Stalin’s legacy lives on in city that slaves built – archive, 1994 – by James Meek (The Guardian – December 29, 2017)

At the end of the second world war, as Europe was preparing to celebrate its victory over fascism, the Soviet authorities arrested an entire school of teenage girls from western Ukraine, named them enemies of the people, took them to an Arctic concentration camp and forced them to expend their youth in slave labour.

Half a century later Galina Skopyuk is still there. She is a prisoner of circumstances now rather than a prisoner of Stalin, but beginning her 49th winter in a land where the winters are nine months long is hard. “I’m always hoping to leave. I don’t want to die here. But I don’t have any chance,” she said.

Mrs Skopyuk is one of the few living links between the present-day city of Norilsk and the dark years of its creation, starting in 1935, when Stalin willed thousands of political prisoners hither to claw a city out of the tundra in a metal-rich volcanic crater.

When a researcher from Norilsk Museum was given access to the records of prisoners last year, she was not allowed to count the exact number who had passed through before the camps were closed in 1956.

All she had time to do was take a ruler, work out the number of card-index files in each four-inch block and measure the blocks. The figure Nina Kandrushina came up with was 350,000. She reckons some 100,000 of them died, many summarily executed.

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