Urban shrinkage and the post-socialist transformation
Negative demographic trends are among the most important challenges of the sustainable development of cities and regions in several countries in the 21st century. A long-term population decline in many cities is combined with a crisis of their local economies (resulting, e.g., from the collapse of traditional industries). This process, described as urban shrinkage, manifests itself in various forms. The notion of a shrinking city is not well-defined, and the strategies of urban development very often do not take into consideration the need to adjust to shrinkage and cope with its negative consequences.
The process of urban shrinkage follows a specific pattern in the post-socialist countries of East-Central Europe. The reason is that - apart from such “typical” factors controlling this process as demographic trends or the decline of traditional industries - it is closely connected with the course of the great institutional changes produced by those countries' transition from a command to a market-oriented, democratic system. The aim of this paper is to examine how the processes of urban shrinkage and post-socialist transformation are interrelated.
The paper draws on the results of an international project called CIRES, implemented under the European Union's COST Action, and consists of three parts. The first offers a theoretical background, emphasising the specificity of urban shrinkage in the conditions of the post-socialist transformation. The second presents the scale, forms of manifestation, and consequences of shrinkage in a variety of spatial contexts. In the third, regeneration strategies are discussed and assessed. The paper ends with concluding remarks and policy recommendations. General considerations are illustrated by case studies.