“Shrinking city” in Eastern Germany. The Term in the context of urban development in Poland

Ciesla, Agnieszka

The aim of this doctoral thesis was to investigate whether the German term “shrinking city” is appropriate to depopulating Polish cities. In order to do so an attempt to define the currently still vague notion of “shrinking city” was made. The urban development of Eastern Germany was thoroughly examined both in a short term perspective and in a wide historical as well as international context, with the Polish urban development used as reference. 25 cities (kreisfreie Städte) in Eastern Germany and depopulating Polish cities: Łódź and the Metropolis Silesia were chosen as case studies. On the basis of the gathered information a “shrinking city” in Eastern Germany was defined as a city with a long-lasting population decrease coupled with over-dimensioned, growth-oriented development policies carried out for decades. Such a development path is triggering negative consequences in the spatial, economic and also demographic dimension, which tend to intensify each other. The thesis postulates that the definition of the “shrinking city in Eastern Germany” is not appropriate to depopulating cities in Poland. Polish cities are characterized by a short-lasting population decrease and this trend is not triggering negative spatial and economic consequences. Oversized growth development policies were never present in the cities and they still suffer from great deficiencies in housing and other basic infrastructure, which derive from the socialist period. Furthermore, radical de-economization, known from Eastern German cities, did not occur in the Polish cities. Both Łódź and the Metropolis Silesia remain main production centers of the country. This doctoral thesis presents a contradictory view to contemporary publications on “shrinking cities”, in which this phenomenon is regarded as having occurred suddenly after the collapse of the socialism. It proved that “shrinking cities” in Eastern Germany are not the outcome of short-lasting processes, but are deeply rooted in the past. Moreover, they represent a very distinct development pattern that highly differentiates from the one found in Central Eastern Europe and the one in Western Europe. In this way the doctoral thesis provided a new, critical approach to the discourse on “shrinking cities” in Germany. It also draws attention to the importance of the historical analysis in cities’ development research, particularly in cross border studies. In time of European integration peculiarities resulting from centuries of different spatial, economic and social development paths should not be underestimated.


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Ciesla, Agnieszka: “Shrinking city” in Eastern Germany. The Term in the context of urban development in Poland. 2013.

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