The Violet Window

Carlos Folgoso

2017 - Ongoing


In the Russian far east there is an entire area of new founded towns which owes its existence to the discovery of diamonds deposits and which future depends critically on the decisions of one of the world's biggest enterprises in the diamond trade.

The republic of Sakha, in Siberia, has an area five times the size of France but with a population less than one million produces around the 28 percent of all world's rough diamonds.

In the second half of last century, when this diamonds deposits were discovered close to the Arctic Circle, people started to live in this remote area founding new "secret" towns, which got code names due diamonds was a strategic sector during the Cold War. This area is above permafrost (permanently frozen ground under the soil), and, with long periods of winter, temperatures can reach around to -50°c.

Actually this towns (Mirnyj, Aykhal, Udachny, Nakyn...) are a good example of what Russians call “Monogorods” (cities dominated by a single company), more than 50% population works directly or indirectly for Alrosa company, which also have an airline, hotels, real estate company, sports centers, theaters or culture palaces.

The unpredictable future of this area (Alrosa has diamond reserves for around 25 more years), the extreme cold, loneliness and isolation are the main pillars in which inhabitants of this area build their lives.

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  • View of Markha river in Mirninsky district. During winter in all areas of permafrost, rivers are completely frozen facilitating ground communications.

  • Not far from Mirny airport there is an old 74-200 VostSibAereo airplane which crashed in 1996, In early spring the high snow level made of this place a good area for this parkour guys to practise their jumps.

  • View of Mirny town and Mir open pit. With 525 m. (1,722 ft) deep and 1,200 m. (3,900 ft) diameter, is one of the largest excavated holes in the world.
    Founded in 1956, Mirny town got its name from Mir open pit. "Mirny" is the russian word for "peaceful" as "Mir" is for "Peace", this is due in Cold War times, Soviet Union used coded names for all this areas because diamonds were an strategic sector.
    Since 2001 open pit Mir works are stopped and only underground works are carried out.

  • A man waits for the bus which goes to Alrosa's Platform n3. Around 50% of Mirny’s residents work for Alrosa in some form or another. P3 was constructed 20 km out of the city due the ground in the city is not too stable because extreme cold and high temperature variances.

  • This man suffered a kind of epileptic attack in the early morning while he was walking on Tikhonova Street, in Mirny center. When the ambulance arrived, doctors founded an almost empty bottle of Vodka inside his jacket.

  • Wasiliy Vasiliyev Ilych (31) sleeps in the shoulder of his wife who he married only one month before this picture was taken. They are travelling by taxi from Yakutsk (where they are from) to Mirny because he works as a mining engineer for Alrosa.

  • Zarnitsa open-pit, in Udachny, was discovered in 1954 and became the very first primary diamond deposit in Soviet Union. Udachny has an extreme subarctic climate, winters are extremely cold, with average temperatures from −43.6 °C to −35.2 °C which makes conditions of work very hard.

  • Alrosa workers place a containment grid inside International Underground Mine.
    In August 2017, a flooding incident occurred while 151 people were inside Mir underground mine, most of them were brought to the surface after the flood started, but 8 are still missing.

  • Udachny town in Yakutia (Udachny means “lucky” in Russian) is located 16 kilometers southward from the Arctic Circle. Udachny was founded in 1967 in conjunction with the beginning of developing the Udachnaya kimberlite pipe. Winter in Udachny is very long. In 2018 citizens of Udachny met first snow on 20 of July. There is a bright colors shortfall, because of that, houses here have very colorful facades, usually with four or five different colors.

  • Canteen of Nakyn industrial settlement. Miners and ore processing engineers live in Nakyn in shifts of two weeks or one month at time. No culture palace, sport palace, supermarket or bar are in Nakyn, due it's a industrial settlement only a medical centre and a canteen are there. Alcohol is strictly prohibited there.

  • Twins Ageenko (18 years old) were born and grew up in Ukraine, not far from Donetsk. In 2015, after the Donbass war exploded they moved to live in Mirny, where her father has a sister.

  • Andreyj was the director of the Aeromodelling club of Mirny. Years ago, Alrosa used to finance hobbies of local population, like this Aeromodelling club. Actually, Alrosa considers this type of expenses as a negative point in the annual balance of the company, this makes that Alrosa support less and less this type of initiatives. Actually, Aeromodelling club is self-financed.

  • View of Mirny town after the sunset. On the left of the picture, a big poster of national russian hero Yuri Gagarin covers the wall of the Hospital complex building. On the back of the picture, it can be seen the Alrosa Plant n3.

  • The long duration of the winter season and the absence of sunlight makes that people install ultraviolet lights in the houses, to grow their plants and vegetables.
    From the street it is common to see in many buildings, windows with internal violet shining, which correspond to interior winter gardens.

  • Ubanobur Bekusov, who is 61 years old, poses in his wood atelier. Ubanobur is actually a pensioner. He was born in Moscow and after work as a sailor in Murmansk, he decided to move to Siberia to work in an open diamonds mine. He married and remained to live in Almazny (Sakha).

  • View of a wall paint in a Mirny's local coffe bar.

  • Children from the ballet school “The diamonds of Yakutia” waiting before a performance.
    Ballet is a very important element in Mirny’s cultural life. Usually, girls start from her childhood to practise ballet and the trainings are around 6 hours per day, 7 days in the week. “The diamonds of Yakutia” school is located in Mirny Culture Palace, which belongs to Alrosa.
    According with Alrosa's information, In 2017, Alrosa implemented over 500 social and charitable initiatives.

  • Oksana (31) at home with her son Arsi (2).
    She was born in Mirny but left the town and went to study in Saint-Petersburg when she was a teenager. After15 years in S.P. Arsi was born and she came back to Mirny to grow up him.

  • The Alrosa Logo covers the wall of a building, in Udachny town. On the left of the picture, the entrance to the only hotel in the town.

  • Alina Kharishova (26) from Kazan, poses while smoking in front of Mir open pit. Alina moved from Kazan to live with her boyfriend, Gallil, in Mirny. They are planning to move back to Kazan to form their live there because Mirny's future is uncertain due depends only on Alrosa's investments.