Identifications of Small Peripheral Towns at the Turn of the 21st Century: Cultural Heritage, Use of Historical Examples, and Revitalization Strategies in Comparative Perspective

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Abstract. The question of the cities’ role in the nation-branding and identification processes is very challenging, since in historian’s eyes obviously the use of history is involved in the process. The article is based on a research, where the strategies of revival used by smallsized towns and population were assessed. Those towns were chosen for studying, which were placed in regions distant from Capitals, in deep countryside. In the wider context they were peripheral towns in peripheral regions; peripheral in socio-economic sense, and in geographic as well. The content of their strategies has been analysed, the outcomes and their impact, their motivation and the context. The sources were statistics, periodical press, publicity leaflets, and presentations of all kinds, regional historiography, and observations, which were carried for nearly twenty years. These strategies have been explored on the basis of three case studies: Gers in Gascony in the South-West France, Třebíčsko in Vysočina in the Czech Republic, and Dukla in Šariš in Slovakia, bringing Western and East-Central Europe into comparative perspective. These towns, which are mostly located in a significant distance from capital cities, large urban centres, motorways and railway corridors, have focused on marketing their natural environment and historical heritage. As a part of the revival strategy, the small towns have attempted to construct an identity supported by historical examples that locate them within larger – regional, national and supranational – identities. They have discovered the power of history to brand them. In all three regions also the attempt to reach the registration in the List of World Cultural Heritage (UNESCO) was successful. They have decided to display their historical and cultural heritage as a marketable value. In this context differences, similarities, analogic situations, and interconnections have been identified between local (urban), regional and national, and supranational identities. In this article it is shown that the cases of Gascony, Gers respectively, were similar, while the Czech and Slovak cases are used to compare and contrast.

Keywords: national identity, regional identity, local identity, identification, town branding, Gascony, Gers.

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