40 Days of Night

Olga Kravets

Published on 19/05/15

© Olga Kravets

Mur­mansk is the world’s largest city bey­ond the Arc­tic Circle. Foun­ded in 1916, Mur­mansk was the last city estab­lished by the Rus­sian Empire before Bolshev­iks led by Vladi­mir Lenin seized power.

Due to its extreme north­erly loc­a­tion it exper­i­ences an annual 40-day long polar night from 3 Decem­ber to 11 Janu­ary. Dur­ing this period, when the sun remains con­stantly below the hori­zon, a semi-twilight occurs each day for only a few hours around noon. For the rest of the time, the city is wrapped up in darkness.

The aver­age daily tem­per­at­ure is below zero dur­ing most of the year, with up to 40℃ in Decem­ber and Janu­ary. How­ever the city’s port is ice-free, as its waters are warmed by the North Atlantic Cur­rent.
Before the col­lapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, almost half-a-million people resided here, many of them attrac­ted by the high wages in the ship­ping and fish­ing indus­tries, part of the soviet labour policy to com­pensate work­ers for the dif­fi­culties of life far up north. The newly inde­pend­ent Rus­sia couldn’t afford to sus­tain such high wages, which caused a mass exodus as people aban­doned Mur­mansk in search of more hos­pit­able climes.

The lack of sun­light and almost 8 months of Winter cause a num­ber of health and emo­tional dis­orders like insom­nia, mood swings and depres­sion. Sui­cide and alco­hol­ism rates are higher in the region than Russia’s national average.

© Olga Kravets

Few people feel them­selves at home in such harsh Arc­tic con­di­tions. It takes a spe­cial state of mind to see the true beauty of this north­ern lands des­pite your body’s primal sur­vival instincts. Ones who reach it really stand out among oth­ers with intan­gible expres­sion of peace in their eyes.

Loc­ated in Mur­mansk region, Teriberka vil­lage was recently hyped by media after dir­ector Andrey Zvy­agint­sev shot his Oscar nom­in­ated movie Leviathan there, depict­ing it as a town drown­ing in cor­rup­tion and alco­hol­ism. Unlike in the film, things are going fine there. The houses might be indeed run down, but the people are true North­ern­ers — not to freeze one needs to stay sober. They are incread­ibly hos­pit­able, they love their land, wor­ship it and write songs to it. North­ern spirit stays strong.

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