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Norilsk (English)
Норильск (Russian)
-  City[1]  -

The first house built in Norilsk, in 1921

Location of Krasnoyarsk Krai in Russia
Norilsk is located in Krasnoyarsk Krai
Location of Norilsk in Krasnoyarsk Krai
Coat of arms
Administrative status (as of January 2014)
Country Russia
Federal subject Krasnoyarsk Krai[1]
Administratively subordinated to krai city of Norilsk[1]
Administrative center of krai city of Norilsk[1]
Municipal status (as of December 2004)
Urban okrug Norilsk Urban Okrug[2]
Administrative center of Norilsk Urban Okrug[2]
Population (2010 Census) 175,365 inhabitants[3]
Rank in 2010 102nd
Time zone KRAT (UTC+07:00)[4]
Founded 1935[5]
City status since 1953[5]
Postal code(s)[6] 663300-663341
Dialing code(s) +7 3919
Official website
Norilsk]] on Wikimedia Commons

Norilsk (Russian: Норильск; IPA: ) is an industrial city in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia, located between the Yenisei River and the Taymyr Peninsula. Population: 175,365 (2010 Census);[3][7] 134,832 (2002 Census);[8] 174,673 (1989 Census).[9]

Norilsk was closed in November 2001 to all non-Russians, except for Belarusians.[10]


  • History 1
  • Administrative and municipal status 2
  • Demographics 3
  • Geography, climate, and natural environment 4
    • Pollution 4.1
    • Norilsk-Talnakh nickel deposits 4.2
  • Economy 5
  • Culture 6
  • Twin towns and sister cities 7
  • Notable people 8
  • References 9
    • Notes 9.1
    • Sources 9.2
  • External links 10


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

Norilsk was founded at the end of the 1920s, but the official date of founding is traditionally 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 urban-type settlement status in 1939 and town status in 1953.[11]

Norilsk is located between the West Siberian Plain and Central Siberian Plateau at the foot of the 1,700-meter (5,600 ft) high Putoran Mountains, 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 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 2732 in) Russian standard gauge line (completed in the early 1950s).[12] From Dudinka, enriched nickel and copper are transported to Murmansk by sea and, 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: Dudinka port is closed and dismantled during spring's ice barrier floods of up to 20 meters (66 ft) 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 got a spacious railway station built in the expectation of train service to Moscow,[12] but construction stopped 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 during the existence of the camp (1935–1956).[13] Fatalities were especially high during the war years of 1942–1944 when food supplies were particularly scarce. Prisoners organised the nonviolent 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.

Since the early 2000s the city has been rebuilding itself and reshaping its image. Bars on the top floors of apartments are appearing and buildings are getting renovated.

Administrative and municipal status

Within the framework of administrative divisions, it is, together with the urban-type settlement of Snezhnogorsk, incorporated as the krai city of Norilsk—an administrative unit with the status equal to that of the districts.[1] As a municipal division, the krai city of Norilsk is incorporated as Norilsk Urban Okrug.[2]


There is a mosque in Norlisk. Built in 1998 belonging to the local Tatar community, is considered to be the northernmost Muslim prayer house in the world.[14] There is also a Russian Orthodox cathedral, several Russian Orthodox churches, and a Ukrainian Orthodox church. 175,000 out of about 220,000 people are permanent residents, while the rest are temporary. Around 80% of the permanent population are thought to be Russified Ukrainians.

Population history
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

Geography, climate, and natural environment

Winters in Norilsk are cold and long
Considerable snow accumulation can occur

Norilsk is the world's northernmost city with more than 100,000 inhabitants and the second largest city (after Murmansk) inside the Arctic Circle. Norilsk, Yakutsk, and Vorkuta are the only large cities in the continuous permafrost zone. It lies between Taymyrsky Dolgano-Nenetsky District to the north, and Turukhansky District to the south. Norilsk has an extremely harsh subarctic climate (Köppen Dfc), and 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 there is no sun for about six weeks. In summer the 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
Record high °C (°F) −3.0
Average high °C (°F) −23.9
Daily mean °C (°F) −26.9
Average low °C (°F) −30.9
Record low °C (°F) −53.1
Average precipitation mm (inches) 17.6
Source #1: Weatherbase, except for the July record high
Source #2: July record high: Official website of Norilsk. В Норильске самый жаркий июль за всю историю метеонаблюдений (Russian); The Siberian Times. Norilsk breaks records for Arctic heat in a new sign of changing weather patterns
Landscape near Norilsk

Much of the surrounding areas are naturally treeless tundra. Only a few trees exist in Norilsk.


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 global emissions of sulfur dioxide comes from there. Heavy metal pollution near Norilsk is so severe that mining the surface soil is now economically feasible due to the soil acquiring such high concentrations of platinum and palladium.[15]

The Blacksmith Institute[16] 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.

The Russian Federal State Statistics Service named Norilsk the most polluted city in Russia. In 2010, Norilsk produced 1.924 million tons of carbon pollutants, nearly six times more than the 333 thousand tons generated by Russia's second most polluted city, Cherepovets.[17]

According to an April 2007 BBC News report,[18] Norilsk Nickel 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 claims it is hard to guarantee this pace of reduction because they are still developing the technology.

Norilsk-Talnakh nickel deposits

Rich platinum-copper ore, Oktyabersky Mine, Norilsk. Click image for details.

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.[19] 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 (3,900 ft) 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 (3,300 ft) on a side. They are conclusively able to image the conductive nickel ore at depths in excess of 1,800 m (5,900 ft).


Lenin street in Norilsk

MMC Norilsk Nickel, a mining company, is the principal employer in the Norilsk area.[16]

The city is served by Norilsk Alykel Airport and Norilsk Valek Airfield. There is a freight-only railway, the Norilsk railway between Norilsk and the port Dudinka. There is a road network around Norilsk (such as the A-382 which links to Dudinka and Norilsk Alykel Airport), but no road or railway to the main cities of Russia. Freight transport is by boat on the Arctic Ocean or on the Yenisei River.


Among its cultural highlights, Norilsk boasts a history museum and an art gallery,[20] the Norilsk Polar Drama Theater,[21] a zoo,[22] a cultural center,[23] a sports and entertainment complex and arena,[24] many monuments and historical buildings,[25] and other attractions.

Blocky, somewhat modern light-colored building
Norilsk Polar Drama Theater 
Large concrete statute of Lenin
Lenin Monument in Norilsk 
Teal mosque with small gold dome
Nurd Kamal, the world's northernmost mosque 
Soviet-style bas-relief of a ripped shirtless worker
Monument to the city's builders in downtown Norilsk 

Twin towns and sister cities

Norilsk is twinned with:

Notable people



  1. ^ a b c d e Law #10-4765
  2. ^ a b c Law #12-2697
  3. ^ a b Russian Federal State Statistics Service (2011). "Всероссийская перепись населения 2010 года. Том 1" [2010 All-Russian Population Census, vol. 1]. Всероссийская перепись населения 2010 года (2010 All-Russia Population Census) (in Russian).  
  4. ^ Правительство Российской Федерации. Федеральный закон №107-ФЗ от 3 июня 2011 г. «Об исчислении времени», в ред. Федерального закона №248-ФЗ от 21 июля 2014 г. «О внесении изменений в Федеральный закон "Об исчислении времени"». Вступил в силу по истечении шестидесяти дней после дня официального опубликования (6 августа 2011 г.). Опубликован: "Российская газета", №120, 6 июня 2011 г. (Government of the Russian Federation. Federal Law #107-FZ of June 31, 2011 On Calculating Time, as amended by the Federal Law #248-FZ of July 21, 2014 On Amending Federal Law "On Calculating Time". Effective as of after sixty days following the day of the official publication.).
  5. ^ a b Michail V. Kozlov; Elena Zvereva; Vitali Zverev (28 July 2009). Impacts of Point Polluters on Terrestrial Biota: Comparative analysis of 18 contaminated areas. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 63.  
  6. ^ Почта России. Информационно-вычислительный центр ОАСУ РПО. (Russian Post). Поиск объектов почтовой связи (Postal Objects Search) (Russian)
  7. ^ The large population increase between the 2002 and the 2010 Censuses is due to the merger of the towns of Kayerkan and Talnakh into Norilsk in December 2004
  8. ^  
  9. ^ Demoscope Weekly (1989). "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]. Всесоюзная перепись населения 1989 года [All-Union Population Census of 1989] (in Russian). Институт демографии Национального исследовательского университета: Высшая школа экономики [Institute of Demography at the National Research University: Higher School of Economics]. Retrieved August 9, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Russia Closes City to Foreigners".  
  11. ^ "Life behind closed doors in the Arctic!". 
  12. ^ a b По рельсам истории ("Rolling on the rails of history"), Zapolyarnaya Pravda, No. 109 (July 28, 2007)
  13. ^
  14. ^ Paxton, Robin (2007-05-15). "Arctic mosque stays open but Muslim numbers shrink". Reuters. Retrieved 2015-02-28. 
  15. ^ Kramer, Andrew E. (July 12, 2007). "For One Business, Polluted Clouds Have Silvery Linings". The New York Times. Retrieved July 12, 2007.  (login required).
  16. ^ a b "World's Worst Polluted Places 2007". The Blacksmith Institute. September 2007. Retrieved August 10, 2010. 
  17. ^ "City of Norilsk Still Tops Pollution List". Moscow Times. June 24, 2011. Retrieved November 17, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Toxic truth of secretive Siberian city".  
  19. ^ "Mineral Reserves and Resources Statement". MMC Norilsk Nickel. November 3, 2008. 
  20. ^ "Museums in Norilsk". Trip Advisor. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Norilsk Polar Drama Theater". Trip Advisor. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Norilsk Zoos & Aquariums". Trip Advisor. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  23. ^ "Norilsk Town Cultural Center". Trip Advisor. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  24. ^ Trip Advisor Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  25. ^ "Norilsk Sights". Trip Advisor. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  26. ^ Waldemar Januszczak (January 20, 2008). "Darker than it looks". Times Online (London). Retrieved January 26, 2008. 


  • Законодательное собрание Красноярского края. Закон №10-4765 от 10 июня 2010 г. «О перечне административно-территориальных единиц и территориальных единиц Красноярского края», в ред. Закона №7-3007 от 16 декабря 2014 г. «Об изменении административно-территориального устройства Большеулуйского района и о внесении изменений в Закон края "О перечне административно-территориальных единиц и территориальных единиц Красноярского края"». Вступил в силу 1 июля 2010 г. Опубликован: "Ведомости высших органов государственной власти Красноярского края", №33(404), 5 июля 2010 г. (Legislative Assembly of Krasnoyarsk Krai. Law #10-4765 of June 10, 2010 On the Registry of the Administrative-Territorial Units and the Territorial Units of Krasnoyarsk Krai, as amended by the Law #7-3007 of December 16, 2014 On Changing the Administrative-Territorial Structure of Bolsheuluysky District and on Amending the Krai Law "On the Registry of the Administrative-Territorial Units and the Territorial Units of Krasnoyarsk Krai". Effective as of July 1, 2010.).
  • Законодательное собрание Красноярского края. Закон №12-2697 от 10 декабря 2004 г. «О наделении муниципального образования город Норильск статусом городского округа», в ред. Закона №5-1826 от 21 ноября 2013 г. «О внесении изменений в Законы края об установлении границ и наделении соответствующим статусом муниципальных образований Красноярского края». Вступил в силу через десять дней после официального опубликования. Опубликован: "Ведомости высших органов государственной власти Красноярского края", №34, 19 декабря 2004 г. (Legislative Assembly of Krasnoyarsk Krai. Law #12-2697 of December 10, 2004 On Granting Urban Okrug Status to the Municipal Formation of the City of Norilsk, as amended by the Law #5-1826 of November 21, 2013 On Amending the Krai Laws on Establishing the Borders and Granting an Appropriate Status to the Municipal Formations of Krasnoyarsk Krai. Effective as of the day ten days after the official publication.).
  • "Norilskaya golgofa" "Memorial", regional Branch "Siberia", publisher: "Klaretianum", Krasnoyarsk, 2002 (Russian)

External links

  • Official website of Norilsk (Russian)
  • MMC Norilsk Nickel
  • Norilsk portal
  • "Noril'sk, Northeast Siberia".  
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