The former ‘nuclear’ town of Visaginas is a perfect setting for such research questions and research based proposals. It was built from scratch in Soviet Lithuania in the 1970s and 1980s as one of the locations in a technological and professional network created by the USSR nuclear ministry, euphemistically termed the Ministry of Medium Machine Building. As a satellite town of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, it was, together with Leningrad, Chernobyl and Smolensk, one of the four nodes of the USSR’s North-West United Power System. This USSR-wide ministry network implied an exceptional mode of urbanization.
It was characterized by a constant, centrally planned technology, research and workforce exchange between its different locations; by technocratically governed and disciplined settlements (the towns and power plants were governed as a unit, with the governing bodies composed mainly of nuclear scientists and engineers); as well as by a high quality of housing, public buildings, welfare provision, commodity availability, and a high level of integration with nature. In Visaginas, the INPP was the sole source of the production and control of meanings of what the town is for in the USSR, in the Cold War context of international politics determined by nuclear technology.
Thus, the INPP was not just the only source of jobs and revenue, but it also was central to the Visaginas knowledge infrastructure. Since the INPP decommissioning in 2009, the town is forced to reinvent its purpose. The dilemmas most actively discussed now by Visaginas community and governance structures are mainly about the town’s new identity and economic specialization. In essence, these discussions are about how to dismantle the hermetic relations between the town and the INPP; and about how to strengthen new, town-oriented governance and economic activities. Although INPP will remain a crucial techno-political factor for many years ahead, it is becoming less central in giving sense both to life in town and to the town’s relations to the outside.
In this respect, this Summer School aims to focus on how de- and re-industrialisation is accompanied by the development of new knowledge infrastructures. What combinations of artefacts, formats, institutions and spaces via which the Visaginas community publicly produces knowledge for and about itself are adequate to the current moment? The expected result of this work is the elaboration of a concept for the Visaginas public library that can meet the needs of the town in its current phase of transformation.