Norilsk - Elena Chernyshova Photography
Norilsk - Elena Chernyshova Photography

Welcome to Norilsk, Siberia. Where everything is rotten under the snow

It’s a vision of a different eternity, in a dark everlasting snow desert. Like a colony on another planet where the massive brutalistic structures represent the impact of a new alien civilization. Norilsk is a metaphysical place, like a silent post-atomic community living together in freezing obscurity. A mix of Antarctica and Chernobyl, where no outsider is allowed.

Situated in the Arctic circle, Norilsk is covered with snow for about 2/3 of the year. For 65 days in the summer the sun never sets and for 45 days in the winter it nevers rises. The average temperature in January is -30 C°.

Why did people have to settle there? Because Norilsk sits on the largest nickel, copper and palladium deposit on the planet. Norilsk was founded under Stalin’s Ussr with the intent to exploit these highly toxic minerals. It is still today the world’s largest mining and metallurgy complex. This massive exploitation led to tremendous problems: pollution and disease.

Norilsk is one of the most toxic places on Earth. The city by itself counts for 1% of the global sulfur dioxide emissions. Life expectancy of a local resident is 10 years shorter than the Russian average (59 Vs 69). Cancer rate is two times higher than the rest of Russia.

Rotten Trips, reporters of global decadence, can’t recommend you any kind of trip or adventure. Norilsk is locked down and you need a special permit by the Fsb (Russian security) to enter the city.

Today, the nickel factory “Norilsk Nickel” is one of the biggest and more profitable Russian companies, making alone more than 2% of the Russian entire GDP. Government is unwilling to take measures against pollution because of the huge amount of money that Norilsk Nickel brings in.

People here have sacrificed health for money. The average pay for working a dead end job in the mine is upwards 1000 $ per month. Workers in Norilsk enjoy 2 to 3 months of vacation per year. For comparison the average salary in the rest of Russia (as of 2021) is only 700 $ per month.

This is the edge of the world. The northernmost city of the planet where no trees grow, acid rain is a common occurrence and where the sun does not rise for months. Norilsk is indeed deadly beautiful.

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