Photographer Captures the Nothern Beauty of Norilsk City
Norilsk is a city in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia, located above the Arctic Circle, east of the Yenisei River and south of the western Taymyr Peninsula.
The city’s modern history began in the early 20th century, when a geologist’s expedition discovered rich deposits of nickel, copper, and cobalt at the foot of the Putorana Mountains. In 1936, the USSR started building a massive metallurgical complex. The city, its mines, and the metallurgical factories were constructed by Gulag prisoners. For roughly 20 years, about 500,000 inmates labored in Norilsk. Thousands died in the process.
Even forgetting the suffocating environmental concerns, Norilsk is a hard place to live. Intensely cold, the city’s average temperature is subfreezing, and the skies are typically windy and gray throughout the year. The weather is cold roughly 77 percent of the time, and snowstorms are typical on 130 days out of the year. The average annual temperature is -10ºC (14ºF), reaching lows of -55ºC (-67ºF) in the winter, when for two months the city is plunged into polar night.
The cycles of polar day and night also wield powerful influence, both physically and psychologically, on the human body. People in Norilsk can suffer from “polar night syndrome,” experiencing anxiety, nervousness, drowsiness, and/or insomnia. Given the psychological discomfort and lack of environmental stimuli, it should come as no shock that Norilsk has many cases of depression.
A local photographer Vitas Beneta travels around Norilsk and its suburbs, documenting its brutal northern beauty, industrial landscapes and people.