Notes on Skopje. Hegemonic and Speculative Urban Narratives

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Ivana Sidzimovska, Bauhaus University Weimar, Germany


    The paper deals with the ongoing government-funded reconstruction of the Macedonian capital, dubbed “Skopje 2014″. The urban revamp involves erection of numerous government and cultural buildings (in an exclusively “neo-classical” style), (over forty) figurative monuments and equestrian statues of national heroes, bridges and monumental objects (i.e. a Triumphal Arc), reconstruction of facades (in “baroque” style) and other miscellaneous objects, in an attempt to support and provide material illustration of long and continuous Macedonian national narrative, that claims direct descent-line to the ancient hero, Alexander the Great. The paper relates the renewal plan to neoliberal symbolic urban reconstructions, post-communist identity formation and cultural memory issues. For this, David Harvey’s theories on neoliberal urban spaces (‘spatial fix’), Boris Groys’ post-communist theories on ‘belated modernism’ and Pierre Nora’s theories on ‘memory v.s. history’ are used. As Boris Groys notes: ‘eastern European countries need to get rid of the communist past, reinvent and re-contextualize themselves and acquire such an identity that better fits western European norms’, the paper argues, ‘Skopje 2014’ does not only focus on expanding Macedonian national history to antique times, but also on replacing the socialist symbolic of Skopje with new national symbolic, similar to 19th century bourgeois nationalist superstates, thus aligning the country to the western democratic core. Whereas the post-communism situation is explicitly evident in Skopje’s case, it can be observed such practices are likewise typical for the Western European counterpart, embodied, for example, in the reconstruction of the Berliner Stadtschloß. In this vein, the paper contextualises renewal processes in Macedonia beyond the Eastern European borders and as part of wider urban and political discourses.