The entire existence of Mirny, Russia, revolves around the enormous pit that is the town’s diamond mine. The precious stones attract a steady flow of newcomers looking for work, but the town’s residents are divided when it comes to their feelings: While some say Mirny is the best place in the world, others feel trapped in it.
The city of Mirny, located in one of Russia’s coldest and most remote regions, exists for one reason and one reason only – diamonds. Indeed, the place owns its very name to the giant pit on the periphery of the town: the Mir (“Peace”) diamond mine, located on one of the world’s richest diamond deposits.
Mirny (Russian for ‘peaceful’) was built in the 1950s, growing around a diamond mining operation started by the Soviet government after several rich diamond fields were discovered in the Siberian republic of Yakutia, located above the Arctic Circle some 5,280 miles east of Moscow, with winter temperatures going as low as -94° F.
Mirny is a typical example of what the Russians call a monogorod – a city dominated by a single company. Most of Mirny’s 35,000 residents work in the mine, which now belongs to Alrosa, the world’s largest diamond miner.
Aytalina (all names changed) was born and raised in Yakutsk, capital of Yakutia. She and her husband moved to Mirny eight years ago after he was offered a senior position in the mining company. The couple have two children.
“When I married Gennady and we started getting ready to move, I thought I’d be swimming in diamonds,” she says, laughing. “Naturally, my husband was quick to explain that all the diamonds belong to the state and the mining process is strictly supervised – leaving the mine with a diamond in your pocket is impossible.”
“Mirny is much smaller than Yakutsk, but I would never go back, not for love or money,’ says Aytalina, who works as a manager at a store.
“Mirny is a great place for a young family: The town is surrounded by clean taiga forests, there are rivers and lakes around, and we make just enough for our kids to have all they could ever need. Yakutsk, on the other hand, is crowded and dirty.”
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