Races to Modernity: Metropolitan Aspirations in Eastern Europe, 1890-1940

Races to Modernity: Metropolitan Aspirations in Eastern Europe, 1890-1940

Races to Modernity: Metropolitan Aspirations in Eastern Europe, 1890-1940

Races to Modernity: Metropolitan Aspirations in Eastern Europe, 1890-1940

Synopsis

Races to Modernity confirms the importance of the Western model as well as the influence of international experts on city planning at the periphery of Europe.

Excerpt

Jan C. Behrends and Martin Kohlrausch

In his renowned “Iron Curtain” speech—delivered on March 5, 1946, in Fulton, Missouri—Winston Churchill evoked the “famous cities” of Central and Eastern Europe. Alerting the distant American public to the division of Europe, Churchill listed what he believed to be household names like Bucharest, Sofia, Budapest, and Warsaw to demonstrate that familiar places were besieged by Joseph Stalin. Indirectly, Churchill was echoing a process that had taken place in the decades preceding his speech, a process that had confirmed the metropolitan aspirations of these cities, their European appeal, and their global relevance.

The growth of cities and urban life is at the heart of the modern experience in Europe. Metropolitan cities such as London and Paris were certainly forerunners in this development: their rapid expansion began in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Large parts of Central and Eastern Europe underwent urbanization and industrialization with considerable delay. But beginning in the second half of the nineteenth century, the towns in the Romanov and Habsburg empires as well as in the Balkans grew into cities and metropolitan areas. They changed at an astonishing pace. This transformation has long been interpreted as an attempt to overcome the economic and cultural backwardness of the region and to catch up to Western Europe. The chapters published in this volume confirm the importance of the Western model as well as the influence of international

Berend, History Derailed, 228–34.

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