Norilsk construction leader became convict

Norilsk construction leader became convict

May 04, 2022

One of the first Norilsk construction and the Norillag forced labor camp heads Vladimir Matveyev was recognized as a saboteur who ‘failed to build the Norilsk combine'.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. Vladimir Matveyev – the head of Norilskstroy, who led the construction of the combine and the Norilsk forced labor camp in the most difficult years, from 1935 to 1938.

Matveyev went to Taimyr on June 12, 1935, together with him came the first hundred builders and the survey group of Mospromtrans. They got to Norilsk first by sailing – along the Dudinka river to the transshipment base on lake Boganidskoye. From there on their own – to the barely born village of Norilsk.

On June 23, 1935, Matveyev, specialists and 1200 prisoners received, in fact, an impossible order: to launch the first stage of the plant in four (!) years. And in Norilsk at that time there was almost nothing.

Here is how the city newspaper told about that period:

“In October 1935, the Norilskstroy board moved from Dudinka to Norilsk. In the first line of the order, Matveyev wrote: “the city of Norilsk”. In 1935, Norilsk was not yet a city, and even had no right to be called a workers’ settlement. But this was not a typo. In the orders written in Dudinka, he correctly called Dudinka a village. Obviously, even at that time he thought of Norilsk only as a city”.

Under Vladimir Matveyev, a permafrost station, a brick factory, a bakery in Dudinka were built, a chemical laboratory and the Norilskstroy design bureau were built, the Norilsk-Valek railway, an elementary school, a narrow-gauge railway to Dudinka, and the first open mine in the Arctic, Coal Creek, were built. Under him, the ore of the Bear Creek was explored, telephone connection was established (in the 1940s there were only 36 telephone points in Norilsk). And most importantly, valuable experience in construction in the North conditions was gained.

But the result of Matveyev’s work was summed up by Avraamy Zavenyagin, who replaced him: “The situation at the construction site is worse than indicated in the report. Obvious sabotage has been uncovered at the construction site”. It cost Matveyev his freedom and life.

In April 1939, he was sentenced to 15 years: “engaged in sabotage in the construction of a polymetallic plant and the Norilsk-Dudinka railway line”.

In the camp, the former head of the Norillag fell ill and died in 1948. In 1955 he was rehabilitated. Before his death, having met his daughter, he told her: “It is a pity that I will not live to see the future of Norilsk, and its future is great”.

In the last History Spot photo project publication, we talked about the fact that in wartime, cultural and community facilities in Norilsk had been built despite of prohibitions.

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Text: Svetlana Ferapontova, Photo: Nornickel Polar Branch archive

May 04, 2022

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