Surprise encounter

Perm, 14.06.2019

During a short break on the motorway, checking messages and Insta on the way to Kazan, I saw a friend from Barcelona posting a picture from home – in Izhevsk, my next stop. The town lies on the way to the Ural mountains and features a museum of Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the infamous submachine gun. And so after a whole afternoon on unexciting roads from Kazan to Izhevsk, we met for dinner. What a surreal coincidence! After not seeing each other for years, we meet in this place thousands of km away from Barcelona, out of nowhere. Thank you Anna for the great conversation over dinner!

The museum was a relatively short affair the next morning. In front of the museum there was a brand new church. On one side the “antiquities” store featured Stalin on its outdoor poster. On the other side comrade Lenin looked at the church from the top of a building in front of it. Kalashnikov guarded the corner in the back with its museum. It’s a telling setting. Since 99% of the museum’s exhibition was in Russian there wasn’t much to read. But there was also no need, the exhibition explained itself. It was a homage to the inventiveness of a man that, after having seen the battlefield realities of inferior weaponry went on to build a reliable, cheap and easy to use killing tool that for decades now has been a best seller on a global scale, in many different variations. 20% of the world’s firearms are Kalashnikov models, 15% of the world’s firearms are versions of the AK-47. It looks surprisingly similar to a German WWII gun. Flags and logos of various countries or revolutionary groups feature a AK-47. When it comes to killing people, this is THE tool. Its users seem to love it everywhere in the world, The Lord of War is a great movie to give this some context.

After lunch the 400km to Perm were unexciting. Entering Perm I thought how entering Kazan seemed the most Soviet town, before entering Izhevsk topped it. Perm topped Izhevsk. I started to get a feeling of what expected me ahead. Driving through the run down neighborhoods of Perm, including the one named after Iron Felix (incredible that in 2019 this is still possible), I had a very hard time to see in Perm the little town where Yuri meets Lara after the war in Pasternak’s “Dr. Zhivago”. It was worlds apart.

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