Imperial Cities: The Tsarist Empire, the Habsburg Empire and the Ottoman Empire in Comparison

VOH – Verband der Osteuropahistorikerinnen und -historiker e.V. / Association of Historians on East Central Europe

DGO – Deutsche Gesellschaft für Osteuropakunde e.V. / German Association for East European Studies

DHI Moskau – Deutsches Historisches Institut Moskau / German Historical Institute, Moscow

Herder-Institut für historische Ostmitteleuropaforschung – Institut der Leibniz-Gemeinschaft / Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe – Institute of the Leibniz Association

Universitat Wien, Institut für Osteuropäische Geschichte / University of Vienna, Institute for Eastern European History

Place: Moskau

Date: 26.-27. April 2018

Deadline for applications: 17.11.17

Urban history research has recently experienced increasing interest in “imperial” questions. One expression that is used over and over again is the “imperial city”. While this term has so far primarily been applied to the European metropolises of the western colonial empires, this conference aims to analyze the phenomenon of the imperial city in the context of the continental empires of Eastern Europe, such as the Habsburg Monarchy, the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire. Since these empires do not draw a clear distinction between “colony” and “motherland”, we suggest therefore that “imperial cities” can be understood as particular cities where empire manifests itself, which are also marked by the imperial form of the state. Regarding the empires of Eastern Europe, this includes not only the metropolises of Vienna, Budapest, Istanbul or St. Petersburg, but also such multiethnic provincial cities as L’viv, Kazan or Sarajevo, border cities like Brody, Tiraspol or Belgrade, port cities such as İzmir, Trieste or Odessa, and many more.

Therefore, this conference will seek to determine how fruitful it is to call cities imperial in the context of the continental empires of Eastern Europe. What is specific about “imperial cities” in Eastern Europe? How can questions of imperial history expand our understanding of these cities? And finally, how instructive is it to explore these empires in the light of urban history? Since we assume that imperial structures also shape cities in the long term, this conference approaches the phenomenon of imperial cities from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries based on the following three, interwoven aspects:

Cityscape: Imperial cities claim to represent the empire vis-à-vis both their own inhabitants foreign powers, and to provide space for different population groups. To what extent does the given city meet this claim? How do areas of ethnic, religious and social entanglement relate to areas of segregation in the city?

Imperial modernization: Capital and industry accumulate in imperial cities, which thus stage themselves as sites of social and technological progress. Aiming to embody the civilizing power of the empire, they initiate civilizing campaigns on its peripheries, but at the same time they are themselves objects of modernizing interventions. How do such endeavors manifest themselves in cities, and how successful are they?

Afterlife of empire: The imperial imprint of the city often outlives the demise of the empire. Typically, “Habsburg”, “Ottoman” or “Soviet” buildings and quarters still shape the appearance of the city. How does the city deal with this specific heritage? Are “imperial” buildings, streets or quarters torn down and overbuilt, are they preserved and transformed as tourist sites, or do the new rulers strive to politically re-code the imperial remains?

We welcome proposals for case studies on cites of the different empires, of different centuries, and with different thematic focal points. Proposals with crossempire references are especially welcome, whether these are comparisons or analyses of transfers. The conference language is English. We expect to be able to cover travel and accommodation expenses. We plan to publish the revised conference papers.

Please send your abstract (max. 500 words) and a short CV by November 17, 2017 to and

Concept and organization: Eszter Gantner Herder Institute, Marburg and Ulrich Hofmeister University of Vienna