№ 1, 2022
A City in the Shadow of Empires: Life, Death and Afterlife of the Imperial City of Harbin
The article is devoted to the phenomenon of imperial cities — structures, the main function of which is to transmit power impul se from the imperial center to its adjacent periphery, linking the heterogeneous body of the empire. Such cities are not merely a result of natural agglome ration proces ses, but rather they represent political constructs that make it possible to hold the empire together and at the same time take into account its heterogeneity. Today, in the vast post-Soviet space, the imperial cities of the vanished empire of the USSR (capitals of the former Soviet republics, regional, economic and military centers) are undergoing a period of transformation, which is often described as the absorption of the city by its surrounding periphery. It is difficult to identify the main determinants of such transformation and build a stable model for predicting further changes, because even today this process is far from being complete, which makes it impossible for researchers to reveal all groups of factors that could impact the development of an imperial city outside the influence of the empi re that left it.
To solve this problem, the authors turn to the experience of the imperial city, which has already undergone a similar evolution, the so called “Russian Harbin”. The article describes the transformations of the external appearance of the city, daily household routines, power distribution in the urban space, which are considered to be markers of change in the meanings of the imperial signals. Along with the trends that are common to the imperial cities of the East of Russia (“Europe for Asia”), there are also trends that are specific to Harbin as an imperial city outside the empire. The article demonstrates that the structure of the imperial city, which was created to transmit power impulse, is capable of transmitting the meanings of another empire. The authors show that the disappearance of the “Russian Harbin” as a historical and cultural phenomenon does not mean the disappearance of the imperial city, which comes back to life every time the political center begins to produce meanings that need to be relayed to a heterogeneous territory.
Main Page ~ Authors ~ M. L.Bliakher