The building housed a grocery store, cooking and dining rooms. The site became the main object of social and cultural life: weddings were celebrated ther, and veterans were seen off to retirement.
The building was typical. According to the same project, a little later in Norilsk, a dietary Zdorovye, a Metelitsa cafe and a Krasnoyarskie Stolby restaurant were built. In 1968, the building was overhauled, after which the authorities ‘in order to improve the serving culture for the Kayerkan settlement workers’ raised its status to a restaurant, which was named White Deer.
During the day, the restaurant continued to function as a city cafeteria. When the construction of Nadezhdinsky metallurgical plant began, there were much more visitors: builders and installers came for dinner, and there was no room to swing a cat.
But on July 12, 1976, things turned out differently. At the very beginning of the lunch break, there were not many people in the dining room. As it turned out later, the builders were given a salary that day, and many did not have time to come to the White Deer.
At 13.10, the building began to collapse abruptly: it just folded like a cards house. A paramilitary mine rescue unit arrived immediately, the rescue operation and the dismantling of the rubble began. As a result of the collapse, ten people died, two of them died in hospital. About 30 people were injured. Among the dead were two little girls and four employees of the White Deer.
The incident was then investigated by two commissions – local and visiting ones. People were unanimous in the opinion that the permafrost had let down: the White Deer stood where all the melt water flowed – in the summer there were large puddles around the building. The Kayerkan residents said that allegedly the restaurant’s sewage system was constantly clogged, and the management ordered to drain the sewage directly under the building.
These versions remained unproven. The reason was recognized as construction violations: ‘concrete insufficient frost resistance in the zone of seasonal thawing of water-saturated soil, which during the period of the building operation from 1963 to 1976 led to a complete loss of the bearing capacity of concrete’.
In the last issue of the History spot photo project, we talked about the history of the Norilsk post office: in 1960 the city was gripped by a parcel boom – the Norilsk people sent over 50 tons of parcels to the mainland.
Text: Svetlana Samohina, Photo: Nornickel Polar Division archive