From the urban conflicts to the urban regime: How I came to the idea of St. Petersburg research in Leipzig

Urban conflicts in the different areas of Saint Petersburg. From left: Center (Rogov´s house demolition), Semi-periphery (Okhta-center project), Periphery (Cathedral project in Malinovka park)

Once I saw how workers cut trees in the park near my house in Saint Petersburg. Despite the horrible disappointment it gave me the first scientific motivation. This sadness from felled trees made me interesting in the idea how to make life in cities better. I began to study ecological and eco-cultural conflicts in the university and wrote some articles about.

Then I got that this is systematic problem of the urban space using. Many questions came to my head. Could this situation be different in the cities and countries? How to take in account all interests, individual and social? What are the crucial points for people? Conflicts? Small amount of public spaces or parks? Why does city mayor change and it does impact on people so much? Why are some projects supported by the communities, while others are not?

It happened that I walked around the main topic, but could not formulate it precisely. Last four months I spent in the IfL. This trip helped me to ventilate my brains and find new ideas. After discussions with Dr. Kinossian, Prof. Dr. Lentz, Dr. Pozharliev and many others it succeeded! Personal communication helped me to focus and understand the topic.

Many of these complicated relationships between government, business and society in the city could be explained with Clarence Stone’s theory of urban regimes. We focused on how urban conflict might be an indicator of the urban regime in the center, semi-periphery and periphery of the city. We looked on the urban regime changes, using geographic and historical generalizations and measuring spatial tension.

Urban regime transformation in Saint Petersburg

Also I would like to tell that the corona-crisis is a quite special time. It is sad that it was almost impossible to make some sports, visit museums, theatres or cultural festivals. Nevertheless, it was probably the first opportunity in the life, when I could calmly read lots of books in geography and urban studies. So, IfL´s Central Geographic Library has become a good friend for me. Also, online communication helped me to stay in touch with my home St. Petersburg University and organize productive working process with the optimal way!

In any case opportunity to change the place is geographically useful in this difficult time. Leipzig, with its interesting urban landscape, is very inspiring to explore. I looked public spaces and parks and I think that this experience can also be applied in post-soviet cities. I guess it is also important to strike a balance between rich cultural heritage and modern development of Saint Petersburg as well. We must preserve and simultaneously improve our cities, but not spoil them.

The most wonderful thing in Leipzig is amazing harmony of the technogenic landscape with the nature and culture. I found a new source of inspiration here. It was impressed for me as a resident of the northern metropolis to see fox and marten at the entrance of the dormitory, beautiful eagles and cranes, nutria and hares, deers and wild boars, many other unique birds and beasts.

I went to the Institute by bicycle through the yellow rapeseed fields and I might say that such an atmosphere around me perfectly motivates to work. Could it be an advantage of the pandemic? Our life and cooperation continues and this is the main prospect for the future!

Kirill Galustov is a graduate student of the PhD program “Geography” in the Saint Petersburg State University. He spent the months of February to May 2021 as a DAAD scholarship holder at the IfL. His PhD thesis focuses on the organisation of participatory budgeting in Russian and European regions.

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