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Gulag Baden-Baden

Robert Skidelsky takes part in an unusual academic conference on the edge of Siberia. He visits Stalin's last gulag and hears Shirley Williams sing

Friday 27th March

Edward (my son) and I board the flight to Moscow at Terminal 4, Heathrow. I am to take part in a conference at Perm, organised by the Moscow School of Political Studies. Perm is on the edge of Siberia; a city of more than 1m people with a cultural past (Diaghilev was born there) and a depressed industrial present. “Experts” are being assembled to advise regional officials and politicians on how to make the most of self-government-an important topic in view of the paralysis of the centre. My most prized possession is a bath plug. I remember…

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