If you face the Oktyabrskaya Square, where we walked the last time, you will have a view of Mount Schmidtikha, the dam and Lake Dolgoe. It separates the relatively modern Norilsk with its high-rise buildings from the old one – Sotsgorod. That was the name of the village of Norilsk that appeared on the map of the country in the 1930s.
Yes, Norilsk was not always a city. Long before this status was granted in 1953, it was listed as a GULAG village, lost in the tundra, in which there were hundreds of civilians, and the rest of the population were convicts.
The first street of the village began from the Zero picket. It was called Gornaya. The city started with that street in the 30s of the last century. In August 1935, the first meters of a narrow gauge railway that connected the Zero Picket site with Valek marina on the Norilka River were laid. On Gornaya Street, the new working village housed the first school, and offices, and houses for bosses.
Zavodskaya Street was going perpendicularly to Gornaya one. The factory was much longer and ended with the entrance to the industrial site. Two-storey residential houses were situated there with a corridor system, a clinic, a shop and offices. Then came the so-called “Shanghai” – buildings constructed by people for themselves. Families who arrived in Norilsk on call for developing the industry, as well as freed prisoners who remained in Norilsk for various reasons lived in it.
The “architecture” of these structures was as rational as possible. If one barrack was built, the second one had three walls – as it was adjusted to the first one so they had one common wall. To get inside such a dwelling, the owners made holes in the snow as the selfmade houses were completely covered with snow. The people managed to light both the aisles and the dwelling itself. The stoves, the red-hot heaters, warmed the inside even in severe frosts.
The first Norilsk theater was located at the crossroads of Zavodskaya and Gornaya; it was opened here during the Great Patriotic War years. The main street was Oktyabrskaya. After the war, this place was considered the center of the village, and its decoration was the House of Engineering and Technical Workers. In the three-storey building of the Stalinist Empire there was a huge auditorium, a library, and a dining room below. Amateur performances were working here in full swing, the plant’s assets, New Year’s parties, etc.
Norilsk was the personification of contrasts. In 1946, the city successfully coped with the plan, having won a leading place in social competitions. After the war, it was also customary to celebrate holidays on such occasions.
Text: Marina Khoroshevskaya, Photo: Norilsk archives