Nowa Huta, Stalinism and Polish Society, 1949-1956
Cornell University Press 2013
In the late 1940s, tens of thousands of people – mostly young male peasants – streamed to southeastern Poland to help build Nowa Huta, the largest and most ambitious of Stalinist “socialist cities” in the new People’s Democracies. The town, built to house workers at the Lenin Steelworks (also under construction), was designed to implement economic and social change, but many of the plans went unfulfilled or even awry. In Unfinished Utopia: Nowa Huta, Stalinism and Polish Society, 1949-1956 (Cornell University Press, 2014), Katherine Lebow provides a fascinating analysis at the expectations and experiences of the Communist Party planners, the nationally-minded architects, the rural youth, women and Roma who created Nowa Huta. She places the construction of Nowa Huta more broadly in Polish history, linking it to visions of modernization in the interwar period, as well as situating it in the context of post-war Europe. Lebow argues that, in the end, “utopian visions of a new town for the masses were a luxury that Polish communism could not afford.” Unfinished Utopia received the 2014 Barbara Jelavich Book Prize from the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES).