Murmansk, the freezing grace of the Kola Peninsula

This series of photographs is from a special project about Russia that three female photographers from Moscow who make up the art group “Troika”. It is the first project published in partnership with RBTH, but it’s certainly not the last.

This series of photographs is from a special project about Russia that three female photographers from Moscow who make up the art group “Troika”. It is the first project published in partnership with RBTH, but it’s certainly not the last. Let's start with Murmansk. Murmansk is located 1950 km to the north of Moscow on the scale eastern shore of the Kola Bay on the Barents Sea. Here is a view of the city from the highest point of Mount Abram-Mys.
Murmansk, the Arctic Circle’s most populous settlement, was the last city to be established in the Russian Empire. The city is relatively young—it will celebrate only its 100th anniversary in 2016. It is currently home to 307,000 people. This photograph was taken from Murmansk’s highest point, what locals call “Fools’ Mountain” due to the fact that it’s easy to confuse the house numbers there.
Not far from Fools’ Mountain is to the soldier Alyosha (a memorial to the defenders of the Soviet Arctic during World War II). This diminutive name is a bit odd for such an enormous monument that you can see from different of Murmansk.
In general, the weather in Murmansk is unpredictable as it does not adhere to a strict seasonal pattern like in other Russian cities. This is due to the Gulf Stream and the nearby Arctic. In Murmansk, the day often starts as winter, but spring has sprung by the afternoon.
Trees don’t grow in this Arctic city, only shrubs and polar plants. As a result, a sense of emptiness and wilderness is created. As this author of this photo project says, “Murmansk is simultaneously a rough, cold city, but it has a certain soft side to it."
In the summer of 1942, Murmansk was almost completely destroyed: the ceaseless polar sunshine was to blame for this. Nazi bombs set fire to three quarters of the city, which was almost entirely made of wood. In just one year, Murmansk was subjected to 792 air strikes and 185,000 bombs – the only city to fare worse against the German air raids was Stalingrad.
Murmansk was born in harsh conditions – born, in essence, because of the war and for the war. During World War I, Russia was in desperate need of supplies from the Allies. The only solution was to build a port in the Kola Bay and a railway from there to St. Petersburg.
Murmansk is Russia’s gate to the Arctic Ocean, a city of sailors and fishermen. "The prospect of some fantastic fishing attracts lots of tourists to the Kola Peninsula: This area has a total of 82 rivers, all rich in salmon. The beautiful Scandinavian environment, the accessibility of the infrastructure and, of course, the trophy fish make the Kola Peninsula a dream come true for lovers of fishing," local fishermen say.
Doctors estimate that the polar night interferes with the function of the human body due to the lack of ultra\violet light and vitamins. Many people from the North become depressed and lethargic around this time of year.
During the polar nights, Murmansk schools are open for a shorter time. In some educational establishments, lessons start later than usual and are shortened. Children in kindergartens are given vitamins and made to do strengthening exercises.
The settlement of Kola is located not far from Murmansk. Here, as opposed to the city center, it’s possible to go down to the bay. Things in Kola are very quiet and, in some places, empty. But even though Kola is located near Murmansk, the climate here nevertheless differs. The winter, for instance, is colder. The Tuloma and Kola Rivers, unlike the Kola Bay in Murmansk, freeze over in the cold winters.
“Murmans” was the name by which Russians used to call Norweigians and Normans. This connection with Scandinavia is unsurprising: it has similar landscapes and mores. But the people here are not so stern. They know it affectionately as “Monamourmansk,” and its unremarkable appearance is more than made up for by the surrounding natural scenery: tundra, mountains, taiga, fjords and the ocean.

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