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Urban Self-Identification in East Central Europe Before the Great War: the Case of Cracow

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Abstract: This article explores the development of urban and interurban identities in fln-de-siècle East Central Europe as alternative sources of identity that do not fit simply within standard national-historical narratives. The author focuses on Cracow as an example of this trend. Analyzing three popular illustrated newspapers from the city, he argues that thanks to popular press representations of the big city at home and abroad, as well as the experience of urban life itself, Cracovians began to develop distinct urban and interurban identities. The mass circulation press was a major vehicle in fostering and developing a shared sense of modem, urban identity among its readers. How were modem metropolitan identities created in East Central Europe in the decades before the Great War, and how were such identifications informed by tropes already in use elsewhere? In general, scholarship about East Central Europe for this period has focused on the question of nationalism and its relation to politics. Even in studies of urban centers, like Prague, Budapest, and Vienna, nationality issues have often had precedence.' This is not unwarranted, as national identification defined many of the terms of urban interaction in the ethnically diverse cities of the region. But what if strong urban and interurban identities also arose during this period, identities that overlapped with, and at times even supplanted, national ones? "Islands in a sea of rural, peasant settlements," the large cities of East Central Europe were qualitatively different from the landscape that surrounded them, as Ivan Berend has observed.2 It should come as no surprise that as their citizens became accustomed to life in the city, they recognized these differences. In their introduction to The City in Central Europe, Malcolm Gee, Tim Kirk, and Jill Steward


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