Alexander Haritonov – is a well-known person in the city. Versatile. Passionate. He does not tell what to do to his five children or others around him. But Alexander’s projects and ideas help many Norilsk residents to get in touch with the history of Taimyr and to get involved in its culture.
The connection with Norilsk in Alexander Haritonov’s family dates back to the pre-war years, when his grandfather was exiled here. In 1942, the whole family arrived. Alexander, although he was born in Moscow (when his parents were students), rightfully considers himself a Norilsk citizen.
He has a philosophical approach to the issue of choosing a profession. He jokes that he received diplomas of five institutes in various specialties.
“I came to the conclusion that higher education is unnecessary. Diploma is just a piece of paper. The main thing is what you do in life. I adhere to this opinion even now, although my three sons graduated from institutes, my daughter is in her third year at GITIS (Russian Institute of Theater Arts), the youngest son is still at school. I do not tell them that there is no need to study. It is necessary if there is a clear understanding of what you want to do”, Alexander notes.
The vital energy and desire to work has been pushing him to work from his youth to this day. Having started his career in the copper electrolysis workshop (CEW) of the Copper plant, for several years the young specialist studied the work of the workshop in details, tried himself in various specialties. At the same time, he headed the Komsomol organization, of the CEW first, and later – that of the entire plant.
“In 1989, perestroika began. Cooperatives were created. Instead of taking money from the enterprise, we earned them ourselves: we made copper bracelets, held discos, and many other things”, Alexander recalls.
In the early 90s, he left the factory for one of the first cooperatives to immerse himself in the realm of music. The active nature did not allow to sit still, and soon Alexander Haritonov new the world of rock music so well that he could be considered a “walking encyclopedia”. He knew all Russian and foreign musicians, their discography. The next step was musical records, which he brought to Norilsk from different cities of the country, and, of course, concerts.
“I opened a shop that had everything about music. In those days, there was a powerful cultural and musical community in Norilsk. We sold records, then CDs, recorded tapes and invited artists. I was the first to bring to the city the bands Voskresenye, Chaif, Nautilius Pompilius, Agatha Christie… The mid-90s was a great splash of rock culture in our city. It was very interesting”, the Norilsk resident does not hide his pride.
There were difficult situations in Alexander’s biography but life improved and a new period began – journalism.
“I became a correspondent for the Zapolyarnaya Pravda newspaper. At the same time, I came to the popular radio Modem and conducted morning broadcasts from 6 to 10 o’clock for a whole year. It was fun. Each presenter had his own schtics and traditions. Mine was Tsoi’s song at 7 o’clock in the morning, and at 7.30 I told children a morning fairy tale…”, Alexander shares his memories.
In the late 90s, a new TV channel opened in Norilsk, and he found himself there. Helped to make the first programs. It can be said that he stood at the origins of the Severny Gorod media company.
“Making something out of nothing is cool. This is exactly what is important in life: to leave a mark. Not just to talk or take selfies and show on Instagram. It’s all great, no problem. But you don’t leave anything behind. Instead, you could leave books, photographs that people will remember, city objects or a series of concerts”, Alexander contemplates.
Working at Zapolyarnaya Pravda, he discovered his talent as a photographer. Since then, the name of Alexander Haritonov on the photographs has been a kind of quality mark.
The printing agency, which he opened together with his wife, produces products about Norilsk and Taimyr: postcards, calendars, books and other publications.
“We strive to popularize Norilsk even among Norilsk residents”, Alexander Haritonov emphasizes. “Everyone knows what Norillag is, for example. But what happened there, is not a matter of public record. For the anniversary of the 1953 revolt (in 2013), we hung black flags on the houses. According to the tradition of the forced labor camp years, it was a tribute to the memory of the deceased prisoners”.
Another format of immersion in history is the game “48 hours”, created by Alexander by analogy with the popular quest Watch. For several years, more than 200 people a year took part in it! Once, during the game at the Zero Point, the actors of the drama theater in military uniforms played the role of the prison convoy and the participants pretended to be the Norillag prisoners. Each was treated like a real detainee of that time and given a ration, recreated according to historical information. It was a powerful and emotional lesson for young people. Real immersion.
Two years ago, Alexander Haritonov, using his own funds, restored a panel with a snowflake image on one of the first houses on Leningradskaya Street. This event made many Norilsk citizens happy, especially the old residents, for whom the snowflake image was one of the childhood symbols.
“I like to help people. I don’t like working under someone else’s leadership and consider myself a creative performer. I would like to make beauty for everyone, not just for a specific employer. I did what I could for the city. Perhaps there will be new projects. I follow the life of the city, I love Norilsk and want to preserve that important thing that makes our territory special. Its hard history”, Alexander Haritonov summes up.
Read in the Territory genius section: why Valeria Bolgova is considered the queen of the tundra, why the teacher of the Norilsk Institute Sergey Bibik earned a standing ovation from the students, and why the native Muscovite Vladimir Larin devoted his whole life to Taimyr.
Text: Yulia Gubeladze, Photo: Alexander Haritonov’s personal archive