Norilsk: the City of Strong Winds and Polar Nights

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Photo by Elena Chernyshova

Interest in the city of Norilsk began when geologists discovered rich deposits of nickel, copper and cobalt in the area in the beginning of the 20th century. In 1936, Russia built a mining and metallurgical complex in the area using Gulag prisoners. The forced labor workers constructed the city, mines, and factories over a period of 20 years. Norilsk is now home to over 170,000 people, making it one of the largest arctic cities.

Photos are clickable.

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Photo by Elena Chernyshova

Members of a local club of ice swimmers are not afraid to swim even at -40C and in a strong snowstorm. After such extreme swimming they warm up in small saunas heated by steam from a local power plant.

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Photo by Elena Chernyshova

Within a radius of thirty kilometers around Norilsk about 100 thousand hectares of land is burnt out…

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Photo by Elena Chernyshova

The pipe has burst in the house and everything froze, resembling ice stalactites.

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Photo by Elena Chernyshova

Stalin’s architecture prevailing in the center of Norilsk.

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Photo by Elena Chernyshova

Ore mining in one of the seven open pits. Despite the severe climate conditions they work non-stop.

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Photo by Elena Chernyshova

Smelter shop is filled with gas and is really hot, workers use special masks and pipes connected with carbon filters to breathe here.

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Photo by Elena Chernyshova

Industrial landscape in the middle of endless tundra.

Today, the city exists because of the mining and the metallurgical complex

Photo by Elena Chernyshova

Today, the city exists because of the mining and the metallurgical complex. Minerals are extracted in six underground mines, providing employment for over half of Norilsk’s population. Even commuting becomes dangerous when it means crossing 15 miles of tundra in a snowstorm. Public buses travel in convoys of 15-20 vehicles, so that if a bus breaks down, passengers can be immediately evacuated onto another bus.

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Photo by Elena Chernyshova

Ruins of the House of Culture in the village of miners. Here is where former GULAG prisoners used to live for some time.

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Photo by Elena Chernyshova

Luckily for those who live here today, the city was designed by those who knew enough about the local climate: architects attempted to protect residents from violent winds by grouping buildings together, forming enclosed courtyards. Narrow passageways between buildings allowed for easy access.

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Photo by Elena Chernyshova

The playground is empty, it’s allowed to let children walk only in particular temperature and wind speed ranges. Sometimes they spend more than a month sitting at home.

One of the coldest cities in the world, Norilsk has an average yearly temperature of 15 degrees Fahrenheit

Photo by Elena Chernyshova

One of the coldest cities in the world, Norilsk has an average yearly temperature of 15 degrees Fahrenheit, with winter spanning 280 days of the year and reaching lows of -58 degrees. Temperatures feel even colder with wind chill, and heat is required for approximately 10 months out of the year.

The allure of making money in Norilsk’s harsh climate disappeared after Perestroika and the disintegration of the USSR

Photo by Elena Chernyshova

The allure of making money in Norilsk’s harsh climate disappeared after Perestroika and the disintegration of the USSR. The 1990s then brought a period of economic upheaval, resulting in abandoned businesses and inflation. The city now faces increasing numbers of decrepit buildings.

via nat-geo.ru

5 thoughts on “Norilsk: the City of Strong Winds and Polar Nights”

  1. Interesting that Western media slams Russia pretty hard on their ‘primitive’ technological knowledge, yet Canada can’t: regularly send cosmonauts into deep space & return them safely without the help of another country, we can’t build numerous long term mining cities in our north, we can’t design, build, update, and successfully market all manner of things such as military aircraft, arms of all types, and on and on. The only place we might have a lead on the Russians is in the field of medical care.
    I respect the technical knowledge of the Russians.

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