Norilsk (English)
Норильск (Russian)
-  City[citation needed]  -
The first house built in Norilsk in 1921
Map of Russia - Krasnoyarsk Krai (2008-03).svg
Location of Krasnoyarsk Krai in Russia
Norilsk is located in Krasnoyarsk Krai
Location of Norilsk in Krasnoyarsk Krai
Coordinates: 69°20′N 88°13′E / 69.333°N 88.217°E / 69.333; 88.217Coordinates: 69°20′N 88°13′E / 69.333°N 88.217°E / 69.333; 88.217
Coat of Arms of Norilsk (Krasnoyarsk kray).png
Flag of Norilsk (Krasnoyarsk kray).png
Coat of arms
Administrative status
Country Russia
Federal subject Krasnoyarsk Krai
Municipal status
Urban okrug Norilsk Urban Okrug[citation needed]
Population (2010 Census,
175,301 inhabitants[1]
Rank in 2010 102nd
Population (2002 Census) 134,832 inhabitants[2]
Rank in 2002 122nd
Time zone KRAST (UTC+08:00)[3]
Founded 1935[citation needed]
Postal code(s) 663300-663341[citation needed]
Dialing code(s) +7 3919[citation needed]

Norilsk (Russian: Нори́льск) is an industrial city in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia, located between the Yenisei River and the Taymyr Peninsula. Population: 175,301 (2010 Census preliminary results);[1] 134,832 (2002 Census);[2] 174,673 (1989 Census).[4]

It was granted city status in 1953. It is the northernmost city in Siberia and the world's second largest city (after Murmansk) north of the Arctic Circle. Norilsk, Yakutsk, and Vorkuta are the only large cities in the continuous permafrost zone.

MMC Norilsk Nickel, a mining company, is the principal employer in the Norilsk area. The city is served by Norilsk Alykel Airport and Norilsk Valek Airfield. Due to the intense mining, the city is one of the ten most polluted cities in the world.[5]



False-color satellite image of Norilsk and the surrounding area (more information)

Norilsk was founded by the end of the 1920s; however, the official date of founding is traditionally set to 1935, when Norilsk was expanded as a settlement for the Norilsk mining-metallurgic complex and became the center of the Norillag system of GULAG labor camps. It was granted the urban-type settlement status in 1939.

Norilsk, located between the West Siberian Plain and Central Siberian Plateau at the foot of the 1,700-meter-high Putoran Mountains, is situated on some of the largest nickel deposits on Earth. Consequently, mining and smelting ore are the major industries. Norilsk is the center of a region where nickel, copper, cobalt, platinum, palladium, and coal are mined. Mineral deposits in the Siberian Craton had been known for two centuries before Norilsk was founded, but mining began only in 1939, when the buried portions of the Norilsk-Talnakh intrusions were found beneath mountainous terrain.

Talnakh is the major mine/enrichment site now from where an enriched ore emulsion is pumped to Norilsk metallurgy plants.

To support the new city a railway to the port of Dudinka on the Yenisei River was established, first as a narrow-gauge line (winter 1935-36), later as Russian Standard gauge (1520 mm) line (in the early 1940s).[6] From the port of Dudinka enriched nickel and copper are transported to Murmansk by sea then to the Monchegorsk enrichment and smelting plant on the Kola Peninsula, while more precious content goes up the river to Krasnoyarsk. This transportation only takes place during the summer:[citation needed] Dudinka port is closed and dismantled during spring's ice barrier floods of up to 20 m in late May (a typical spring occurrence on all Siberian rivers).

In the early 1950s, another railway was under construction from the European coal city Vorkuta via the Salekhard/Ob River, and Norilsk even got a spacious passenger railway station built in the expectation of direct train service to Moscow,[6] but construction stopped there after Stalin died.

According to the archives of Norillag, 16,806 prisoners died in Norilsk under the conditions of forced labor, starvation, and intense cold throughout the existence of the camp (1935–1956) [1]. Fatalities were especially high during the war years of 1942–1944 when food supplies were particularly scarce. The prisoners organised a nonviolent revolt (Norilsk uprising) in 1953. Unknown but significant numbers of prisoners continued to serve and die in the mines until around 1979. Norilsk-Talknakh continues to be a dangerous mine to work in: According to the mining company, there were 2.4 accidents per thousand workers in 2005.

In 2001, Norilsk was decreed a closed city for foreigners (except citizens of Belarus). This is likely because of the sensitive nature of the nickel-platinum-palladium-copper mining,[citation needed] and the ICBM missile silos nestled in the Putoran Mountains nearby.[citation needed]

The mosque of Norilsk, belonging to the local Tatar community, is considered to be the northernmost Muslim prayer house in the world.

Demographic Evolution
1939 1959 1962 1967 1970 1973 1976
14,000 118,000 117,000 129,000 135,000 150,000 167,000
1979 1982 1989 1992 1998 2002 2005
180,400 183,000 174,673 165,400 151,200 134,832 131,900

Norilsk-Talnakh nickel deposits

The nickel deposits of Norilsk-Talnakh are the largest nickel-copper-palladium deposits in the world. The deposit was formed 250 million years ago during the eruption of the Siberian Traps igneous province (STIP). The STIP erupted over one million cubic kilometers of lava, a large portion of it through a series of flat-lying lava conduits lying below Norilsk and the Talnakh Mountains.

The ore was formed when the erupting magma became saturated in sulfur, forming globules of pentlandite, chalcopyrite, and other sulfides. These sulfides were then "washed" by the continuing torrent of erupting magma, and upgraded their tenor with nickel, copper, platinum, and palladium.

The current resource known for these mineralized intrusion exceeds 1.8 billion tons.[7] MMC Norilsk Nickel, headquartered in Moscow, is the principal mining operator in Norilsk-Talnakh. The ore is mined underground via several shafts, and a decline. The ore deposits are currently being extracted at more than 1,200 m below ground. The ore deposits are drilled from the surface. Nickel production for 2008 amounted to 299.7 thousand metric tonnes. Copper production for 2008 amounted to 419 thousand metric tonnes.

The deposits are being explored by a Russian Government-controlled company. The company is known to be using electromagnetic field geophysics, with loops on surface which are over 1,000 m on a side. They are conclusively able to image the conductive nickel ore at depths in excess of 1,800 m.


Landscape near Norilsk

Much of the surrounding areas are naturally treeless tundra.


Norilsk has an extremely harsh climate. Average February temperature is about −35 °C (−31 °F), and July is only about +12 °C (54 °F). Average temperature is approximately −13 °C (9 °F), and temperatures as low as −58 °C (−72 °F) have been recorded. The city is covered with snow for about 250–270 days a year, with snow storms for about 110–130 days. The polar night lasts from December through mid-January, so that Norilsk inhabitants do not see the sun at all for about six weeks. In summer, symmetrically, sun does not set for more than six weeks. Temperatures are known to rise above +25 °C (77 °F) in July.

Climate data for Norilsk
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) −31
Average low °C (°F) −36
Precipitation mm (inches) 34
Avg. precipitation days 23 19 20 16 15 16 13 16 18 23 23 25 227


The nickel ore is smelted on site at Norilsk. The smelting is directly responsible for severe pollution, generally acid rain and smog. By some estimates, 1 percent of the entire global emissions of sulfur dioxide comes from this one city. Heavy metal pollution near Norilsk is so severe that it is now economically feasible to mine the soil, as a result of acquiring high concentrations of platinum and palladium through pollution.[9]

The Blacksmith Institute[5] included Norilsk in its 2007 list of the ten most polluted places on Earth. The list cites air pollution by particulates (including radioisotopes strontium-90, and caesium-137 and metals nickel, copper, cobalt, lead and selenium) and by gases (such as nitrogen and carbon oxides, sulfur dioxide, phenols and hydrogen sulfide). The Institute estimates four million tons of cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, arsenic, selenium, and zinc are released into the air every year.[citation needed]

According to an April 2007 BBC News report,[10] the company accepted responsibility for what had happened to the forests, and insisted they were taking action to cut the pollution. For the period up to 2015–2020 the company expects to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by approximately two-thirds, but admits it is hard to guarantee this pace of reduction because they are still developing the technology. CNN has claimed that there is not a single living tree within 48 km of the nickel smelter Nadezhda ("The Hope").[11]

People associated with Norilsk

  • Artist Andrey Bartenev was born in Norilsk; many years ago his grandfather was sent to work in the nickel smelting plant.[12]
  • World All-Around Champion (1983) gymnast Natalia Yurchenko was born in Norilsk.
  • The author of the memoir With God in Russia, Walter Ciszek, spent some time in Norilsk labor camps in 1950s and details the life there in his memoir.
  • Professional footballer, member of Russian national team Dmitri Torbinski was born in Norilsk.
  • Karl Stajner (7000 Days In Siberia) spent a few years as a political prisoner at Norilsk.


  1. ^ a b Федеральная служба государственной статистики (Federal State Statistics Service) (2011). "Предварительные итоги Всероссийской переписи населения 2010 года (Preliminary results of the 2010 All-Russian Population Census)" (in Russian). Всероссийская перепись населения 2010 года (All-Russia Population Census of 2010). Federal State Statistics Service. Retrieved 2011-04-25. 
  2. ^ a b Федеральная служба государственной статистики (Federal State Statistics Service) (2004-05-21). "Численность населения России, субъектов Российской Федерации в составе федеральных округов, районов, городских поселений, сельских населённых пунктов – районных центров и сельских населённых пунктов с населением 3 тысячи и более человек (Population of Russia, its federal districts, federal subjects, districts, urban localities, rural localities—administrative centers, and rural localities with population of over 3,000)" (in Russian). Всероссийская перепись населения 2002 года (All-Russia Population Census of 2002). Federal State Statistics Service. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  3. ^ Правительство Российской Федерации. Постановление №725 от 31 августа 2011 г. «О составе территорий, образующих каждую часовую зону, и порядке исчисления времени в часовых зонах, а также о признании утратившими силу отдельных Постановлений Правительства Российской Федерации». Вступил в силу по истечении 7 дней после дня официального опубликования. Опубликован: "Российская Газета", №197, 6 сентября 2011 г. (Government of the Russian Federation. Resolution #725 of August 31, 2011 On the Composition of the Territories Included into Each Time Zone and on the Procedures of Timekeeping in the Time Zones, as Well as on Abrogation of Several Resolutions of the Government of the Russian Federation. Effective as of after 7 days following the day of the official publication).
  4. ^ "Всесоюзная перепись населения 1989 г. Численность наличного населения союзных и автономных республик, автономных областей и округов, краёв, областей, районов, городских поселений и сёл-райцентров. (All Union Population Census of 1989. Present population of union and autonomous republics, autonomous oblasts and okrugs, krais, oblasts, districts, urban settlements, and villages serving as district administrative centers.)" (in Russian). Всесоюзная перепись населения 1989 года (All-Union Population Census of 1989). Demoscope Weekly (website of the Institute of Demographics of the State University—Higher School of Economics. 1989. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  5. ^ a b "World's Worst Polluted Places 2007". The Blacksmith Institute. September 2007. Retrieved 2010-08-10. 
  6. ^ a b По рельсам истории ("Rolling on the rails of history"), Zapolyarnaya Pravda, No. 109 (28.07.2007)
  7. ^ "Mineral Reserves and Resources Statement". MMC Norilsk Nickel. November 3, 2008. 
  8. ^ (English) [ "Institute of Meteorology and Water Management"]. Retrieved 2010-10-02. 
  9. ^ Kramer, Andrew E. (2007-07-12). "For One Business, Polluted Clouds Have Silvery Linings". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-07-12.  (login required).
  10. ^ "Toxic truth of secretive Siberian city". BBC. 2007-04-05. Retrieved 2007-09-14. 
  11. ^ ,"The World's Most Polluted Places". CNN. 2007-09-12.,28804,1661031_1661028_1661022,00.html. Retrieved 2007-09-14. 
  12. ^ Waldemar Januszczak (2008-01-20). "Darker than it looks". Times Online (London). Retrieved 2008-01-26. 

External links

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