The Geopolitics of Post-Soviet Transition: The Case of the Retail Trade in Lithuania

Nolwenn Léon (University of Paris)

The paper is focused on the notion of transition and its impact on Lithuania. The case study presented is that of retail trade sector. Being entirely public during the Soviet period this field of commercial activity, already in a deep structural crisis, nearly collapsed after independence, before being reconstructed on a new liberal basis. This re-making implied numerous challenges: territory layouts, social representations, policy regulation, and rivalries between different actors. The political sphere occupied during the first years of independence with other issues tended to neglect the legal framing of the retail market. Today one can notice an anarchical development of retail outlets, rooted in the lack of regulation and uncontrolled urban development. There is a strong risk of monopolist temptation, as the 70% of the market share is owned by only four retail companies (a very strong proportion for a population of 3.5 million). This economic overweight also implies an increasing relevance to national political life. The urban space in Lithuania is thus modelled by the establishment of supermarkets and commercial centers, which come to crystallize the urban way of life. But while doing so, it also destructs other forms of urbanity (outside shopping, smaller stores, etc.). As a highly symbolic sign of the rise of the living standard, a new private retail trade sector illustrates both the overall success, but also the limits of transition from one political system to another. Based on recent statistics and proposing a new cartographic study, the paper tries to analyse to what extent the growing retail sector shapes the national territory in the independent Lithuania.

Keyword: Leon

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