250 thousand Norilsk residents greeted Mikhail Gorbachev

250 thousand Norilsk residents greeted Mikhail Gorbachev

November 03, 2023

On September 14, 1988, the CPSU Central Committee’s general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, the future president of the USSR, arrived in Norilsk. It was the first time when the country's first person visited Norilsk.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. The trip took place as part of a visit to the Krasnoyarsk region, and in the same year the book Five Days in September, dedicated to the visit, was published in the regional capital. Of course, not everything was as smooth as she described. There were many problems in the city – with utilities, with transport, and Gorbachev later called this trip a headache. But today it is interesting to read what Norilsk residents complained about to the country’s first person.

“…Polar Norilsk is in many ways a unique city, it has its own face, its own special concerns. The city lives and works, actively promoting perestroika. The first stop of the motorcade on the way from Alykel airport to Norilsk is in the city of Kayerkan. Immediately after the greetings, a lively discussion begins on issues that concern people of different generations. The closest person to the secretary general is geologist from the Norilsk complex expedition Anatoly Akopovich Inglizian. “When will guarantees be created for the construction of housing for those returning to the mainland?” he asks.

Anatoly Akopovich himself has been in the Far North for 16 years. Like most people who were drawn to northern romance from a young age, he has no apartment in their small homeland. Getting it is an almost impossible task. What should he do? This question sooner or later faces thousands of northerners. It faces the state as well. After all, housing construction in the Arctic Circle costs at least three times more than in temperate latitudes. It is much easier to honor a pensioner and provide his apartment to a young worker, because in permafrost conditions it is difficult to find new territories for the construction of new microdistricts.

A. A. Inglizyan is pleased with M. S. Gorbachev’s answer: the government is doing its best solving the housing problem of workers returning from the Far North to their native places. An interesting experience is also being born in the Krasnoyarsk region itself, which stretches for several thousand kilometers from south to north – from the hot steppes of Hakassia to the Arctic ocean. For example, in the southern regions, famous for the fact that they even grow watermelons, the construction of cooperative houses is allowed, and the Norilsk combine directorate, in turn, will provide residents with the necessary amount of money. This will bring undoubted benefits to the combine: by helping veterans settle on the mainland, the enterprise will bring the amount of housing stock up to the standard in a shorter period of time.

It seems that the entire population of 250 thousand Norilsk took to the streets of the city to greet Mikhail Gorbachev. “I’ve long dreamed of coming to your region”, he says. “On behalf of the Central Committee and the government, first of all, I want to tell you that we really appreciate your work. You are doing a job of great importance here. In absentia, I am well acquainted with Norilsk. And yet, it is better, as they say, to see once than to hear a hundred times. I know that you have a lot of problems”.

Somebody in the crowd: “There are a lot of problems, especially environmental protection”.

Gorbachev: “I’ve already been told about this. Yesterday, at a meeting at the Krasnoyarsk scientific center, we very carefully considered issues of paramount importance for the development of the region, including the environmental problem. However, we should remember that these are problems that cannot be solved overnight, even science does not know how to do this. But where everything is clear, we will find the money and fix things immediately. The issue of preschool institutions was also raised. I didn’t know you didn’t have enough kindergartens”.

Voice: “It’s still not enough”.

Gorbachev: “I told the region and Norilsk leaders that this is a big blunder – the lack of places in child care institutions in a region like yours. We agreed: the problem of preschool institutions must be solved”.

Another meeting with city residents took place at a supermarket on Talnahskaya street. Its shelves have a good selection of products: venison, poultry, dairy products. Mikhail Sergeyevich first of all addresses the counter workers:

– Tell me, please, what is missing in the store?

– We can’t complain, Mikhail Sergeyevich! We have a good selection of products.

But then a tall guy squeezes through a group of shoppers.

“It’s wrong to present things as if we don’t have any problems today”, he says. “Children’s tights for example – it’s impossible to buy them in the city. Or powdered milk for children… last winter it was very bad with it.

– How about this winter?

“This winter?” it seems that the young dad is lost, but only for some moments. “It hasn’t been winter yet”, he declares cheerfully to the friendly laughter of guests and hosts. “It turns out there are problems…”

This is how, naturally and simply, a frank conversation begins with the residents of polar Norilsk in their supermarket No. 3. And you notice how the secretary general still turns it to the problems that worry people…”

In the History Spot’s previous publication, we told what surprised visiting tourists in Norilsk in the 1960s.

Text: Svetlana Ferapontova, Photo: Nornickel Polar Branch archive

November 03, 2023

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