Duncan Light and Craig Young – Urban space, political identity and the unwanted legacies of state socialism: Bucharest’s problematic Centru Civic in the post-socialist era

This paper explores the relationship between the urban cultural landscape of Bucharest and the making of post-socialist Romanian national identity. As the capital of socialist Romania, central Bucharest was extensively remodelled by Nicolae Ceauşescu into the Centru Civic in order to materialise Romania’s socialist identity. After the Romanian ‘Revolution’ of 1989, the national and local state had to deal with a significant ‘left-over’ socialist urban landscape which was highly discordant with the orientation of postsocialist Romania and its search for a new identity. Ceauşescu’s vast socialist showpiece left a difficult legacy which challenges the material and representational reshaping of Bucharest and constructions of post-socialist Romanian national identity more broadly. The paper analyses four attempts to deal with the Centru Civic: developments in the immediate post-1989 period; the international architectural competition Bucureşti 2000; proposals for building a Cathedral of National Salvation; and the Esplanada project. Despite over 20 years of proposals central Bucharest remains largely unchanged. The paper thus deals with a failed attempt to re-shape the built environment in support of national goals.

Light, Duncan, Young, Craig: Urban space, political identity and the unwanted legacies of state socialism: Bucharest’s problematic Centru Civic in the post-socialist era, Nationalities Papers 16/2013

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