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I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, So I remember the Cold War and the impression that we were given via the media was that Russia was the enemy and a threat to peace. The images that we saw on TV were often of a militarised Russia, whether it be a Victory Day parade, or the October Revolution parade, whatever the reason and the intent it fed into existing discourses of Russia as a militarised country that potentially could be a threat. Add into the equation the nuclear arms race and this created a largely negative view of Russia. It left you with an impression that Russia was prepared to fight. In my mind, then, growing up, I thought of it as a militarised place.

Even today, the western press talks of Putin’s aggression in Syria and Ukraine as harking back to those old days, where the Soviet state was built upon one great, shared idea of what Soviet Russia was. An identity narrative based around the totem of national power and communism asserted through military action.

So, here I am, in 2016, after my first visit to Russia and suddenly in the middle of Perm Serghei stops the car next to a museum of military vehicles, cannons and missiles. It was an open space and easily accessible to the public. Was it placed there as a symbol of Russia’s military power? Was it some kind of pro-Putin display?

The museum, in terms of what I imagined it represented, was certainly at odds with the rest of Perm, which seemed to me to be in the processes of change that were leading it down a path of westernisation. It was multi-cultural, with many churches of different religions, many restaurants with foods from different regions and countries and it had a number of shopping malls. It even had an Irish themed pub that served Guinness – bonus!

But actually, Perm once had a 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 citizens of Perm. Apparently, until the end of the cold war, Perm did not appear on certain Soviet-made maps, nor did the roads towards it.

This museum then was a testament to that history. It was in fact the Motovilikhinskiy Plant History Museum. The Motovilikhinskiy company was founded in 1736 (pre-Soviet) as a copper mill. It was only in 1863 that artillery production was established and by 1871 Perm was producing 1 in 3 cannons in Russia. In the 1990’s the company was producing mainly heavy plant machinery but in 2011 it established itself once again as a mass production site for artillery. Today it produces new types of metal alloys and the company designs and manufactures special-purpose military-oriented machinery, oilfield equipment and road-building machines (according to their website).

Enjoy.

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Additional Photos by Michael Wright (mjw364) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 630 W: 7 N: 391] (1466)
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