Buch, East Berlin

The “sleepy German suburb” of Buch – a hotbed of rightwing nationalism according to the New York Times – reminds me of a middle-class Moscow residential area, only cleaner, greener, lower-rise and more orderly (note the neatly parked cars). I can understand why some residents fear that new tenants might be not so keen on keeping public spaces tidy and, once they have arrived in large numbers, the neighborhood could lose its “cozy, safe” appearance.

Not that the new arrivals would actually make it dangerous but the veneer of understated middle-class respectability might have to come off. In places like Moscow, where housing built under central planning is still predominant, subtle differences among almost identically built neighborhoods can signal major variance in property prices and perceived levels of genteelness.

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