Colossal funds were spent on cleaning from drifts. During the winter, emergency work was carried out 15–17 times.
In January 1937, the first experimental snow fighting station was created in Norilsk. That had happened before the first transport office appeared in the village.
The first snowplows guarded the railway, because it suffered the most. In 1936, when the first railway tracks were laid, the first snow-protection fences in Norilsk, or Potapov’s shields (named after the one who invented them), appeared along them.
But, despite all efforts, snowfalls stopped the work of railway workers almost every winter: trains went off the rails, locomotives were completely covered with snow, machinists died.
Before they had time to clear the paths, a new blizzard began. One of the main ‘generals’ in this war with the elements was Mikhail Potapov. Railroad worker, engineer, inventor, exiled to Norilsk during Stalin’s repressions. The Norilsk people nicknamed him Grandfather Snowblow, there was even a local joke: “If you meet the Snowblow – there will be a blizzard!”
For a very long time, the main weapon in snow fighting was a shovel. Expensive mechanical snow removal was used mainly for clearing roads, there were not enough bulldozers.
That continued until 1955, when Norilsk was faced with ‘the need to switch to mechanization of all basic processes’. This vague formulation, taken from the documents of those years, hides a simple fact: the Norillag was closed, the prisoners were freed, and there was no one with a shovel to fight the snow.
In 1955, a mechanized snow fighting workshop was separated from the Central motorcade into an independent subdivision. As it was reported at the Norilsk scientific and technical conference in 1958, snow removal in the city covered only streets and driveways, only 20 percent of the total area. There was no talk of removing snow from the courtyards. And later, in the 1970s and 1980s, a huge mountain of snow in every yard and a cleared perimeter along the entrances was a typical yard landscape.
In the last issue of the History Spot photo project, we told that Norilsk had its own travel and excursion bureau the 1970s.
Text: Svetlana Samohina, Photo: Nornickel Polar Division archive