Norilsk, once secret, always forbidden, the city of all extremes. Subjected to frost almost 9 months a year, to the midnight sun almost 4 months and just as much to the polar night. The temperature drops to -50°C, the snow cover is beyond comprehension (2 million tons per year). From December to January, you can only live there with electric light and the pleasant indoor gardens. However, its 176,000 inhabitants, despite implacable conditions, plus intense pollution, lead a "normal" life: Norilsk has its cafés, clubs, dramatic art theatre, art galleries, university, sanatorium (with a lush winter garden). It is also home to a research centre for subarctic agriculture.
The Norillag factory town-gulag was secretly created in 1935 around the gigantic nickel and palladium deposit discovered in the 1920s. 500,000 dissidents were reportedly deported there until 1953. Stalin wanted it to be as pleasing to the eye as Petrograd, which is the inspiration for a pompous city centre around which miles of blocks of buildings gravitate. Built on the permafrost (like its railway, in 1938, a technical feat), it is entirely based on a system of pilings that protects it from the effects of the annual thaw. After the fall of the USSR, the municipality was renamed Norilsk. Among its curiosities, it has collected neighbourhood blocks, with tight outdoor circulation spaces, so as to protect users from the cold. The signage is written in giant characters, visible in all weathers. And then the colored coatings, to break up the gloom. Nowadays, Norilsk carries the weight of his age. Its Stalinist buildings are crumbling and crumbling, while global warming is compromising the solidity of the first metres of permafrost. Hundreds of homes are unhealthy, even dangerous. Not to mention the air and soil quality... It is one of the most polluted cities on the planet, despite its shrinking and low population. The steel and mining combine (currently owned by Nornickel, the world's leading producer of nickel and palladium), the largest in the world (6 underground mines, 800 km of galleries) operates continuously, discharging its 2 million tonnes of polluting effluents every year (as much as France).
Norilsk, classified as a ZATO, requires the presentation of a permit, which is difficult to obtain. They are usually entered as part of organized business trips.
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