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Public involvement in urban development: The case of Novosibirsk

In Novosibirsk, the involvement of the local population in urban development and decision-making has been on a rise in recent years. It is related to the activity of local civic organisations and their effort to promote participation and dialogue between the authorities and the local residents.

"So, what actually is the city of Novosibirsk? First, it’s the winter. It’s just eternal winter and frost. Second, there are 30-40 wooden houses inhabited by dozens of people. Third, there is a lonely snow-covered tram without glass in its windows that runs through the city, through its one and only street." (The description of Novosibirsk by a local punk band called SPiD).

Cold, darkness and mountains of snow, one cannot provide any better impression of mid-January on the journey from the Novosibirsk airport. Peering through the taxi window at the other traffic on the renovated roads, we try to understand to what extent the city has changed over the last decade. People are talking about new shopping malls, restaurants and cafés, and what you can buy and where you can spend your money. We look at the places that have stayed the same – Lenin’s monument in front of the Opera Theatre, Heroes of the Revolution Square and the constructivist House with Clock, museums and libraries in the city centre.

September 1, 2018 - Yulia Oreshina and Olesya Shvets

Becoming the promised land once again

The city of Łódź was once touted as the Promised Land of Poland. But in 2004, it was the fastest depopulating city in the country. After the modernisation of Poland and a revitalisation of the city which saw old factories turned into hip shopping malls and cultural centres, Łódź is back on track to living up to its old epithet.

Our Uber driver takes us through the city of Łódź (pronounced woodge) as he happily tells us about life in Poland. “Not bad,” he says. “Things have gotten much better over the last couple of years.” At one point, he turns around and asks if we know an old movie called The Promised Land (Ziemia obiecana in Polish). “It’s about Łódź, you know,” he tells us. The movie depicts the story of Karol Borowiecki, Max Baum and Moritz Welt’s struggles with building a factory during the industrial revolution in the 19th century. The film, which takes place in Łódź, was adapted from the 1899 novel written by the well-known Polish writer Władysław Reymont. The 1975 film was directed by Andrzej Wajda and depicts greed, lust and dreams during the industrial high.

February 26, 2018 - Emil Staulund Larsen and Emily Jarvie

Stories from Russia’s coal country

The Russian region of Kuzbass is one that is entirely dependent on the extraction and export of coal. Despite some resistance by local communities and indigenous peoples, there appears to be no will among authorities to slow the spread of coal extraction, which has already devastated several towns and villages in the region.

As we travel around the surroundings of Novokuznetsk, in the heat of the Siberian summer, we come across endless green fields patched with boreal forests and small wooden villages. On the roads we witness huge dump trucks loaded with coal leaving behind dusty trails as they pass by. Far away on the horizon, the cloudless sky is concealed by a layer of brown smog. “People here are used to breathing all the elements of the periodic table”, our taxi driver complains.

Located in the Siberian region of Kemerovo, Kuzbass (shortened form for Kuznetsk basin) is home to 40 per cent of Russia’s coal production. Here, open-pit coal mines sprout up like mushrooms, resulting in a devastating impact on the environment and the livelihood of nearby residents. Toxic coal dust contaminates the air and soil which, according to the Russian state monitor Rosprirodnadzor, has a pollution rate that is twice the national average. As the mines expand, forests die, fertile soil turns barren and the land slowly transforms into a lunar landscape.

October 31, 2017 - Giovanni Pigni

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