Perm is the most Eastern city of Europe, and therefore its province is often referred to as Eurasia. Having a population about 1 million, Perm is the 6th largest city in Russia and the second largest in the Urals. The city was formerly called Molotov, after the minister of foreign affairs during Joseph Stalin's ruling. Perm stretches 65 km along the impressive Kama River – Europe's 4th largest river by length. The Perm province, “Permskaya Oblast”, or “Prikamye”, is around two-third the size of the United Kingdom and covers a great area in the very heart of the Ural Mountains.
Perm is internationally known as the name for the geological period (290 – 245 million years ago) in which the Ural Mountain Range was formed. In contrary to the Urals, Perm itself is rather young. Although the first settlement of Perm dates back to 16th century, officially it got its city status in 1723. Citizens still loudly celebrate Perm's birthday on 12th of June, with street parades, concerts and fireworks throughout the whole city!
The arms of Perm
In spite of being a relatively young city, Perm played an important role in the colonisation of Siberia. Ermak, the conquerer of Siberia, was from the Perm province. When a road was needed to connect Siberia with the west, construction was started in Perm, which was at that time the capital of the Ural region. The new road, together with the construction of the Trans Siberian Railroad, allowed development of the places east of the Urals – current big cities such as Ekaterinburg, Omsk and Novosibirsk, were merely small peasant or miners towns by that time.
Perm basically owes its existence to two factors: firstly the large amounts of natural resources (minerals, oil and timber) that are present in the region, and secondly (but not less important): its location. The mighty Kama River, the Great Trans-Siberian Railroad and main motorways from Moscow/Kazan to Siberia all cross in Perm, making Perm a main Russian transportation hub. The city is the doorway from Europe to Asia and to Siberia in particular.
During Soviet times, Perm was a proper fortress because of the huge military industry in its region. All artillery and rocket vehicles, as well as (intercontinental) ballistic rocket launching systems, engines for MiG jetfighters and canons of all ranges were (and in less proportions still are) produced in Perm. The Soviets did an excellent job in hiding Perm and keeping it secret. Most people from outside the Urals simply did not know of the existence of the – at that time – 1 million citizens of Perm. Until the end of the cold war, Perm did not appear on certain Soviet-made maps, nor did the roads towards it.
Nowadays, Perm is obviously accessible to all. Actually, it currently is one of Russia's fastest growing cities because of its economical prosperity.
Perm - 101% Russian, yet multicultural
For Russian standards, Perm is one of the most multicultural places in the whole country; it is a home of many ethnic groups who have lived together in Perm ever since its existence. While taking a walk through Perm’s huge central bazaar one can easily distinguish Russians at the many typical small kiosks, Georgians and Armenians selling their original spicy kebabs and shoarmas straight from the barbecue and Tatars operating from most of the simple but colorful jewelry stands. Furthermore, Russian orthodox churches, a mosque, a synagogue and several Catholic churches (some dating from the 17th century) all exist next to each other in Perm. The multicultural character of Perm also shows in its dining possibilities; one does never have to go far to experience the Russian, Uzbek, Georgian or Caucasian cuisine.
In spite of its multicultural character, Perm is “Russian till the bone”. Wide avenues, big squares and parks, many statues, dominant Soviet architecture, countless little kiosks, huge theatres and trolley busses everywhere – all make Perm as Russian as Russian can be. Being some 1400 km away from the big influential cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, Perm is a relaxed place, where people have kept the typical Russian way of life and traditions.
Opera, ballet and drama theatre
After St. Petersburg, Perm is Russia's leading city for opera, ballet and drama theatre. Not only has the city got a wide range of stages and theatres, its educational bodies like the Russian Academy of Theatre Art and Institute for Culture and Art as well as its many international relations in theatre performances and education still give Perm the name of theatre city.
One of the most famous stages is the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre. Among its repertoire are internationally known performances (for example Romeo and Juliet, Cleopatra, Aida, Cinderella) as well as Russian ones: most works of Berchadsky, Dzerzhinsky and Chaikovsky have been staged here. Since 1948 the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre has been on tours throughout the whole world, performing in countries such as UK, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Hungary, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Germany and China. During its history, the theatre has received numerous (inter)national prizes.
Another leading stage is the Perm Academic Drama Theatre, founded in 1927. Like the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre, the Acamedic Drama Theatre has staged the world’s most prestigious Drama plays (for instance Ostrovsky, Shakespeare, Gorky and Tolstoy) and has it won many prizes for its work.
The Perm Art Gallery boasts a large collection of arts. Apart from numerous paintings of Flemish, French and Italian masters, it also has modern art collections on exhibition. The museum's collection is among the very largest ones in Russia. The museum is located in a former cathedral, now a landmark of Perm in the centre of the city.
In the same building, but a separate section, the Regional Museum of Local Studies and History (founded in 1890) is definitely worth a visit for those who are interested in the history and the culture of the Urals. The museum boasts a wide variety of armory, coinage, pottery, handicrafts, archeology and minerals. It also tells about the Permian period, the geological era in which the Urals were formed.
The partly open-air artillery museum at the northern end of the city centre displays all generations of rocket and artillery (vehicles), as constructed in Perm, as well as a wide range of information of the history of the industry. Actually, the city is known for its large war industry ever since late 1800’s. All canons and artillery of former Soviet Union as well as engines for Tupolev and MiG aircrafts were (and in less amounts still are) manufactured in Perm. The museum offers detailed information on its wide range of warfare. The outside part of the museum can be entered free of charge at any time. This museum is a part of our city excursion.
“Khokhlovka” (Open-air museum of and Wooden Architecture and Ethnography) is in fact a collection of original structures as they existed in the 17th century. Inside the buildings, all kinds of tools, handicrafts and clothes of that time are exposed. The guide will take you around the museum, explaining about the hard life 300 years ago. You will be amazed by the beauty of the site; Khokhlovka is located on a green hill and offers great views over the Kama river and nearby villages.
Perm I train station is worth a look, as it is proper ancient (17th century).
As for architecture, most profound buildings are situated in the city centre. The heart of the city is very unlike what one can expect from a city of over one million inhabitants. It completely lacks the usual modern glass buildings and tall skyscrapers that make up for most big cities’ centres. In fact, Perm’s centre is mostly made up by colorful, classic 3-storied mansions of Soviet architecture, making the centre breath a rather relaxed and pleasant atmosphere. Currently, many buildings in the centre are under renovation, preserving this atmosphere for future times. Among the most prominent buildings in the city are the centrally located “Young people's theatre”, the Feodalyevskaya Church and the Dyagiliev Mansion. Furthermore, the Perm I train station is worth a look, as it is proper ancient (17th century).
In spite of Perm being a relatively unknown city, the city and its region brought forward many famous people. Russia's greatest balerina ever, Anna Pavlova, was born in Perm. Her mentor, ballet impressario Dyaghilev, made fame at young age in Perm theatres. Later he became a sensation in Europe during 2 decades of his “Ballets Russes”. Dyaghilev's former mansion in the centre of Perm is now a museum. Tchaikovsky, one of the greatest composers ever, was born in a small town just south of Perm. Furthermore, Perm was home of Popov, the inventor of radio, and of Boris Pasternak, who wrote Dr. Zhivago here. The Stroganovs, the Demidovs and Tatishchevs in Perm make up for Russia's famous industrials. Ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev wrote history when he produced the ballet sensation “The Rites of Spring” in Paris in the early years of the 19th century.
Shopping in Perm is an experience on its own. Like most other cities in Russia, Perm has not got obvious Western-style shopping streets, although the central “Komsomolsky Prospekt” is steadily developing into one. New and modern stores are appearing in and around this proper avenue at a fast rate, among which mostly fashion, jewelry and dining places.
For daily needs, the huge central bazaar is the most popular place. For any tourist, a visit to this site of countless little stands, shops and kiosks simply cannot be missed. The whole city comes together here, making the bazaar probably the most vivid place in Perm. Fruits, vegetables, clothes, cleaning products, tools, audio, sunglasses, kebabs, carpets, almost ANYthing can be purchased here, and usually for very little money too. The large building in the centre of the bazaar is the place where all kinds of meat and milk products are sold. For those looking for cheap clothing, the Chinese-Vietnamese market is the place to go. Decent but cheap is the main subject among the mainly Chinese trade-people at the market.
Furthermore, several smaller markets (“r'ynok”) can be found all over the city, mainly at the crossings of major streets. A number of shopping malls serve those who like to have everything in one building. The biggest one is “Univermag” on the corner of Lenina and Komsomolsky Prospekt. Just across the road are many bakeries, cafes and kebab stands for a short break and a quick snack.
Events in Perm
Events in form of sports and theatre take place nearly every day, one shall not get bored! Most interesting performances of ballet, drama and opera are staged at the Drama Theatre, which is located on Lenina Street, at the central square. The Perm Academic Theatre offers all kinds of famous plays, both Russian and international, and has a full events calendar every day of the month.
Celebrations throughout the city often take place on Russian national holidays:
January 1st & 2nd, New Year
January 7th, Orthodox Christmas
February 23rd, Day of Defender of Motherland (fireworks)
March 8th, Women's Day
May 1st & 2nd, Spring and Labour Day
May 9th, Victory Day (military parades in city centre)
June 12th, Independence Day and City Day of Perm! (huge fireworks at midnight)
November 4th, National Accord Day
December 12th, Constitution Day
Furthermore, several occasional as well as anual music, theatre, folklore and anniversary festivals take place in Perm and its region. There is always something to celebrate in Perm!
Weather & Climate
Russia is renowned for its long and cold winters. In case of Perm in particular, this is only partly true. Perm has a temperate continental climate: winters are by far not as harsh (average day temperature in January is -15°C) when compared to the more eastern parts of the country. Summers are usually very sunny and warm, averagely +25°C in July and August day times. During those months, many citizens can be found sunbathing on the Kama beaches.