Cities in Eastern Europe and Central Asia: A Story of Urban Growth and Decline

    Shrinking-cities.PNGCities in Eastern Europe and Central Asia: A Story of Urban Growth and Decline was developed under the framework of the Spatial Development of Cities research program with the support of DFID. It aims to deepen the empirical base in the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region. It also sheds light on the phenomenon of ECA’s “shrinking” cities: According to studies, only a few cities are growing, while most are shrinking.


    The report provides evidence for this shift, as well as a framework for understanding current urbanization trajectories. The analysis reveals that important structural forces are shaping ECA’s cities, notably a significant demographic transition – decreasing birth rates, higher levels of migration, and an aging population – reinforced by a strong out-migration. The result has been an overall decline in the urban population and a decline in scale.


    The report notes that shrinking cities can potentially benefit agglomerations; population decline can be an opportunity to reduce congestion, and ECA could be a pioneer for piloting policy options on smart decline.


    Released in November 2017, the analysis in the report has already informed a number of strategic documents, lending activities, and analytic and advisory assistance in the ECA region, including  the Georgia Urban Strategy, the upcoming Kyrgyz Republic Systematic Country Diagnostic, the Albania Project for Integrated Urban and Tourism Development, the Kyrgyz Republic Urban Development Project, the Turkey Regional Development and Vulnerability overview, and the upcoming Rethinking Lagging Regions in the European Union report.


    The Ukraine Urbanization Review funded by the MDTF SUD played a fundamental role in developing Cities in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Ukraine was the first country where the Bank team conducted an in-depth review of the urbanization process.


    This activity provided additional evidence on the striking number of cities in the region that are declining in population, and how a few cities are growing, some very fast.  The urban planning and municipal finance analysis conducted during the Ukraine urbanization review confirmed the team’s theory that both national systems (such as intergovernmental transfers) and local policies (such as urban planning) were not taking into consideration the new reality of urban decline. Cities in Eastern Europe and Central Asia replicated the methodology used for the Ukraine Urbanization Review and expanded it to 16 additional countries in the region.