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.
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