Days of Night - Nights of Day

Elena Chernyshova

2012 - 2013

Norilsk is a mining city northernmost of the polar circle with a population of more than 170 000. The city, its mines and metallurgical factories were constructed by prisoners of the Gulag.

60% of the present population is involved in the industrial process. Norilsk is the 7th most polluted city in the world. The average temperature is -10C, reaching lows of -55C in winter, when for two months the city is plunged into polar night.

The living conditions of the people of Norilsk are unique, making their plight incomparable.

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  • Norilsk minerals are extracted in six underground mines. The deposits contain nickel, copper, palladium, platinum, cobalt, gold, and other rare components.
    Melting department is filled with gas emanation. The workers are breathing with masks or with the help of tubes linked to coal filters.

  • Life expectancy is ten years less than the average in Russia, while life expectancy in Russia is already low enough, about 60 years.
    The emissions provoke the diseases of lungs, of respiratory and digestive systems, and can cause cancer. There are many cases of allergies, asthma, diseases of the cardiovascular system, blood disorders, skin problems or mental disorder.
    Following some independent studies, the risqué of cancer in Norilsk is two times greater than in the rest of the country.

  • Anna Vasilievna Bigus, 88, spent ten years of her youth in the Gulag. Separated from her family, she was sent at the age of 19 above the polar circle from her native village in the western part of Ukraine. “The only joy we could have in Gulag was singing. We sang a lot. And this gave us forces to survive…” she said. Her daughter became teacher of music and her grandchildren sing in opera and play in a rock group. Vasilievna died on 30 October 2012.

  • A lack of green spaces in Norilsk, Russia, has forced inhabitants to domesticate industrial zones for their leisure and recreation, including picnics, barbecues, sunbathing, and swimming.

  • Architects created urban spaces that protect inhabitants of Norilsk, Russia, from the area’s violent winds. The buildings are grouped together to form enclosed courtyards and with narrow passages between buildings.

  • The majority of the buildings in Norilsk, Russia, are constructed with pre-built panels. These buildings were called “Gostinka” and were considered temporary accommodations for newly arrived workers, but many of them became permanent dwellings.

  • The extreme winter conditions forbid most outdoor activities, so the majority of daily life occurs in confined spaces.

  • Norilsk, Russia, is a mining city north of the polar circle with a population of more than 170,000 people. It is the seventh most polluted city in the world, and 60 percent of its population is involved in industry. Gulag prisoners constructed the city, its mines, and factories.

  • During a two-month period in the winter, the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon in Norilsk, Russia. This polar night, when the body is deprived of melatonin-giving light, can lead to a loss of deep sleep, irritation, fatigue and even depression. Most apartments in Norilsk are equipped with UV lamps to simulate natural light.

  • 5. Sulfur dioxide is a principal source of acid rains in the area. They cause serious damage on the wildlife, vegetation, water of the region. Almost 100 000 ha of the fragile forest of tundra near the city is dead or is under the danger.
    The concentration of heavy metals in the earth is so high that it is forbidden to collect mushrooms and berries in the radius of 30 km around the city.

  • Norilsk, Russia, one of the world’s coldest cities, has a severe subarctic climate. Winters are long with average temperatures of -30 C and more than 130 days with snowstorms.

  • The majority of buildings in Norilsk were constructed on pilings. Thawing of the upper layers of permafrost provokes the instability of the system of pilings. Supporting walls move and crack in this way a building comes to an emergency state. These edifices are progressively abandoned.

  • The mines, factories and the biggest part of the contemporary city were built by forced labor workers of Gulag. During 20 years about 500 000 prisoners, from which thousands have lost their lives, labored in Norilsk for its construction and operation.

  • A lack of green spaces in Norilsk, Russia, has forced inhabitants to domesticate industrial zones for their leisure.

  • Ice swimming is one activity that people undertake to cope with the winter, even on days when the air feels like -40 C with wind. After diving into ice holes, swimmers warm up in small banyas (saunas) heated with the steam from the power plant.

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