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Abandoned Mining Towns Of The Russian Arctic

The coal mines of Vorkuta, just north of the Arctic Circle, were once vital to Soviet industry. But after the collapse of U.S.S.R., the mines were privatized and some were shut down. Today, the city is surrounded by former mining centers that have become ghost towns, or are sparsely inhabited. The coal mine in Vorkuta's Sovetskiy district was closed in 1996, but some 150 families still live nearby, half an hour by bus from the rest of the city, with no grocery store or pharmacy in their community. The mining town of Yurshor and the settlement of Rudnik, once part of the gulag camp system, have both been abandoned altogether. (Text by Sergei Khazov-Cassia, photos by Petr Shelomovskiy, RFE/RL)


A view from an abandoned apartment in Vorkuta's Sovetskiy district
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A view from an abandoned apartment in Vorkuta's Sovetskiy district

A street in Sovetskiy
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A street in Sovetskiy

Inside an abandoned building
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Inside an abandoned building

A family photo found in an abandoned apartment
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A family photo found in an abandoned apartment

Personal belongings scattered inside an empty apartment
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Personal belongings scattered inside an empty apartment

Inside a former grocery store
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Inside a former grocery store

The ruins of a former culture center in Sovetskiy
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The ruins of a former culture center in Sovetskiy

Lidia Dmitrievna Sholicheva visits the local post office, which once employed 13 people
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Lidia Dmitrievna Sholicheva visits the local post office, which once employed 13 people

A boy from the Nenets minority attends a boarding school in Sovetskiy.
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A boy from the Nenets minority attends a boarding school in Sovetskiy.

Olga Ivanovna Khozyainova at home in Sovetskiy
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Olga Ivanovna Khozyainova at home in Sovetskiy

The roof is leaking in Olga's bathroom.
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The roof is leaking in Olga's bathroom.

Icy windows in Olga's apartment
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Icy windows in Olga's apartment

A street in Sovetskiy
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A street in Sovetskiy

Lidia Dmitrievna Sholicheva, a human rights activist, visits one of a few friends who still live in Sovetskiy.
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Lidia Dmitrievna Sholicheva, a human rights activist, visits one of a few friends who still live in Sovetskiy.

An abandoned apartment
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An abandoned apartment

Andrei walks on the outskirts of the former mining settlement.
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Andrei walks on the outskirts of the former mining settlement.

A decaying roof in the town of Yurshor
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A decaying roof in the town of Yurshor

An abandoned building in Yurshor
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An abandoned building in Yurshor

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Inside an abandoned building in Yurshor
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Inside an abandoned building in Yurshor

A memorial to Ukrainian prisoners of the gulag camp system
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A memorial to Ukrainian prisoners of the gulag camp system

An abandoned building in the settlement of Rudnik, once part of the gulag prison camp system. Out of 1,500 prisoners who arrived here in 1932, only 54 survived the first winter.
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An abandoned building in the settlement of Rudnik, once part of the gulag prison camp system. Out of 1,500 prisoners who arrived here in 1932, only 54 survived the first winter.

An abandoned building in Rudnik
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An abandoned building in Rudnik

A view of Rudnik on the banks of the Vorkuta river
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A view of Rudnik on the banks of the Vorkuta river

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