From Ruins to Reconstruction

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

Karl D. Qualls
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    From Ruins to Reconstruction
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6241-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Karl D. Qualls
  5. List of Archival Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvii)
  6. [Map]
    (pp. xviii-xviii)
  7. Introduction: Rebuilding as an Urban Identification Project
    (pp. 1-10)

    When Sevastopol municipal officials filed their first report about life in the city after the Red Army had reversed the two-year Nazi occupation, there was little positive to say. Everywhere one looked, there was tragedy. Enemy bombers and artillery had laid waste to the home port of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet. People lived in elevator shafts, the vault of a destroyed bank, earthen dugouts (zemlianki), caves, basements, stairwells, and the open air. Only 3 percent of the city’s buildings were still intact.

    Daily survival in the rubble that once comprised a beautiful seaside was nearly as arduous as the...

  8. 1 Wartime Destruction and Historical Identification
    (pp. 11-45)

    A century before Hitler’s forces invaded the Soviet Union and brought destruction to Sevastopol, the young writer Lev Tolstoy began to construct a narrative of Sevastopol and the people who lived there and fought for it. As he so clearly noted, the retelling of the scenes of battle would make legends “authentic, a fact.” Similar attempts a century later to make the travails of a small number of people authentic for a mass audience came to be labeled propaganda. However, at the heart of the narratives of Tolstoy and Soviet mythmakers of World War II was the search to show...

  9. 2 Local Victory over Moscow: Planning for the Future
    (pp. 46-84)

    Despite Sobolev’s optimism, valorous glory cannot build on its own. The resurrection of a dead city needs a plan, people, and materials from which to rise from its ashes. In a way, however, Sobolev was correct. The wartime recitation of heroes continued into the postwar reconstruction period as an attempt to incite yet more sacrifice for the Motherland. The new sacrifice was not for defense but for rebirth. The new city would be born of two parents, one in Moscow and one in the city itself. From Moscow the city gained the initial plans and the materials necessary to rebuild....

  10. 3 Accommodation: Bringing Life to the Rubble
    (pp. 85-123)

    In 1949, at the height of the anticosmopolitan campaign, the prominent historian, architect, and professor David Arkin endured scathing attacks in closed meetings and official publications for not correctly noting that the main idea of three decades of Soviet architecture was the “Stalinist concern for the individual.” More than just another attack on an intellectual, it also was a reaffirmation of one of the key symbols of postwar reconstruction: building for people. The term zabota (care or concern), often joined with a reference to Stalin, was ubiquitous in the Soviet press after World War II, no less so than in...

  11. 4 Agitation: Rewriting the Urban Biography in Stone
    (pp. 124-156)

    Cities in the Soviet Union did more than merely accommodate residents’ daily needs; they functioned also as agitational space that sought to transform people’s understanding of place and self and link them to the city and Russia. Because of the military importance of Sevastopol and the ever-changing composition of residents in the early postwar years, it was imperative to create a coherent and unified urban biography that stressed sacrifice and duty, especially as the Cold War intensified. Drawing on the lessons from prerevolutionary and World War II–era culture and memorialization, planners focused on sites of identification for Sevastopol—its...

  12. 5 Persistence and Resilience of Local Identification
    (pp. 157-196)

    Since 1991 Sevastopol, an ethnically Russian city in Ukraine, has been undergoing a reexamination of its heritage. On the eve of the Ukrainian “Orange Revolution” in 2004, one could see spray-painted graffiti on a yellowed building on Soviet Street on the central hill that read, “Sevastopol is Russia.” While graffiti is a common form of self-expression in most cities, it is also a political statement. Many if not most of Sevastopol’s residents would likely choose the leadership of Moscow over that of Kyiv. The uninitiated viewer would likely also be confused by the persistence of the name Soviet Street, which...

  13. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 197-206)
  14. Index
    (pp. 207-214)