Urban studies

Urban Studies was formed as a new area of CISR research in February 2011. It was logical continuation of previous work on the ‘study of cities and space’.


There is nothing particularly surprising about the fact that Urban Studies-the study of city spaces, cultures and subcultures characteristic of city-wide transformations and other phenomena-is becoming increasingly more topical as an area of research, especially considering that more and more people across the globe are choosing to live in large cities.  What is surprising, however, is that in Russia, and in St. Petersburg in particular, contemporary research in the field of Urban Studies has taken on a fragmented character.  An adequate institutional foundation for such research is completely lacking-Russia possesses very few research institutions specializing in Urban Studies, none of which are located in St. Petersburg.  In addition, work in the sphere of Urban Studies is poorly correlated, as there is no unified professional interdisciplinary discourse. Deficiencies in empirical data are painfully felt.  Interactions with Western colleagues and attempts at participation in international professional conferences in the field of Urban Studies illustrate how Russian theoretical discourse in this sphere continues to lag behind.  It also underscores the unsatisfactory level of previous Russian methodological foundations.

At the same time, seeing the harbingers of change within Urban Studies research in Russia during the 2000s-the steadily growing quantity in recent years of research, publications, dissertations, presentations, thematic compilations and academic journals, as well as the increased quantity of city initiatives sprouting up seemingly everywhere, all indicative of a broad change in city environment-it is not difficult to see that demands linked with the growth and expansion of this interdisciplinary field and the practical work associated with it have not only matured, but have reached a point where a qualitative shift is unavoidable.  There is no doubt that the next two-three years will witness a true qualitative breakthrough in the field of Urban Studies.

Our goal is to be a vanguard in this process by facilitating change, helping raise Urban Studies in Russia to an international level of professionalism and by making St. Petersburg an Urban Studies center both within Russia an abroad.


Research in the field of Urban Studies at CISR seeks to accomplish the following goals:

  • Initiate the creation of professional communities and networksof Urban Studies researchers in Russia and to strengthen their work through the organization of joint conventions, seminars, publications, etc;
  • Facilitate the inclusion of Russian Urban Studies research networks into larger professional networks worldwide;
  • Initiate and encourage new research projectson topics vital to Petersburg and Russia;
  • Create a communicative base and resource center in order to attract young researchers interested in Urban Studies. The Open Urban Laboratory was launched to accomplish this goal and starting from 2012 it works as an independent project based at CISR. Open Urban Laboratory is an interdisciplinary partnership of professionals in the field of urban research and city planning and development.


The Principles of research in the field of Urban Studies

  • Interdisciplinarity
  • Networking on both the national and international level
  • A focus on education for the general public
  • Additional educational components for students and young researchers
  • Active communication with activist groups and citizen initiatives

To accomplish our goals, we intend to focus our attention on three main areas: (1) the existing potential for continued Urban Studies research through CISR, (2) active and motivated researchers in St. Petersburg and across Russia interested in cooperating to create researcher networks and (3) the creation/solidification of international networks to include CISR researchers as well as our colleagues in Russia.

Research activities

  • Organization of regular interdisciplinary seminars in the field of Urban Studies at CISR.  Urban Studies Seminars were held twice a month during 2011-2012 These seminars served to acquaint Petersburg public interested in Urban Studies with the state-of-the-field in other countries as well as in Russia, and bring together those interested in conducting Urban Studies research in Russia.
  • Establishment of long-term professional connections between participants of these seminars, and facilitate cooperation on possible future projects, civic, art and other activities.
  • CITYCULT.ure project (in cooperation with Loft Project ETAGI and ‘Art-Science’ projects, 2011-2012). The project included series of public lectures and round tables on urban development issues. The lecture format was based on the concept of ‘edutainment’ (education + entertainment), which we expect to attract a wider audience and make city analysis a more entertaining and popular topic than it has been. Among the lecturers we invited artists and sociologists, curators and designers from Russia and abroad. The project achieved great popularity and became a starting point for young researchers who decided to be a professional in the field of urban studies.
  • An international conference Urban Development and Politics in Europe and Russiaon the topic of current problems in Urban Studies research. The goal of the conference was threefold: (1) the integration of the research field within Russia, (2) the establishment of professional connections among foreign colleagues in the field and (3) the forwarding of key questions and issues facing Urban Studies research in Russia. The conference was organized in cooperation with Centre for European Studies and was held in European University at St.Petersburg.
  • Unique project for inter-university interdisciplinary urban research laboratory “GorLabor” was launched and had been working for 2 years. Students and graduate students from different Universities who were interested in Urban Studies were involved into the project. The main goals of the project are 1) to  cerate a new generation of urban researchers in St.Petersburg and Russia 2) to conduct timely and appropriate research projects 3) to teach students methods of field work, empirical data collection and analysis etc. As of today Laboratory team consists of professionals in the field of urban studies who work in other Universities: Anisya Khokhlova (Candidate of Sociological Sciences), Elena Tykanova (Candidate of Sociological Sciences),), Anna Zhelnina (Candidate of Sociological Sciences, PhD student of City University of New York), Lubov Chernyshova (Master student of European University at St.Petersburg and active member of «City projects in St.Petersburg») an others.
  • Start of the Studia urbanica series within New Literary Observer (Editor of the series – Oleg Pachenkov)
  • In 2015 Sreda Urban Design Institute was opened with the support of CISR urban studies researchers. The institute opened a pilot interdisciplinary master’s programme in urban studies “Building the city now”. Enric Massip-Bosch (Architect, Barcelona) and Olga Sezneva (Sociologist, University of Amsterdam, European University at St.Petersburg) became co-directors of the programme.
  • In 2013-2014 Urban Studies CISR researchers launched unique for St.Petersburg project SAGA about the city. Transforming communal areas in Saint Petersburg. The project was implemented in cooperation with The Open Urban Laboratory, The Leontief Centre, St.Petersburg Municipal Council, Gehl Architects (Copenhagen) and the Nordic Council of Ministers in St.Petersburg. This interdisciplinary international project became a landmark for the All-Russian debates on methodology of pre-project researches and planning urban public spaces.
  • In 2016 an international comparative research project  “Claiming the public space: Urban interventions and the shift from vertical to horizontal urban planning” was launched. This project is a cooperation project of CISR, the GSZ (Georg-Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies) and TACT (International Research on Art and City). The project is supported by the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation.
  • In 2016 CISR researchers organized two projects to support civil society and urban activism in Russian cities: “Stadt im Dialog” and “Perspektiven für Jugendliche – Multiplikatorenausbildung in Monostädten”. These projects were supported by the German Foreign Ministry. 20 urban activists from St.Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Khabarovsk, Kazan, Samara, Kingisepp, Kovdor and Monchegorsk took part in these projects.
  •  “Stadt im Dialog” and “Perspektiven für Jugendliche – Multiplikatorenausbildung in Monostädten” projects resulted in international scientific-practical conference “Urban activism in Russian cities: experience, problems, prospects” (December 10, 2016).