Felix Ackermann, Research Fellow, German Historical Institute, Warsaw

Infrastructuring, Statehood and Urban Planning. Temporal dilemmas of the Lithuanian post-nuclear town of Visaginas

The present city of Visaginas was founded as Sniečkus (in the name of the First Secretary of the Lithuanian Communist Party) in 1975. Soviet planners designed it to serve as the satellite town to the nuclear power plant of Ignalina. Already 16 years later the Soviet Union disintegrated and the reactor became a state facility of the new independent Republic of Lithuania. The town continued to be a crucial infrastructure to serve the two reactors producing electric energy for the wider region. Visaginas hosted builders, engineers and other staff needed to maintain the nuclear power plant. In exchange it received electricity and heat for almost free. It was only another 13 years later, when the first reactor was shut down as a result of negotiations with European Commission about Lithuania’s entry into the European Union. As the decommissioning of Ignalina nuclear plant is a long term project scheduled until 2029 and worth 3,5 billion euros, an important layer of governance moved from the national capital of Vilnius to Brussels. This threefold change of statehood, however, did not change the composition of the experts actually running the power plant, most of them trained in Soviet Russia.

Together with my colleagues of the Laboratory of Critical Urbanism at the European Humanities University in Vilnius (a Belarusian university in Lithuanian exile) I investigated the links between the changing layers of statehood, transformation of the city as infrastructure and new practices of citizens’ participation in urban planning processes. We aimed to gain a better understanding of how the inhabitants of Visaginas anticipate their own future after the shutdown of the nuclear plant. My talk will explore various ways of state driven infrastructuring and draw on the Laboratory of Critical Urbanism attempts to experiment with collaborative methods while investigating “Sources of Urbanity” in a post-nuclear city.

Felix Ackermann works as a research fellow (postdoc) at the German Historical Institute in Warsaw. He is a historian and anthropologist trained in cultural and political studies at European University Viadrina and London School of Economics and Political Science. Before his current employment he worked as the head of the Geschichtswerkstatt Europa funding program at the Institute for Applied History in Frankfurt (Oder) and as an associate professor for Applied Humanities at European Humanities University in Vilnius.  Felix is co-editor of the Mapping Post-Socialist Urban Spaces book series published by the Laboratory of Critical Urbanism at Vilnius Art Academy.

All seminars in the series.