First book about Norilsk published by non-Norilsk printing house in 1946
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First book about Norilsk published by non-Norilsk printing house in 1946

May 30, 2022

The essays’ collection Northern Lights was published.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. Its author was Yevgeny Ryabchikov – the former Komsomolskaya Pravda’s journalist who served prison sentence for “counter-revolutionary activities” and came to Norilsk in 1943 at the Abraham Zavenyagin’s invitation. He was one of the first Norilsk newspaper For Metal and the bulletins Metal to the Front’s correspondents, issued trade leaflets. Yevgenii Ryabchikov wrote the screenplay for the first film about Norilsk  The Giant of the Arctic. The film crew from Novosibirsk came to the northern city in 1945.

Northern Lights are essays about Norilsk during the war. Of course they showed an idyllic one-sided picture without explaining how the heroic workers’ settlement’s builders got to the Arctic.

The fact that the book about a tightly closed settlement was published is surprising. The decision to publish this book was taken at the very top  in Moscow.

From the book Zavenyagin. Personality and Time by E. Zavenyagina and A. Lvov:

… The Northern Lights manuscript was handed over to Beria (it’s inconvenient to get around the authorities, you never know how they perceive an unprecedented event – a book about a plant subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, at a “point” that is not on the map). Lavrenty Pavlovich decided to get acquainted with the author. The conversation was friendly. Abraham Zavenyagin sat modestly aside on the sofa. And suddenly he retorted. Ryabchikov did not manage to remember it: either he did not hear or he forgot – in an instant it was not up to it. The cabinet’s host who had just explained to the guest how the book about our wonderful North and its inhabitants would be useful to the people flashed his eyes, jumped up and burst into such abuse which the reporter rarely heard from the loaders of Nizhny and Dudinka, shoemakers and sailors from the distant childhood. Zavenyagin did not try to insert a word. It was painful to look at him: for Ryabchikov he was a god for he managed to replace the camp existence with an administrative exile. The only thought: “Everything is gone, both the book and life.” Suddenly Beria stopped himself, smiled and said in the same not shrill voice: “I thank you. Tell who needs that I liked. And Zavenyagin will say.”

In the History Spot photo project previous publication, we told about Norilsk leader who became a book character prototype.

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Text: Svetlana Ferapontova, Photo: Nornickel Polar Branch archive

May 30, 2022

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