The word ‘subbotnik’ (derived from ‘subbota’ – Saturday), that is, ‘conscious, organized free labor for the benefit of society in free time’, has been familiar to us since childhood. It is believed that the first subbotnik took place on Saturday, April 12, 1919. At that time, in response to Lenin’s call to improve the work of the railways, the party cell of the Moscow-Sortirovochnaya depot, having worked for ten hours free of charge, repaired three steam locomotives. Since then, the whole country went to Lenin’s subbotniks and Stalin’s watches regularly.
Norilsk was also built thanks to subbotniks, both ‘conscious’ and ‘unconscious’, both voluntary and forced. With the outbreak of the war, all the money earned on them went to the Defense Fund. In Norilsk, prisoners already worked six days a week, and on Sunday they were taken out by order. But civilians, members of the Komsomol and schoolchildren, went out on Sundays regularly. In 1943, for example, in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Komsomol, over 50 subbotniks and voskresniks. Among the main tasks were digging pits and the construction of the first Norilsk factories, as well as the endless struggle with snow that covered the roads. And the pupils of the Norilsk schools filled up parcels for the front and collected scrap metal.
In the 1950s, when the city was actively under construction, subbotniks and voskresniks were held at all significant city objects. This is how the Komsomolsk Park with a dance floor and gazebos, a public garden named after Pushkin and the Zapolyarnik stadium, and the Norilsk TV Center were built. The main subbotniks were held in April – the All-Union Leninist communist subbotnik, in May – the communist subbotnik dedicated to the Victory Day, and in October-November – in honor of the revolution. In summer, on weekends, the whole city went out to landscaping Norilsk.
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Text: Svetlana Samokhina, Photo: Nornickel Polar Branch archive