city inventory valuation and is well below the market value, in-kind
compensation in the form of a new apartment is negotiable. However, the residents are not allowed to
privatize ‘their’ units if the building has been already
classified in need of reconstruction. Authorities can
therefore deliberately delay privatization in the lucrative areas. As a result, privatization in Ostozhenka has been patchy. If resettled, the municipal tenants are usually compensated with properties on the
Moscow outskirts, where massive house building is
being undertaken.
The compulsory resettlement became especially
popular in the late 1990s, when it became supported
by private capital. During the early 1990s the residents in Ostozhenka were mostly resettled by small
developers who consequently amalgamated and rehabilitated kommunalki. However, as soon as the
corporate interest was established in the neighbourhood, developers started to contribute to public
compulsory rehousing through public–private partnerships in which they paid for the cost of resettlement but gained the right to access the sites. According to the Ostozhenka General Directorate, in 1992
there were 3725 people/1620 families permanently
registered as tenants in the district. Between 1992
and early 2004, the government in partnership with
developers carried out compulsory resettlement of
1263 people/627 families (with at least 70% of them
rehoused after 1998). Yet others (1584 people/891
families) were rehoused through the quasi-voluntary ‘secondary market’, i.e. they swapped their
rooms for apartments in other places through privately arranged negotiations with developers or
agencies. If we add to this the number of Ostozhenka’s native residents who have rented out or sold
their (privatized) rooms and moved without being
formally counted as ‘rehoused’ and those who have
passed away, we may conclude that it is a very limited number of the 1992 residents and their families
who remain in Ostozhenka. Many still live in kommunalki – at the beginning of 2004 there were seventy-seven shared apartments with 440 people/199
families scheduled for resettlement.
Geografiska Annaler · 87 B (2005) · 2
As might be expected, the replacement of the
original population has not always taken place
smoothly. The violence involved in the process reveals the nature of displacement – reminiscence of
Smith’s (1996) ‘revanchist city’ applied by him to
the US context. Most of the resettled residents had
attachments to Ostozhenka and wished to remain
there. They felt that their property rights or rights
to housing were being abused by the joint actions
of the Moscow administration and the development
business. The protests have become especially noticeable since the end of the 1990s. To attract broader attention to the conflicts, the Ostozhenka native
residents organized protest rallies, and sent petitions to both the Moscow and Federal authorities.
Many have brought their cases to Court. However,
these protests were rather fragmented, which left
them weak vis-à-vis the more powerful interests,
and eventually these residents were persuaded to
move in one way or another. The more resistant residents have experienced some forms of violence,
such as the cut-off of public utilities. It is quite common for ‘problem’ individuals (e.g. street people of
no fixed abode or ex-prisoners) to be deliberately
housed in vacated rooms in kommunalki to ‘induce’
the remaining neighbours to accept the city’s or developers’ conditions. There were also incidents
such as the one in which the foundation and bearing
walls of a house with ‘uncooperative’ inhabitants
were ‘accidentally’ damaged by builders with the
result that the residents were placed at risk and
forced to evacuate. The Federal authorities have recently criticized Moscow for the negative aspects
of its development policy. Several regulations have
come into force, noticeable being the Federal
Housing Code effective in 2005. This has secured
the right of associations of owners to the land under
multi-dwelling houses. The association members
will have the right to remain in the same area even
if the city permits the reconstruction of their house.
The new mechanisms will, however, only protect
property owners, since the new Housing Code actually restrains the rights of tenants in the now articulated category of ‘social rental housing’, which
is to be formed out of the non-privatized dwellings.
Up until now, the ability to remain in Ostozhenka has only depended on residents’ financial
strength. Poorer households, even having privatized their apartments, cannot afford to maintain
the physical condition of their properties and, especially, the shared space of their buildings. In contrast, wealthier residents can pool their resources
and employ private services to maintain the highest
Fig. 5. The ‘New Ostozhenka’
project under construction (March
standard of the building. This contrast is visible in
the fact that the houses in which the majority of
apartments were restored already during the first
phase of gentrification are not attractive to developers. It is very expensive to reach agreement with
each of the established owners. In addition, the city
does not dare classify these properties as in need of
reconstruction. Alternatively, poorer houses are
considered to be ‘good prospects’. As a result, the
wealthy residents are also among the winners from
further future gentrification. As soon as the secondphase gentrification made Ostozhenka the ‘Golden
Mile’ of Moscow, property prices skyrocketed
there. Now these pioneers of the new wealthy urban
frontier (Smith, 1996) are pushed by the market to
sell their apartments to even wealthier people.
The social change is also followed by the ‘value’
change expressed in the philosophy of the new architecture. The promoters of Ostozhenka like to
speak about what they call ‘Europeanization’ of the
neighbourhood. By ‘Europeanization’ they imagine the ultimate manifestation of prosperity combined with a sort of disparagement of the rest of the
Russian society:
[New buildings] seem to be located not here,
but sometimes in France, sometimes in Switzerland, more often in Finland. They have the
elements unimaginable for Russian homes –
well-groomed yards, elegant lawns, carefully
paved paths, underground parking, impossible
for Russia, luxurious terraces and lobbies. It is
not the Moscow quality of life, it is rather a
very prestigious, very bourgeois neighbourhood of top-managers in an old European capital city.
(Revzin, 2003: translated from Russian)
The bearers of this ‘Europeanized’ – and, essentially,
‘globalized’ – lifestyle are those who after Lees
(2000) may be called ‘financifiers’ of the second
gentrification phase in Ostozhenka. These are owners and CEOs of Russian large and medium sized
businesses representing a variety of industries and financial groups, plus well-to-do artistic and media
elites. A large share of properties in Ostozhenka is
purchased not for owner occupation but as capital investment, often for rent. The owners of these apartments often come from extractive industries and do
not live permanently in Moscow. Their tenants are
also affluent families who, however, prefer to rent an
apartment. There are also foreign businesspeople
and diplomats working in Moscow, and top managers of branches of international companies in Russia.
In many respects this cohort shares its identity with
the new upper classes colonizing the ‘elite’ districts
in the major world cities (cf. Atkinson and Bridge,
2004). Some business executives buy apartments in
Ostozhenka simply for representative purposes. For
many, the apartments in Ostozhenka are not the only
properties they own, and they do not have strong ties
to the neighbourhood (cf. Lees, 2000, p. 402).
This second wave of gentrification in Ostozhenka is in philosophical conflict both with the original
Geografiska Annaler · 87 B (2005) · 2
Fig. 6. A new elite house in the
Ostozhenka neighbourhood (June
population and the gentrifiers of the first wave. Even
the ‘transitional group’ between the two waves is
distinct. It includes, for example, the residents of the
complex of buildings of the ‘Opera House’, the first
comprehensive residential project in Ostozhenka
built for the Opera Art School of Vishnevskaya on
the site of a public park. Revzin (2003), expressing
his admiration for the architecture of the second
wave, criticizes the architectural manifestation of
the lifestyle of this ‘transitional’ group. He calls the
‘Opera House’ a ‘densely populated henhouse’
built for people who lack an understanding of what
luxurious life is. The cultural clash between these
groups is complicated by the re-established Zachat’evsky Convent in the central part of the neighbourhood, an autonomous community in its own
right. In this way Ostozhenka is a mosaic microspace itself. The outer parts of the district containing
the restored properties of the first wave, which used
to be most prestigious, are now less expensive than
some quieter inner areas. The latter are vigilantly
controlled by hundreds of CCTVs and scores of
armed guards. Thus, even the remaining public
space is undermined there in the sense that the casual passers-by feel themselves watched and unwelcome. And even if these areas are still mixed with
the islands of kommunalki and busy construction
sites, the latter are continuously dissolving into the
space of prosperity.
There are occasional speculations as to whether
the whole of Ostozhenka district is to become gated
(e.g. Kvadratnyi Metr, 2002). According to some
Geografiska Annaler · 87 B (2005) · 2
journalists it is the Moscow government that opposes the proposals to fence the district from the
outer world. Many enclaves in the neighbourhood
have already been converted into closed communities with all the necessary infrastructures inplace,
while fences have become a hallmark of Ostozhenka. However, the closure of the whole district in the
very heart of Moscow would be unprecedented for
the post-socialist metropolis and would signify a
new phase of socio-urban development. Along with
islands of smaller gated communities as in Ostozhenka, larger pockets of gated quarters have
emerged with the transition, and so already exist in
and around Moscow. However, these are mostly
cottage areas outside the city or are hidden among
large green areas in the middle or peripheral city.
They were created on undeveloped land and did not
involve social transformation of existing urban
quarters, and so may be distinguished from the
processes in Ostozhenka.
Conclusion: Whither Moscow?
Since the beginning of economic transition the centre of Moscow has witnessed an upsurge of building activity – not only to meet the demand of growing retail and office commercialization but also in
housing. As land is limited in the centre, many old
buildings have been either renovated or demolished
to make room for luxury condominiums. Some
central neighbourhoods that had once experienced
physical decay started to attract capital. The exam125
ple discussed here is the Ostozhenka neighbourhood, not so long ago among the least attractive areas in the centre disregarded by investors. But
changes were afoot. Recent years have seen massive redevelopment of the district that has allowed
the ‘critical scale’ of wealthy properties to be agglomerated, creating one of the most expensive areas of Moscow.
In the inner areas of Moscow, land recycling is
a major way for new developments to take place.
In this context, the city government has considered eradication of urban decay to be among its
major priorities. Gentrification, which goes parallel with regeneration, is assumed to be a by-product of the penetration of the market economy,
which has little to do with government. But, as we
see, the role of the Moscow administration has
been paramount. First, the large scale of the Ostozhenka redevelopment started after an ad hoc
programme for neighbourhood regeneration,
which, even if it failed in content, created prerequisites for neighbourhood renewal. Second, Moscow government’s entrepreneurial strategy and
the city’s own financial interest in new developments allowed developers to enjoy relaxed preservation and planning regimes. Third, it was a
proactive governmental role that made the largescale displacement of old inhabitants possible by
delegating administrative tools to developers and
empowering them vis-à-vis the residents. Finally,
the Ostozhenka developers often avoided free
market competition because the market prohibited
those who were not able to achieve the necessary
connections with the City Hall leaders. This
means that the current situation contrasts with
what might be expected if there were no ‘facilitation’ of gentrification. The pro-development role
of the city administration has reduced developers’
‘transaction costs’. If the historic and other regulations had been kept strong and developers had
had to consult the local population on their
projects as well as to bargain with every household on taking over its rooms, there would have
been much less interest in Ostozhenka. It may be
argued that it was the deliberate choice of a revolutionary neoliberal rebuilding of Ostozhenka instead of gradual penetration of the capital and evolutionary rehabilitation.
Yet the answer to the question whether on the
whole the changes in Ostozhenka have been
‘wrong’ or ‘right’ would be ideologically biased –
as is usual in the debates on gentrification. Atkinson
(2003, p. 2344) articulates this:
Gentrification is also a politically loaded term
….Whether indeed gentrification represents a
problem at all has been hotly debated between
those seeking to boost city fortunes and those
aiming to sustain city neighbourhoods. For
those on the political left, the process has often been seen as an insidious vanguard, with
fragments of the middle classes dislocating
both social problems and ‘problem’ people….
For realtors, city ‘fathers’ and boosters, the
choice was portrayed as one between growth
in declining city contexts or continued social
and physical decline.
Among many truths, the winners of the Ostozhenka
gentrification are not only the new rich residents enjoying their luxurious life in the heart of the Russian
capital and developers calculating their profits, but
also the original residents of kommunalki who, even
having being displaced, have improved their living
standards, the city economy that has had another injection from the high-profile property market, and
the city in general that has received a renovated
piece of the built environment. Yet there is the other
side of the coin associated with the loss of historic
value and architectural integrity, privatization of
public space, growing social polarization, and undermining of the social mix and equality achieved
under Soviet socialism. The latter presents a particular danger for longer sustainability of a society
known for its egalitarian ideals and strong belief in
social justice. In addition, and importantly, there has
been a lack of democratic procedures in the redevelopment process in Ostozhenka with the consequent
undermining of ‘urban democratic memory’, a continuous accumulation of which is, arguably, of no
less importance in the post-socialist city than accumulation of capital.
It may appear as a surprise that beyond the limited
circles of malcontent the loss of these values did not
cause any serious urban opposition in Moscow in the
1990s. Only the destruction of major landmarks in
the centre has recently aroused a wave of public indignation. Perhaps partly because of this, heritage
legislation has been toughened, and the Federal authorities have taken the situation under stricter control. It also came right out of the blue for some developers when they recently found themselves accused under criminal charges for unlawful demolition of historic landmarks. Conventional in the past,
this way to handle urban change is no longer without
risk. It is not yet quite clear whether this flurry of interest of the heritage controlling bodies is a genuine
Geografiska Annaler · 87 B (2005) · 2
effort to reinforce the rule of law or part of the larger
plot to challenge the position of Moscow’s leadership and its status quo in the development business.
Either way may, in effect, mean the beginning of the
end for the ‘authoritative neoliberalism’ of Moscow
government. In principle, much of what was happening in Moscow during the 1990s involved a lot of
controversy, which would normally be contested. To
understand why this was not the case, one should remember that the period in the aftermath of the demise of the Soviet Union saw the outbreak of a wide
variety of severe social problems, all of which had to
be solved in a limited space of time. Kommunalki,
ramshackle properties, deprivation of municipal and
social infrastructure, the legacy of industrial areas,
inadequate legislation and numerous negative processes resulting from the economic transition posed
serious challenges for the new Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.
It is without a doubt that Moscow has coped remarkably well with many of them. Luzhkov’s ‘authoritarian neoliberalism’ has successfully mobilized the
property market, delivered large-scale city renovation and perked up the look and order of his ‘city empire’. However, Moscow’s success has been very
much dependent on its unique economic and political role in Russia and its critical position in the network of global linkages. It may be noticed, however,
that as the social and political context in the Russian
state is changing, so the Moscow government’s operational rhythm becomes increasingly challenged.
It is likely that the present regime will be discontinued. The contours of the coming order are not yet
clearly identifiable, and whether it will offer a more
emancipatory alternative remains to be seen.
We have distinguished two phases of gentrification in Ostozhenka – the spontaneous individualdriven process of housing rehabilitation before
1998, and the ‘systematic’ property-led gentrification thereafter. Both have parallels with the processes in the largest cities of the world. The processes in Moscow are also well in line with the neoliberal phase of urbanism observed in the West (Brenner and Theodore, 2003a). Political regimes
liberalize urban space in the sense that private interests win a privileged position in their contest
with public interests. Like the case elsewhere, we
see unwillingness of the Moscow government to
tackle growing socio-spatial polarization. On the
contrary, the city itself plays a major proactive role,
pushing forward with a strategy similar to what
Harvey (1989) termed ‘urban entrepreneurialism’
in his seminal paper. As a result, central areas are
becoming living space for the upper classes, while
Geografiska Annaler · 87 B (2005) · 2
original residents are squeezed out elsewhere. And
although Moscow has not yet experienced the ‘outcast’ neighbourhoods as have, say, London or New
York, some argue that their formation is well underway (e.g. Kolossov et al., 2002).
The similarities in form and differences in style
are an exciting illustration of the global/local dualism of gentrification. The recognition of this dualism has been a rationale behind greater attention to
the ‘geography of gentrification’ (Lees, 2000). In
this article we contribute to this field with an account based on the experience of one of the largest
post-socialist metropolis. The difference of the
post-socialist context is that the urban space has
been only recently (neo)liberalized and a neighbourhood-scale gentrification is the latest phenomenon. However, because the mismatch between the
market and the socialist reality was unlocked instantaneously, the arrival of gentrification in many
post-socialist cities has been swift and spectacular.
Yet it would be pointless to establish a unitary pattern of gentrification across all post-socialist cities
– even the major metropolises. It seems doubtful
that Moscow’s features of gentrification bear any
greater similarity to Hanoi, Tashkent or Shanghai
than to Vancouver, São Paulo or Seoul – they are all
different. This is not to deny the utility of a ‘postsocialist city’ label altogether. There do exist many
phenomena that make the ‘post-socialist cities’
stand out as a class. But divergent contexts and trajectories of these cities often allow them to fall
within the orbit of finer classifications – based on
geographic location, cultural identity or a position
in the global hierarchy. Moscow does seem, for example, to share many characteristics with post-socialist urbanization in Prague, Budapest or Warsaw.
Yet differences remain great. As Sheppard (2000)
argues, a geographical perspective can provide a
more nuanced account than can a mechanical definition of the post-socialist city. Both ‘geography
of gentrification’ and ‘geography of post-socialist
cities’ require a more contextual approach within
the narratives of global urbanism.
An early draft of this paper was presented at the
conference ‘Winds of societal change: remaking
post-communist cities’, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, June 2004. The authors are extremely grateful to Judith Pallot from Oxford University and Hans Mattsson from the Royal Institute
of Technology in Stockholm for their engagement
in the discussion of the research, as well as to the
three anonymous referees for their most appreciable comments. Oleg Golubchikov also acknowledges the support of the Clarendon Fund from Oxford University Press, and of the Swedish Research
Council for the Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (Formas).
Anna Badyina
Independent researcher and property adviser,
E-mail: [email protected]
Oleg Golubchikov
School of Geography and the Environment
University of Oxford
Christ Church,
OX1 1DP,
E-mail: [email protected]
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