Norilskstroy had two bosses in 1935
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Norilskstroy had two bosses in 1935

July 24, 2020

The name of the first person returned to history thanks to a gift photo album.

The martyrology of the Krasnoyarsk Memorial includes the first two heads of Norilskstroy (the first constructing organization responsible for the Norilsk combine construction). In the summer of 1988, Elgard Zinger came to Norilsk from Moscow in search of information about his father, the head of Norilskstroy in 1935. For four years of research in the archives of the Glavsevmorput, the Central Party Office of the CPSU Central Committee and the Krasnoyarsk Party Archive, Zinger Jr. managed to get hold of the personal file of Mikhail Zinger, a member of the Bolshevik Party, which described his first and last expedition to Norilsk.

By that time no one in the northern city knew about the existence of another, except for Vladimir Matveev, head of the Norilsk construction, who was appointed to the post in the same 1935. But he who seeks will always find. In the exposition of the Norilsk Industrial Region Exploration and Development History Museum, Elgard Zinger discovered photographs of the 1935 expedition, with which his father had visited Norilsk. The original source was found right there in the funds – an album of photographs Dudinka – Norilsk – Valek Railway Lines Research, dated 1935.

The members of the expedition of the Promtransproekt, the state office for the design of industrial transport, prepared this album as a gift to their manager. According to the documents, the album was transferred to the museum in 1973. Where this album was kept for almost forty years and who donated the rarity to the museum remains unclear. However, its presence made it possible to confirm the information found by Zinger about the expedition and the first head of Norilskstroy from Glavsevmorput Mikhail Zinger, who was appointed to the post on March 10, 1935.

Later in the Norilsk city archives they found the draft of the order on transferring Norilskstroy to the NKVD on the basis of the telegram signed by Zinger among others. In connection with the transfer of the construction, the first chief was released from work, and in 1936 he was arrested and shot. But before that Mikhail Zinger had been expelled from the party ranks.

In the personal file found by his son, Zinger’s statement to the Central Committee of the party was preserved, in which he had described in detail his expedition to the Norilsk region on three pages: “…There were many skeptics who considered this polar nickel-platinum treasure inaccessible and unrealistic for exploitation. It was necessary to set in motion all the research and design organizations close to the issue within a month in order to prove the reality and the need for immediate deployment of the construction site. Based on the acute shortage of nickel and the colossal scale of construction, I, together with O. Yu. Schmidt and comrade Bergavinov drew up a memorandum to the Politburo for comrade Stalin, where we, not hiding the enormous difficulties of this construction, drew the attention of the members of the Politburo to the value of the facility and the need for urgent construction. Without waiting for the decision of the Central Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars, I went with a brigade of Transproekt engineers to Norilsk”.

Zinger “moved towards the intended goal by any means, regardless of difficulties”. In Krasnoyarsk, early spring washed out the airfield, and the expedition, having bought carts with horses, set off down the Yenisey to the North: “Local people considered our venture dangerous to the lives of the expedition members and tried to persuade us to wait for navigation in every possible way. Indeed, the risk was considerable. In addition to other hardships, four members of the expedition fell into the icy water, including myself, but we achieved our goal and, together with a brigade of the engineers and technicians, arrived in Igarka four hours after the start of the ice drift and in Dudinka on the day of the drift. This provided us with the necessary measurements on the spring high water horizons for the design of the bridges on the Duromoy, Kosaya and Yamnaya rivers and made it possible to receive the Dudinka – Norilsk railway project ahead of schedule. If we had failed to complete these works the construction could have slowed down for a year”.

Mikhail Zinger and several other people went to Dudinka by boat, and the rest remained to wait for the first steamer, probably that very Spartak, on which Vladimir Matveev, the first head of the Norilsk construction camp of the NKVD USSR, left for his place of work on June 12.

In the statement, Mikhail Zinger asked to be reinstated in the party. His request was fulfilled posthumously, he was rehabilitated and reinstated in the party. In 1936, Mikhail Zinger was not yet forty years old. His name returned to the history of the development of the North in 1988 when the very first head of Norilskstroy could have turned 80.

Read about other historical details in the Artefacts section.

Text: Valentina Vachaeva, Photo: Norilsk Museum

July 24, 2020

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