“Father Frost… in felt boots”

“Father Frost… in felt boots”

November 13, 2023

Norilsk had its own archivist, not by profession, but by vocation. Trofim Garmash was neither a journalist nor a museum worker, but a middle-aged poster artist from the Norilsk enrichment plant.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. In 1964, he came to Norilsk and suddenly became “sick” of its history. He began collecting newspaper clippings, extracts from orders, and mentions in books. He even came up with his own system – a card index of facts. A slight man, a single father of three daughters, with a shabby suitcase filled with cards with a variety of Norilsk facts Garmash seemed like an eccentric. At first, he “dug up the roots” of Norilsk history on a volunteer basis. Later he was given a small position and an office in the House of Technology with a sign Norilsk Combine History Card Index. For several years in the Zapolyarnaya Pravda newspaper, he wrote the columns Archivist’s Notes, Norilsk Chronicle and Ancient Legends. And on Norilsk television he appeared in the According to Norilsk Time review. Trofim Garmash lived to be 76 years old. His factual card index has been preserved in the Norilsk Museum. And here is a short sketch by Garmash about the Norilsk New Year tree.

“Father Frost… in felt boots” (an archivist’s notes)

“Today’s Sunday is the last day of the first week of the new year. It’s not too late to say a few words about our city New Year tree. It also has its own story. No written evidence of our very first Christmas tree has been preserved. However, as old Norilsk residents say, in 1939, by A.P. Zavenyagin’s order, the first Norilsk New Year tree was installed near the Zero Point, near the first school. That’s probably what happened. If in 1938 Norilsk was not yet marked on the map, then in 1939 it was given the title of a workers’ village. That same year, our first pioneer camp opened on the shores of lake Lama, and in the fall, the first Norilsk secondary school opened. Naturally, on December 30, a New Year tree was put up in front of the new school. If we consider this date as its birthday, then today it is 35 years old.

In 1941 and 1942, Norilsk residents did without a Christmas tree – there was no time for it. At the cost of enormous efforts, they established metal production. By the end of the 1940s, the village center gradually moved to the new part of the city, to Gvardeyskaya square. In the center of the square, they installed a village Christmas tree in the place where the stone monolith lies today (since 1968). Father Frost and the Snow Maiden were made in human height – and not from snow, but from wood, tow, burlap, painted by artists and dressed in New Year’s fur coats. Father Frost was wearing real felt boots. In 1963, on the night of January 3, some mischievous person took off Father Frost’s boots and stole them. In the morning, in full view of Norilsk residents, the Father Frost stood barefoot in the snow. What was to be done? It’s impossible to leave the Father barefoot, and it’s not good to provide him with old, worn-out felt boots. So it was decided to remove the Father Frost statue ahead of schedule.

The place for the Christmas tree on Gvardeiskaya square turned out to be not very convenient. Traffic was in the way. There was no place nearby to build a traditional snow hill for sledding. In 1966, the Christmas tree was moved to the square in front of the Palace of Culture, and Father Frost and Snow Maiden began were made from snow. But even here there was not enough space for a walk. Therefore, in subsequent years the New Year celebration site was organized on the square in front of school No. 8.

In preparation for the 1972 meeting, the 31st city Christmas tree was moved to Ordzhonikidze street, opposite Leninsky prospect. Probably, when the construction of the new public center of the city is completed, the tree will be installed in the new city square, where today there is still a wasteland. So our Christmas tree walked from the Zero Point to Ordzhonikidze street and is preparing for a new step forward into the future”.

In the History Spot’s previous publication, we told that writers Lev Gumilyov and Sergey Snegov wrote a historical cartoon in the Norillag forced labor camp.

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Text: Svetlana Ferapontova, Photo: Nornickel Polar Branch archive

November 13, 2023

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