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Leonid Bershidsky

The City Versus the Nation-State Defined 2019

Cities worldwide voted and rallied against their own national governments.

An island of cosmopolitanism in a sea of nationalism

An island of cosmopolitanism in a sea of nationalism

Photographer: Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images

Big cities are increasingly at odds with their nation states. We saw yet another sign of that this week, when the “ Pact of Free Cities” was signed by the liberal mayors of Bratislava, Budapest, Prague and Warsaw — the capital cities of four Eastern European countries run by nationalist and/or populist governments. It’s just one more example of a larger trend that defined 2019 the world over.

More often than not, people in the cities want more freedom, are more willing to embrace every kind of diversity and care relatively less about the whole idea of national sovereignty. People in smaller towns and rural areas are more concerned about national identity and preserving local customs, even if that means following strongmen.