Recognizable Perm

Perm Animal Style

Perm Animal style is the art of small metal objects typical for the people who inhabited the Perm land. The most ancient objects date back to the period between 8 and 3 centuries B.C. The items reflect the time in complex manner, blending the images of humans, animals, birds and even mystical beings. 

The items primarily tell the stories related to the myths of Finno-Ugric tribes and represent a specific illustration to the ancient legends. They reflects the social organization of the tribes, their activities and the idea of the world surrounding them.  .

Animal art items were multi-purpose, some of them served as  decorations only, other were used  as charms.  The ancient tribes highly valued the belts as special amulet, to which other smaller charms were attached.  The Perm Animal style also includes the figures and  lockets  in the form of birds, bear-heads, human-like figures.  

The Perm Gods

Perm wooden sculptures (the “Perm Gods”) are truly unique. In the 17-18th centuries they  were widespread  in the churches in the north of the Perm province. The local population historically being pagan,  even  after they were christianised, could not get used to praying in front of the painted icons; so they would carve the figures of Jesus and other saints from wood, in fact, continuing to worship their wooden idols. The three-dimensional images were much more understandable for them. 

Inspite of the ban on the wooden sculptures in church procedures (the Orthodox Church viewed them as insulting), the “wooden gods” for many centuries increased in number in the Urals churches, especially in the areas populated by the Komi-Permyaks.

The Perm Wooden sculptures manifest a large-scale artistic vision, vivid imagination, strong emotion and extraordinary skills of their creators who seem to give their efforts and souls to the utmost   to these masterpieces.   The sculptures faces vividly express sufferings and self-sacrifice; however, they also manifest quite evidently ethnic features of the Komi-Permyak local population - high cheekbones and Asiatic-style  eyes.

The Komi-Permyaks treated wooden sculptures with piety and touching care: they would dress them up and put shoes on their feet as if they were alive, and bring them treats and gifts.  The local people believed that the wooden sculptures came to life at night and walked around the church, so their shoes were changed regularly.

The world’s largest collection of Perm wooden sculpture is the treasure of Perm State Art Gallery; it contains about 370 wood-carved images.  

The Tzar Cannon

The world’s largest 20-inchcast-iron smoothborne gun on gun-carriage, commonly called the “Tzar Cannon”, which was made  as a battle weapon, was cast in the Motovilikha works in 1869. 

The best iron ores  from the bank of the Chusovaya and the Kos’va rivers were used, as well as the haematite ores from the Vishera, the combination of which made  the secret of  technology of the time. Haematite in the Urals used to be named  “the iron shine” or the “blood stone” and was believed to be a magic stone, protecting from evil forces. It was believed to make warriors invulnerable. The fetishers used this stone as a charm during their services.  Our ancestors  knew very well that iron cast with haematite admixture becomes  rust-resistant. 

The “Tzar Cannon” fired 314 test shots made over the Kama (which is 800 to 1000 meters wide at the place) using various cannon-balls.

The features of the Tzar Cannon:

• gun lengths  — 4.9 meters;
• calibre  — 20 inches  (508 mm);
• gun thickness  — 180 mm;
• gun weight  — 2800 “puds” (45.9 tons), which is about 5 tons heavier that the Tzar Cannon in Moscow Kremlin;
• gun-carriage weight  — 6000 puds  (98.3 tons);
• cannon-ball weight  — 30 puds (459 kg);
• cannon-ball charge weight  — 4 puds ( 244 kg).

The full-size replica of the Tzar-cаnnon was placed in front of Russia’s pavilion at the World Exhibition in 1873 in Vienna. 

The Perm cannon was meant to be placed in the Konstantin Fort of Kronstadt where a special gun carriage  was constructed enabling the cannon to engage in a round fire defending St. Petersburg from the sea attacks. However, the giant cannon returned to Perm as by that time it became out-of-date technically. Emperor Alexander II ordered that the cannon should be protected as a history item. 

At present Perm Tzar Cannon is displayed in the open-air museum at “Motovilkha works”.  

Perm Ballet

Perm ballet is an integral part of the city having  a  long and illustrious history. The Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre named after Pyotr Tchaikovsky was founded on 24 November,1870 and is one of the oldest in Russia. It is the only theater in Russia which staged all ballets and operas written by Tchaikovsky.

The theatre is involved actively into many important social and professional events, as it has been the organizer of the Arabesque Open National Ballet Competition and International festival “The Diaghilev Seasons: Perm – Petersburg – Paris”.  The theatre boasts repeatedly winning “The Golden Mask” – the highest national theatrical prize. Perm Ballet group regularly tours not only the Russian cities but also abroad, with  performances branded as “The Tchaikovsky Ballet” and presenting the best of the ballets. The theatre has a successful experience of partnership with world famous ballet groups in co-staging international projects. 

The ballet group of Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre marked  its 90th anniversary in 2016.  February 2nd, 1926 is considered to be the first landmark in its history when  “Giselle”, staged by  Boris Scherbinin, the graduate of the Bolshoi Ballet School,  was presented to the Perm public; the students of Perm dance group, led by Scherbinin, took part in the performance. 

During the Great Patriotic War  (1941—1945) Perm (named Molotov at the time) hosted the ballet groups of the Kirov Theatre (now the Mariinsky Theatre) and the Choreography School (now Russian Ballet Academy named after A. Vaganova) evacuated from Leningrad.  During three theatrical seasons 27 operas and ballets were staged in Perm and the public saw 1008 performances. 

To train dancers for the Perm ballet the Perm State Choreography School was founded. Being an essential part of the acting theatre, the school produced quite a large number of famous dancers; nevertheless, its  largest achievement is its contribution to the establishing  of Perm Ballet Company, which is  noted for its professionalism and unity of   style. The graduates of the school join the company every year; this tradition, among all, provides for a continuous success of Perm Ballet internationally.  Perm State Choreography School marked its 70thanniversaryin 2015.

Starting from  1965, when Perm School graduates Rimma Shlyamova and Lev Asaulyak won the Grand-Prix at International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria,  a recognizable    Perm ballet style   achieved world-wide recognition and had flourished  to the full by the 1970s. 

The theatre owes its unique repertoire to the chorographer Marat Gaziev who headed the ballet company in  1960-1967 and is noted for many novelties introduced into performances, paying attention not only to technical and artistic aspects of the dance, but making the latter  an instrument to reflect and understand life images impersonalized in music. The  1970s can truly be named “the golden age” of Perm ballet group  with its many successful and hotly discussed  productions directed by  Nikolay Boyarchikov (who lead the company in 1970-1977).  This was followed by a period of  neoclassical tradition developed by choreographer Georgy Alexidzein 1980—1983, and still a new rise for the theatre was promoted  by Vladimir Salimbayev who made an extensive use of music and literature produced in the Urals;  however, his most famous and significant staging  became “Spartacus”  in 1985.Kirill Shmorgonerand Natalya Akhmarova, both brilliant dancers, contributed to further development of the ballet group leading it in the 1990-2009.  Since  2009 Perm ballet has been managed  by choreographer Alexander Miroshnichenko,  a graduate of the Russian Ballet Academy who started his career at the Mariinsky Theatre. 

Perm ballet today is ranking highly as one of the best in Russia, up-keeping its traditions and implementing most ambitious projects; its professional level and spectacular performances earned love of its audiences and the recognition from the experts worldwide. 

The theatre’s repertoire also includes classic works by Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev, and Stravinsky. The theatre has staged the Russian premières of such operas as Edison Denisov’s The Foam of Days, Jules Massenet’s Cléopâtre, Rodion Shchedrin’s Lolita, George Handel’s Alcina, Claudio Monteverdi’s Orfeo, Alexander Tchaikovsky’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and Pascal Dusapin’s Medeamaterial. Audiences in Perm have the opportunity to see ballets by William Forsythe, Jiří Kylián and Kenneth MacMillan, and opera productions by Philipp Himmelmann and Andrejs Žagars.


Sergei  Diaghilev 

A Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario and founder of the “Ballets Russes” in Paris and the “Diaghilev Russian Ballet Group” Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev was born on March 31, 1872  and spend his early childhood and youth in Perm.  The building on the corner of modern Sibiskaya and Pushkina streets is the former Diaghilevs’ family mansion, now housing part of the Classical School No 11, named after the  famous resident of Perm. 

Diaghilev is known as one of the founders of the association called “The World of Art” which contributed significantly to cultural development of Russia at the turn of the century. 

For a time Diaghilev was responsible for  production of the Annual of the Imperial Theatres magazine, being in service at  the imperial theatres directorship as a special assistant. Having quitted the service, he plunged into organizing the exhibition of old Russian portraits,  first in Russia, then taking it to France; his interests led him further to organizing concerts of Russian actors abroad. 

In 1908 Sergei Diaghilev mounted a production of  Russian operas to Paris, namely, “Boris Godunov” by Mussorgsky and  “Ruslan and Ludmila” by Glinka. In  1909 he reappeared in Paris presenting first operas as well as ballets, then focusing solely on ballets and  thus launching his famous “Russian Seasons” which created many of sensations.

After the breakout of the  World War I,  Diaghilev abandoned Russia moving to Europe, to start his “Ballets Russes” - a company which functioned until 1929.

For 20 years of its existence his theatrical company presented the best ballet-masters of the time, among them were Mikhail Fokin, Vaclav Nijinsky, George Balanchine, Serge Lifar.  Many of them were Diaghilev’s pupils, and he was well-known to have a good eye for talent.   It was Diaghilev who involved  the best artists of the time into  designing the costumes and the set for his ballets,   the names including   Аlexander Benois,  Leon Bakst, Nikolay Rerikh, Alexander Golovin,  Natalya Goncharova,  Mikhail Larionov,  Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, etc.

Diaghilev’s company revealed to the wide public  the best of Russian dancers, who became world-famous  starring  in the Ballets Russes performances -  among them were Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina, Olga Spesivtseva, Vaclav and Bronislava Nijinsky, Mikhail Fokin, Alexandra Danilova. Diaghilev’s activities and his company  tours to the greatest  extent contributed to what is called  the “renaissance of ballet”.

As the first ballet impresario, Sergei Diaghilev significantly influenced both the development of ballet in the 20th century and changing attitudes of serious masters. His stagings are still alive in  the largest theatres world-wide: in Moscow, Saint-Petersburg,  Paris, London and New York, and many of them were  filmed.

Perm city is proud of hosting the annual international cultural festival named after Diaghilev. The first festival was initiated by Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre;  interestingly, the building which houses the theatre was erected with substantial donations from the Diaghilev family. 


Boris Pasternak

Boris Leonidovich Pasternak (10 February  1890 – 30 May 1960),  a Soviet Russian poet, a novelist,  winner of Nobel Prize for Literature (1958)  is known to have lived in the Perm region  in 1916. It was in Perm that Pasternak had made  literature  his  choice in life, and the Urals became an  important part  of  his artistic vision of the world. 

Early in 1916 young Boris Pasternak arrived to the settling of Vsevolodo-Vylva in the Perm region and stayed in the house of Boris Zbarsky who was then a manager at the Savva Morozov’s estate and plants.  Quite interestingly,  it was the same mansion  where Russian writer  Anton Chekhov stayed visiting the place on Morozov’s  invitation  in 1902. 

Pasternak did not stay long  in the Urals, only for six months.  However,   there is now a museum of the poet in Vsevolodo-Vylva. Some of the events in Pasternak’s most famous novel “Doctor Zhivago” take place in Vsevolodo-Vylva. 

The short stay in Perm came to be known  as the “Perm period” in poet’s biography,  which Pasternak himself referred  to as one of the best times in his life. 

Many of his poems would reflect different impressions the poet experienced while in Perm. The city of Perm and the Kama river also feature in his short novels.   Perm is believed to have been the town of Yuryatin described in  “Doctor Zhivago” – one can still find “Lara’s house” opposite the “mansion with figures”, as well as the library featuring in the novel ( still functioning as a library).

It seems quite natural that Pasternak had Perm in mind while describing Yuryatin, as Perm at the time was the only Ural city which he knew well enough.  Moreover, Perm was linked to the events in  poet’s life the memories of which he cherished. 

Very accurate details of Perm are also found in Pasternak’s letters, describing in full the landscapes, streets and buildings. 

To keep memory of Pasternak the city erected a monument to the poet (which happened to be the first one in Russia) opened on June 12, 2009 during the City Day festivities.  

Boris Pasternak never returned to Perm again. However, his Perm period was fruitful for  Russian culture   in general  as it turned out to be  an  artistic  opening up of the Urals.