When you hear “Perm”, you probably think of an embarrassing hairstyle from the 80s. It might come as a surprise then that Perm is also the last city on the European side of the Ural mountains, and a place very much worth visiting. When you find yourself there, here are the attractions you absolutely cannot miss.
This is the main symbolic landmark of the city. It is a sculpture consisting of an oval frame with big ears and a figure of a photographer taking a picture of it. The region is rich in minerals and in the past it was a very important salt mining location. The workers of salt mines would carry big bags full of salt on their backs. The salt would spill on their ears, making them big and red. Salt mining became so interwoven with the identity of the region that all of its inhabitants started being called Permyak’s Salty Ears. Now everyone can become one in one of the central squares of the city.
One of the culture ministers of Permsky Krai once called it a cultural capital of the universe. While it might be a little bit too exaggerated of a statement, Perm is indeed a place of unexpected cultural gems. PERMM Museum of Contemporary art is one of them. It holds temporary exhibitions and also hosts festivals, lectures, workshops and performances. It is the only contemporary art gallery of this kind outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Perm-36 was one of the better-known forced labour camps in Russia. Political prisoners were kept here until the 1980s. It is also the only GULAG in Russia that was turned into a museum. The museum was founded by Memorial, an NGO devoted to helping the victims of Soviet political repressions. Since its establishment, the museum has constantly been at odds with the local authorities, who are perpetuating the pro-government version of history. The museum was closed in 2015 but has reopened now, with a slightly more apologetic administration in place. It is still a place very much worth visiting, another must-see to put on your list.
Perm State Art Gallery is the most important art gallery in the region. The exposition includes very rare wooden sculptures of Orthodox saints, religious art of the region, and works of the Russian masters of the 19th-century. The museum also displays the folk art of the indigenous peoples of Permsky Krai.
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