Raising the profile of a Russian province is not easy – there are 83 of them – and most have little to offer aside from a few large factories, a war memorial, and the occasional hockey team.
Intellectual and artistic life is something that happens chiefly in Moscow and St Petersburg, where most money and talent flow. The province of Perm, an industrial city in the picturesque Ural mountains, was one such hinterland, but has resolved to do something about it.
Marat Gelman, the architect of the new policy, calls it “rebranding”. He recently made the reverse pilgrimage, from Moscow, where he was a political consultant, deputy director of a state TV channel, and an art gallery proprietor. In Perm, he heads one of the most spectacular galleries of modern art in Russia – the Perm Museum of Modern Art.
His model for the city’s conversion, he says, is Glasgow. In 1990, it was “just a big industrial city with heavy industry, crime, alcoholism and drugs. Now, they have 3,000 cultural events in a year.”
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Oleg Chirkunov, the province’s governor, is supporting the projects, hoping to reverse the brain drain his city has suffered. The population fell by 160,000 in eight years, as people aged 18-35 moved away.
“In principle, we want to create some life in the city. Why does someone want to live here? A good job, quality education for the kids, and medical services, yes, but also for the sense that something is happening, that life is not being spent doing nothing of value. That is what the function of culture is.
“We’re trying to provide a platform to people who don’t want to just sit around, but who want to make something,” he says.
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з.ы. и это очень хорошо.