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Politics of Memory and the Symbolic Design of the Urban Environment

Vladimir M. Kapitsyn, Doctor of Political Science associate of other organizaiton, , Professor, doctor of political sciences, Department of political science, Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia.
mailto: kapizin@yandex.ru
Politics of Memory and the Symbolic Design of the Urban Environment.
Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2015. Vol. 6. No. 2. P. 30-42

This Article is downloaded: 418 times
Topic: Cities’ Development and Social Technologies

For citation:
Vladimir M. Kapitsyn. Politics of Memory and the Symbolic Design of the Urban Environment. Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2015. Vol. 6. No. 2. P. 30-42


This research uses the visual analysis of a number of consolidating symbols in order to analyze the politics of memory in various cities, while taking into account the differences between the various facets of life – i.e. the universal structures where the status symbols of individuals and groups either complement or contradict one another, following a certain set of values. Among these facets of life, we distinguish: the spacial and territorial facet, which creates symbols connected to the landscape, climate, environment, transportation, or street planning; the natural anthropological facet, which comprises social and demographic symbols, linked to everyday routine, health, childhood, adolescence, maturity, seniority, femininity, and masculinity; the spiritual and cultural facet, which gives rise to symbols that are part of the communities’ myths, beliefs, ethic codes (in other words, the spiritual narrative); and finally, the professional actor facet, which includes symbols of distinctive achievements (local arts and crafts, professions, or the economy). The visual analysis of symbol design was carried out as a field study in Voronezh, Rostov-on-Don, Shchyolkovo, Dubna, and Mytishchi, and as a distance study in Ekaterinburg, Volgograd, Norilsk, and Zlatoust. A significant data corpus was also derived from reviewing foreign research conducted in Budapest, Cologne, Kharkiv, Lviv, and several other cities. This research was also greatly furthered by the study of several towns in the Nizhny Novgorod region. In addition, while substantiating our points and conclusions, we make frequent references to a case study in Magnitogorsk. This article reveals that the community’s semiotics are determined by the dominance of symbols from one of the facets of life described above. For example, if the overwhelming majority of community members was involved in industrial production, this led to the rise of an industrial center (in some cases, even a so-called one-company town), where the environment was dominated by professional actor symbols. Consequently, most of the locals’ memories were connected with industrial symbols, which helped link their past to their future. Currently, this thought process does not reflect the present-day commercialized symbols. On the other hand, this study shows that politics of memory and symbol design can help turn industrialized symbols into a tool for consolidating the community and setting the city on a path towards development. It is important to note that the politics of memory cannot result in the emergence of symbols that are over-saturated with political undertones. It is also vital to develop new consolidating symbols.


visual analysis, industrialized characters, the politics of memory, character design, industrial city.

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