Journalists and writers frequented Norilsk in 1960s

Journalists and writers frequented Norilsk in 1960s

September 20, 2023

Journalists and writers often extolled the exoticism of Norilsk in superlatives: ‘the pearl of Taimyr’, ‘an oasis in the tundra’.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. The enthusiastic tone rose to the point that the thermal power plant splashers were called a ‘cascade of fountains’, and the old creaking lift to Shmidtiha mount was called the ‘Norilsk metro’.

Reports about Norilsk can be found in many books. But it’s more interesting to read in them not rave reviews, but details from the life of Norilsk residents of those years. Here, for example, is a quote from Georgy Metelsky’s book On the Edge of Two Oceans, published in 1978.

“…The next day I visited the Kirdyanovs. A small apartment where the main and, I would say, most elegant part of the furnishings are shelves filled with books. Cozy, lived-in, durable.

Kirdyanov’s wife, Margarita Ivanovna, a bibliographer at the central city library, an enthusiastic young woman with sparkling eyes and a halo of lush hair around her head, immediately begins to tell the curious stories of some books, with what difficulty they are obtained in Norilsk. The family table is laden with various tasty things, including the wild duck promised by Igor Ivanovich.

– Leave Norilsk? – Margarita Ivanovna repeats my question. – Why?! Is it bad here? Does any other city love books as much as we do? Do you know how we subscribed to Kuprin? The announcement was made on television late Thursday night, and two hundred people signed up that same night. And in general, our book market capacity is six hundred thousand rubles a year, and we are given just two hundred and fifty thousand to purchase books. Is that really possible?

In the library where Margarita Ivanovna works, they give me a certificate: Norilsk ranks first in the Union in terms of the amount of literature per capita. However, my current acquaintance with the cultural values of Norilsk does not end there. Igor Ivanovich, exchanging conspiratorial glances with his wife, declares that he certainly wants to show me another attraction of his city.

This time we use the bus and go to a direction unknown to me. Lake Dolgoye can be seen in the distance. Now it looks very impressive. Waste water from power plant boilers is cooled by passing through pipes with many holes. The result is magnificent fountains, water fireworks, the water breaks into dust, and all seven colors of the rainbow burn in it. A boy sits on the shore and dangles his legs in the warm water.

We get off the bus, turn the corner and find ourselves in… a badge bazaar. I believe that this bazaar is not registered in any department of the city executive committee, but this does not make it poorer. On folding chairs, on the sidewalk, on cardboard shields attached to piles, hundreds of different icons shine with enamel, glitter in the sun, glow blue, gold, or red. All of them were issued in Norilsk and relate only to it. These are all Norilsk badges.

“They don’t exchange others here”, reports Igor Ivanovich.

Here we have to admit to a protracted, albeit rather harmless, illness that has infected the author of these lines for many years: he, too, collects badges – only on one topic – geographical. Badges with the names of cities, islands, rivers, mountain ranges… So far I have only one Norilsk badge, issued for the 25th anniversary of the very thermal power plant that warms the lake. Until now, this badge was my pride, because I had never seen anything like it on anyone. And suddenly there was such an abundance of Norilsk, unique, so hard to find on the mainland badges. And only for exchange! There is something to be despondent about.

But, as always in the Arctic, the law of northern hospitality works. Igor Ivanovich turns down the lapel of his jacket and takes off a good dozen badges.

“This is a Norilsk souvenir for you”, he says generously”.

In the History Spot photo project’s, we told how Nikolay Urvantsev was seen by his younger geologist colleagues.

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Text: Svetlana Ferapontova, Photo: Nornickel Polar Branch archive

September 20, 2023

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