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Twin cities: Urban communities, borders and relationships over time

University of Eastern Finland


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Twin cities are more than geographically proximate urban places. They result either from closely adjacent places growing outwards and 'crashing' into each other or from places located either side of an administrative or international border doing the same. Their relationship, whether conflictual or co-operative or both, has been seen by themselves and by others, especially governments, as special in some way. That specialness has often been legislatively articulated.

We have set out to produce a book surveying all types of twin city (internal and cross-border) on all continents across the world and to set the results within the context of what is already known and argued about in relation to them. Our aim has been to explore the constant and changing features of these paired communities over time. To these ends, we have assembled a highly international group of scholars - many of them leaders in the twin-city field and drawn from a variety of disciplines including urban history, economics, geography, planning, political science, sociology and anthropology. Our intention has been to produce not a selection of discrete essays, but a set of logically unfolding and clearly linked chapters held together by a clear understanding of the characteristics of what we argue to constitute the distinctive twin-city family.

With this book we tried to communicate several ideas including:

  • Twin cities are important: there are at least 100 across the world, i.e. at least 200 cities in twinned relationships; they are also increasing in number both within individual states (e.g. India) and on the borders between them and are evident on all continents and sub-continents. This renders them influential factors in the world today.
  • Twin cities come in four different types:
    • on local administrative borders (expanding into each other, or growing outwards from a common border, normally a river);
    • on international borders (produced by pre-existing or subsequently imposed international borders);
    • planned twin cities (expected to physically merge and declared twins to attempt control over the process);
    • engineered twin cities (with their recent sense of togetherness resulting from transport engineering - bridges, tunnels, highways).
  • All types of twin cities share certain similarities describable in five key features: (1) interdependence; (2) tensions between inwardness and openness; (3) mostly unequal relationships; (4) ongoing formal or informal negotiation and (5) persistence
  • Twin-city relationships are dynamic and changeable, their ups and downs are conditional on external factors - political and economic (in)stability in the country and the world, technological advances, administrative reforms, not to mention wars and natural disasters.
  • Internal twins are points where the implications of conurbanisation were first observable from the 19th century onwards.
  • Border twin cities are major points of potential change where international borders are tested and rendered mutable or even reinforced - they are often points for the interchange of cultures and mutual familiarisation of peoples.
  • It follows that twin cities have much to tell us about borders - municipal and international - and the ways and extent to which these are changing or remaining constant in the context of urbanisation, Europeanisation and globalisation.


Twin Cities: Urban Communities, Borders and Relationships over Time, John Garrard and Ekaterina Mikhailova (eds). Routledge Global Urban Studies Series, London and New York 2019 ISBN 978-1-138-098000-8 (hbk); 978-1-315-10463-8 (ebk).

For further information, please contact:

Ekaterina Mikhailova, ekaterina.mikhailova(at)

John Garrard, j.a.garrard(at)

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