Abstract

In this article the author considers the process of creation of new urban space and practices of its perception by the local people. The case, which the author uses to analyze this process, is the city of Yoshkar-Ola (Mari El Republic). The governor of Mari EL republic, Leonid Markelov, is actively engaged in the transformation of the city. He chose famous European images (Italy, Belgium, Netherlands) and iconic images of Russia as a model to shape the Yoshkar-Ola‘s space. Despite the fact that Yoshkar-Ola is not associated with medieval Europe in historical or cultural terms, the city is being actively created using these metaphors. There are streets with Rembrandt’s, and Lorenzo di Piero de Medici’s monuments, almost exact copy of the Piazza San Marco in Venice, and Bruges’ embankments. According to local residents, non-residents of the city, and publications in the media, Yoshkar-Ola chose the way of changing its architectural appearance which is not typical for Russian cities. To describe the specificity of perception of Yoshkar-Ola by local people the author uses the conception of Henri Lefebvre (space of representations, representations of space and spatial practices), the concept of heterotopia (M. Foucault) and A. Giddens’ theory about the place. The empirical research is based on interviews with local residents, media publications, and photographic materials. In order to symbolically appropriate new urban space, residents of Yoshkar-Ola are often referring to its unique aesthetic style. Local people have the experience of living in a typical Soviet city, that’s why they admire new image of the urban center. However, despite the important aesthetic value of the new space, the problems of the social infrastructure, coupled with the reception of symbols from European culture, create rather ambiguous perception of the new locus of Yoshkar-Ola.

Keywords: social space, place, Yoshkar-Ola, utopia, structuration, production space, mimesis, heterotopia