City systems in the Baltic states

the Soviet legacy and current paths of change

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This paper analyses the development of city systems in the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania). These countries have experienced a shift from the relatively isolated realm of the Soviet Union to the European Union, one of the most liberal economies in the world. The aim of this paper is to analyse how the transition from a centrally planned economy to a market-led economy influenced how the city systems changed. The study uses annual data on the population dynamics of the cities from 1989–2015. Zipf’s law serves as a reference point to explore and compare the city-size distribution as well as the regularity and stability of this distribution in the Baltic States. A linear regression is employed to determine the impact of relevant factors that lead to city system change under market economy conditions. The results show that although the current paths of development are different in the Baltic States, the countries illustrate similar trends towards metropolisation and spatial polarisation. The results of this research suggest that spatially uneven development will continue in the Baltic States, and regional development policies should be aligned with the ongoing trends. The findings of the research encourage the development of greater cooperation between the Baltic States in creating regional policies, in particular those related to their shrinking cities and regions.