Second World Urbanity: Between Capitalist and Communist Utopias, is a project that explores the history of conceiving, building, importing, and inhabiting socialist cities past and present from Cuba to Yugoslavia and Russia to China. Initiated by historians Steven Harris and Daria Bocharnikova this project brings together researchers from a variety of disciplines to reflect on the specificity of urban design and its uses in the Second World. Our goal is to shatter a common image of the socialist cityscape as necessarily dull and grey, and offer a revised understanding of its limitations and achievements. The project is envisioned as a series of informal conversations, virtual and offline meetings, book discussions, and a conference followed up by the publication of the selected essays.

If you have questions and comments about the project, please drop us a line at swurbanity@gmail.com or post a comment on this blog.

All the best,

Daria Bocharnikova and Steven Harris


Daria Bocharnikova is currently a Gagarin fellow at the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences (St. Petersburg State University). She has recently completed her dissertation Inventing Socialist Modern: a History of the Architectural Profession in the Soviet Union (1932-1971) at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. The dissertation investigates a history of multiple visions of Socialist construction as articulated by Soviet architects, mainly but not exclusively in the Khrushchev era. Most commonly, Soviet architecture of this era is associated with the return of modernist aesthetics into the architectural practice of the Soviet Union. Daria questions both these elements: whether there was a return and whether it was to modernism. In order to examine these questions she focuses on Soviet architects and their visions and trace the evolution of professional discourses and practices across the rupture of 1954 spanning the period from the early 1930s to the late 1960s. Based on previously unexplored archival sources, the professional press and memoirs, this study challenges the prevailing emphasis on ruptures in Soviet architecture and constitutes a first step in mapping the diversity of Socialist Modern within the Soviet Union and within the Second World.  In her research and teaching Daria aims to further understand the transformation of the Soviet project after 1953, the mutation of the ideology of high modernism throughout the 20th century and the transnational history of architectural modernism.

Steven E. Harris is Associate Professor of History at the University of Mary Washington, Virginia (USA). His recently published book, Communism on Tomorrow Street (Woodrow Wilson Center Press and the Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), explores Khrushchev’s mass housing campaign and everyday life in the 1950s and 1960s. He has also written about Soviet architects’ interactions with the Western media in the late Stalin and Khrushchev years. His current research focuses on the entangled history of Aeroflot and Pan American World Airways. For the project on Second World Urbanity, he will focus on the design of international airports in cities of the former Soviet Union. Read more about his research and teaching interests here.


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