Photo & text: Artemiy Zhdanov

My grandparents live here. I was coming to them for summer vacations until I was 14. After that it was necessary to get a pass and my parents hadsome difficulties with it, so I did not go to Zheleznogorsk anymore.

Zheleznogorsk  is a closed town in a full sense of this notion: barbed wire on the perimeter, the entry is strictly by permission only. The history of Zhelezka cannot be separated from the events of the nuclear arms race between the USSR and the USA. Secret production and the town itself was built by units of only recentlyDefense Ministry, Ministry of Inner Affairs and the prisoners of the Gulag. It even appeared on the maps.

From childhood memories I had the impression of that townyas of something special. It is only an hour by car away from Krasnoyarsk but it is a different place. The air here is clean, there arelots of greenery, houses and avenues are very beautiful. In summer the spacious entrances of old Stalin buildings always have a pleasant chill, and there are  giant poplars in the yards  and the kids on the swings. Grandfather’s 408 Moskvichcar of a rich blue colourand the smell of wood in his workshop always made me excited. I do remember a lot of people along the streets and my grandma’s gladioli grown up at summer house were always quickly sold out.


You can get here by car or by route bus stopping right opposite the road block. Passengers are divided into two types: the ones being checked showing the pass, and the others who are in the procession get in through the bypass under the barbed wire. In 5 minutes they all geton same minibus. One passes an industrial zone after the road block, then a picturesque lake with a sandy beach, surrounded by pine forest. The town is divided into several neighborhoods, but the residents used to call the streets that are not numerous.Everywhere one can see the remnants of the Soviet time: in architecture, infrastructure and even in fashion. New coffee shops and restaurants coexist with the Soviet groceries and canteens, beauty salons withhairdresser’s, where old ladies work with scissors.


The most part of residents works in Krasnoyarsk and at the main town-forming enterprises – the Information Satellite Systems and the Mining-chemical plans. There are rumors around the town that the plants are expanding due to new foreign investors, but residents strongly believe that money and people in the town will not increase:”The youth is  moving away, having nothing to do. Those whohas not gone, get drunk or something else. It is hard to start business here, as well, there is nowhere to study. There is only one thing to do – to walk in the forest”.


In 2001 the population of the town was 94700 people, in 2014 – 84930 people and the number is decreasing.

There are two museums in the town – one is devoted to the history of Mining-chemical plant, the second – to the history of the town. There is only one cinema, shopping centerbut even a night club “Garage”. There is one branch of Siberian Federal University, several schools and kindergartens. There is everything for modern life, but for some reason there is no feeling of future. For most people it is the place where you can relax from the fuss and get back to the past.


Nothing has changed in my grandparents’ apartment: all valuable thingsare rooted to the designated by theirownerspoints. Carved wooden furniture, paintings, bookshelves and other utensils seem to be conductors, taking me back to my carefree childhood. One gets the feeling that stasis does not apply only living organisms – they grow olderanddie. Very slowly.


Wandering around the town, one faces flashesof local life: here are the boys playing the ball;in the House of Culture they show concert to veterans, the music plays; couples are walking in the park and around the lake; an elderly skier passes you by and then another one. It all happens at the weekend while at week days the streets are empty and time stands still.

In summer the town is as green as before, the air here is very clean. There are only less people outside. Grandfather’s Moskvich-408 car has become rusty and grandmother’s gladioli are not sold any more.

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