Norilsk: Isolated, polluted and – above all – cold, it is a city built on misery and blood.
It is also a city of surprising wealth – the reason for its unlikely existence. Norilsk, squatting 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle, has the largest deposits of nickel, copper and palladium on earth and its hellish mines are thriving.
Gulag prisoners began expanding the Siberian settlement in 1935 and over the next 20 years, 500,000 slaves took part in its construction. Thousands lost their lives.
Norilsk, Siberia, which is situated 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle, the average annual temperature is -10C
The cold period extends for about 280 days per year, with more than 130 days featuring snowstorms.
The extreme weather conditions result in anxiety, nervousness, drowsiness and depression for many residents.
The cold period in the city extends for about 280 days per year, with more than 130 days with snowstorms and the average annual temperature is -10C, reaching lows of -55C in winter.
Today, Norilsk is the northernmost city on earth and still a place of extremes. The average temperature is -10C, reaching -55C in the endless winter.
There are two whole months of polar night, when people endure near total darkness, and Norilsk is encased in snow for eight to nine months a year.
Despite this, the city now has 170,000 residents. Russian photographer Elena Chernyshova spent several weeks there for her project: Days Of Night- Nights Of Day and her pictures show a normal life of sunbathing, picnics and parties existing alongside a desperate battle to keep warm during bitterly cold spells.
For two months of the year, the city is plunged into polar night, where 24 hours a day are in darkness and in the summer they have 24 hours of light
The Norilsk’s citizens suffer ‘the polar night syndrome’, resulting in anxiety, nervousness, drowsiness or insomnia, depending of the seasons, while the psychological discomfort and poor emotional stimuli also generate many cases of depression. Pictured in January locals celebrate Epiphany by swimming in Lake Norilsk
It is, for obvious reasons, an indoor place of sports and shopping centres and social gatherings in apartments.
Children are often forced to spend several months indoors so the city has large buildings where they can enjoy outdoor activities like cycling and running, even during the winter.
During cold spells, a convoy of 15 to 20 buses transport workers around. If one bus breaks down, the passengers can be evacuated to another bus. This column circulates three times a day.
Norilsk is consistently in the top 10 of most polluted cities on Earth. Every year, more than 2 million tons of gas (mainly sulphur dioxide , but also nitrogen oxides, carbon and phenols) are expelled into the atmosphere.
Life expectancy is 10 years less than in other regions of Russia, the risk of cancer is two time higher and respiratory diseases are widespread.
Some studies show that the air quality is responsible for 37 per cent of deaths of child deaths and 21.6 per cent of adult deaths.
The polar days and nights cycle also has a strong influence on the human body, which struggles to adapt to such extreme conditions.
Darkness causes a reduction in the release of the hormone melatonin, which regulates many functions of the body.
This leads to sleep and nervous system problems, constant fatigue, psychological discomfort and depression. A lack of melatonin also aids premature aging of the body and promotes the development of cancer.