Norilsk Combine’s head went from a boss to a prisoner
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Norilsk Combine’s head went from a boss to a prisoner

July 06, 2022

Vladimir Matveev was accused of ‘wrecking the polymetallic combine’s construction’.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. He had to manage the Combine and camp’s construction in the most difficult years from 1935 to 1938. The responsibility to a superior organization was great.

Matveev, his wife and children went to Taimyr on June 12, 1935. The first hundred builders and the Mospromtrans’ survey group went to Taimyr together with him.

Matveev, specialists and 1200 prisoners received, in fact, an impossible order: to start up the plant’s first stage in four years. And there was almost nothing in Norilsk at that time.

A permafrost station, a brick factory, a bakery in Dudinka, the Norilsk-Valek railway, an elementary school, a narrow-gauge railway to Dudinka and the first open-cast mine in the Arctic Ugolny Ruchey (Eng.: Coal creek) were built, a chemical laboratory and the Norilskstroy design bureau were created under Vladimir Matveev. The Medvezhy Ruchey’s (Eng.: Bear Creek) ore was explored, a telephone connection was established (in the 1940s there were only 36 telephone points in Norilsk). And the most important: the most valuable experience was gained in construction in the northern conditions.

But Avraamy Zavenyagin, who replaced Matveev, summed up the Matveev’s work’s result:

“The situation at the construction site is worse than indicated in the report. Obvious sabotage has been uncovered at the construction site”.

It cost Matveev his freedom and his life. In April 1939, he was sentenced to 15 years:

“He was engaged in wrecking in the polymetallic combine’s construction, built the Norilsk-Dudinka railway line wreckingly.”

The Norillag’s former head fell ill and died in the camp in 1948. He was rehabilitated in 1955. He told his daughter before the death:

“It is a pity that I won’t live to see the Norilsk future, and its future is great”.

Matveev was considered to be the unfortunate and helpless Zavenyagin’s predecessor in Soviet times. The roles changed in perestroika: Zavenyagin’s figure was painted in black colors, and Matveev was recognized as the regime’s victim. The truth, as usual, is somewhere in the middle.

In the History spot photo project previous publication we told about the human genome program author.

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Text: Svetlana Ferapontova, Photo: Nornickel Polar Division archive

July 06, 2022

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