• central planning;
  • Estonia;
  • specific;
  • universal;
  • urbanization

Analysts of urbanization in socialist countries have often taken firm positions on the nature of urbanization under this particular social context, defending either universalistic or specific standpoints. It has been a remarkable contribution to the understanding of urbanization under central planning through formulating some of the key arguments. The issues at stake have not been resolved, however, and more empirical work would be welcome. An explorative approach is therefore taken in the current article, with a view to finding additional empirical evidence for or against the diverse set of arguments previously made. It focuses on the sources of urban and rural population growth in Estonia during the Soviet period (1945–1991). The analysis helps us to better understand how different causes intermingled to produce the process of urban and rural population change, which had some common features that hold true in cross–country comparisons and some specific ones that Estonia offers to the mosaic of world urbanization.