The City of Norilsk – One Of The Most Polluted Places On Earth

Earlier this month, a Russian blogger has visited Norilsk, one of the largest industrial cities located beyond the polar circle. Populated by more than 100,000, Norilsk is the world’s northernmost city. It was founded at the end of the 1920s. By 1935, Norilsk was expanded as a settlement for the mining-metallurgic complex and became the center of the GULAG labor camps.

The first house built in Norilsk, in 1921

The first house built in Norilsk, in 1921

Due to the intense mining, the city is one of the ten most polluted cities in the world. The locals are systematically complaining of breathing problems caused by the toxic environment. As if that was not enough, nine underground nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes, including research and mining exploration, were conducted by the Soviet regime. As the result, the rates of allergies, asthma, congenital abnormalities of the cardiovascular system, respiratory and digestion diseases, blood diseases, mental disorders skyrocketed among the city’s population, including children. The cancer rates in that area are twice higher than anywhere in Russia.

The architecture of Norilsk buildings is similar to Leningrad (St. Petersburg). Back in the Soviet times, many Leningrad architects were invited to Norilsk.

Norilsk has an extremely harsh climate. It is not surprising that the snow hasn’t melted still in June. The city is covered with snow for about 250–270 days a year, with snow storms for about 110–130 days. The polar night lasts from December through mid-January, so there is no sun for about six weeks. In summer the sun does not set for more than six weeks, instead it goes around in circles, driving locals crazy.

The uniqueness and brutality of Norilsk is reflected in this aerial photo set taken from a helicopter.


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Further reading:

Russians Adapt to a Freezing, Dark, and Polluted Place – National Geographic
The World’s Most Polluted Places – Time
Eighth Most Polluted City – Thomas White.

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