Emergent Stateness: Critical Urban Geopolitics in Slavutych
The city of Slavutych was built specifically to house the workers who would continue to work post-disaster at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant (ChNPP) and their families. It was the pinnacle of Soviet planned cities, the culmination of decades of lessons learned from similar projects, and the architectural embodiment of Soviet multinationalism. However, in spite of all the excitement the new city elicited, within just a few years the now-independent Ukrainian government, under pressure from international organizations like the International Atomic Energy Association and the United Nations, established a hard expiration date for the shutdown of all ChNPP reactors, which in turn would mean economic devastation for Slavutych and render its existence wholly unnecessary. Rather than wait for the inevitable, city leaders and residents leveraged global and national interest in the Chornobyl disaster and its aftermath, drawing investments from multinational corporations, international organizations, and states to keep the city alive. Their scattergun approach to economic diversification and pre-emptive urban revitalization paid off, as Slavutych thrived even as the rest of Ukraine suffered major economic and demographic crises. This paper examines how Slavutych citizens were able to forge, and then to act upon, geopolitical relationships to mitigate the lingering social, political, and economic effects of the Chornobyl disaster in the city.
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