From Ruins to Reconstruction: Urban Identity in Soviet Sevastopol after World War II

From Ruins to Reconstruction: Urban Identity in Soviet Sevastopol after World War II

by Karl D. Qualls


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Sevastopol, located in present-day Ukraine but still home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet and revered by Russians for its role in the Crimean War, was utterly destroyed by German forces during World War II. In From Ruins to Reconstruction, Karl D. Qualls tells the complex story of the city's rebuilding. Based on extensive research in archives in both Moscow and Sevastopol, architectural plans and drawings, interviews, and his own extensive experience in Sevastopol, Qualls tells a unique story in which the periphery "bests" the Stalinist center: the city's experience shows that local officials had considerable room to maneuver even during the peak years of Stalinist control.

Qualls first paints a vivid portrait of the ruined city and the sufferings of its surviving inhabitants. He then turns to Moscow's plans to remake the ancient city on the heroic socialist model prized by Stalin and visited upon most other postwar Soviet cities and towns. In Sevastopol, however, the architects and city planners sent out from the center "went native," deviating from Moscow's blueprints to collaborate with local officials and residents, who seized control of the planning process and rebuilt the city in a manner that celebrated its distinctive historical identity.

When completed, postwar Sevastopol resembled a nineteenth-century Russian city, with tree-lined boulevards; wide walkways; and buildings, street names, and memorials to its heroism in wars both long past and recent. Though visually Russian (and still containing a majority Russian-speaking population), Sevastopol was in 1954 joined to Ukraine, which in 1991 became an independent state. In his concluding chapter, Qualls explores how the "Russianness" of the city and the presence of the Russian fleet affect relations between Ukraine, Russia, and the West.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801447624
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 10/02/2009
Pages: 232
Sales rank: 932,139
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Karl D. Qualls is Associate Professor of History at Dickinson College.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Rebuilding as an Urban Identification Project
1. Wartime Destruction and Historical Identification
2. Local Victory over Moscow: Planning for the Future
3. Accommodation: Bringing Life to the Rubble
4. Agitation: Rewriting the Urban Biography in Stone
5. Persistence and Resilience of Local Identification
Selected Bibliography

What People are Saying About This

Theodore R. Weeks

"Overwhelmingly destroyed during World War II, the city of Sevastopol was celebrated in the Soviet period as a 'hero city' that valiantly resisted the Nazis. The epic of Sevastopol's destruction, reconstruction, and memorializing as recounted in Karl D. Qualls's From Ruins to Reconstruction is both an important case study of postwar reconstruction and a significant contribution to our understanding of 'high Stalinism.' The rebuilding of the shattered city and memorializing its heroic past (both in World War II and earlier), as Qualls convincingly argues, reveals a complicated interplay between local actors and Moscow, both in creating the postwar period and determining how the resurrected Sevastopol should be remembered."

Jeffry Diefendorf

"Scholars finally have begun telling the story of rebuilding bombed cities in the former Soviet Union, and with this solidly researched, well-written book, Karl D. Qualls is leading the way. Sensitive to the nuances of both Soviet and local politics and the distinctive cultural features of Sevastopol, Qualls argues that rebuilding Sevastopol was a classic center-periphery contest, with local initiatives on both urban planning and architectural style prevailing over policies coming from Moscow. The result was more a recreation of the nineteenth-century city than a creation of a city along Stalinist lines."

Patricia Herlihy

"The rebuilding of Sevastopol involved negotiation between a central vision and on-the-spot realities and aspirations. Karl D. Qualls reveals in detail not only the contest of authority over the design and execution of the rebuilding project but also the difficulties encountered in the shortage of workers and materials. Qualls demonstrates that the inhabitants preferred to show a historic heroic, military, naval, and emphatically Russian face to the world, rather than a strictly Soviet facade. It is this very Russian city, housing both the Russian and the Ukrainian Black Sea fleets that is a source of friction between Russia and Ukraine today. In exploring important issues of image and identity, Qualls has made admirable use of archives, newsreels, films, and interviews."

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