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Siberian Contrasts: Closed Cities and Open Spaces

A Talk by Mary McAuley

Language: In English

What was it like to live in a closed city in the Soviet period? What does it mean today? And how did a nature reserve, half the size of England, become a place of refuge for law-abiding Soviet citizens? Using video material, and personal visits, Dr Mary McAuley will talk about both past and present in Krasnoyarsk-29 and the Stolbist movement.


Closed cities, surrounded by their own lakes, forest and a perimeter fence, sometimes only with a number for a name, became a feature of post-war Russia. Today they are half-open. Mary will start with a brief history of the construction of closed cities, the facilities they enjoyed, and the limitations placed on their residents. Then she will focus on Krasnoyarsk-29, a town built round a defence-installation in Krasnoyarsk krai, use a video which shows both its construction, and its citizens at work and play, and give her impressions of life today and of what the future may hold.

The Stolby is a huge nature reserve whose basalt rocks, towering over the forests, are visible from Krasnoyarsk city. The Stolbisty are those who, from the beginning of the last century, have built their cabins in the wilderness, climb the rocks, and sometimes fall to their death. Again, using video material, and personal visits, she will describe this unique and original movement.

Dr Mary McAuley , scholar and author, moved from an academic career at the University of Oxford, to head the Ford Foundation’s Russia office in Moscow in 1995. She has spent perhaps ten of the past twenty years working in different regions in Russia.

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