Urban Identities in Russian Cities and the Prospects of Their “Smart” Development
This article deals with the urban identity and its connection with the urban dwellers’ willingness to take part in the processes of decision-making concerning the future of their cities, their rejection or, on the contrary, acceptance of the vision of ‘smart’ development promoted by city leaders. The study gives a special attention to the gap between the citizens’ perceptions of their cities and the ideal image of their city (perception-expectation gap). The study provides an overview of the contemporary approaches to the concept of “smart city”, and approaches to urban governance and city identity. The study focused on three second-tier Russian cities – Tyumen, Tobolsk and Khanty-Mansiysk, located in Tyumen region in Western Siberia. Our surveys were conducted in November 2020 and involved the residents of these cities aged 18 to 70. In total, 877 people were surveyed in Tyumen, 443 people in Tobolsk and 498 people in Khanty-Mansiysk. The questionnaire, which was specially designed for this study, was aimed to measure the residents’ level of attachment to their cities and their perception-expectation gap. Significant differences were revealed between the cities in terms of the strength of their residents’ urban identity, their emotional attachment to their cities, and expectations about their further development. We found that the larger is the perception-expectation gap, the less emotionally attached the citizens are to their cities and the less committed they are to contributing to its future development and prosperity. These research findings can be of interest to urban policy-makers, regional and national governments. The proposed research methodology can be adapted and/or expanded for further cross-city and cross-country analysis.