GULAG (Norilsk, Russia)

Norilsk, Russia
Maida Withers and the Dance Construction Company were invited to participate in the 3rd International Annual Conference “Integrity of Cultural Space or Sum of Territories” in Norilsk, Russia.  The conference was founded by Irina Prokhorova, intellectual and manager of her brother’s national campaign for office against Vladimir Putin.
MWDCC performed: Thresholds Crossed, Duet and participated in discussions daily regarding indigenous people of the region; Norilsk, Russia (November 4, 2006).  We were invited by Luba Kusovnikova.

“Norilsk was founded at the end of the 1920s. Nothing really happened until 1935, when the Norilsk mining-metallurgic complex became the center of the Norillag system of GULAG labor camps. It became a town in 1953. But, so what? For outsiders: it still didn’t exist.”

Norilsk, like many other secret cities of the Soviet Era was not on the maps.  People did not visit there or leave there without a “special visa,” which we were given to attend the conference.  The conference was to explore the integration of the indigenous peoples of the region with the commercial government purposes.

“The story of Siberia is full of hardship and human brutality. Norilsk meant Hell for many. It is the most polluted place in Russia and that is saying something. Step outside the city and you feel like it can’t be real. Toxic puddles line the rugged road.  Much of the pollution came from the refining and mining in Norilsk a rich area for nickel.”

Maida Withers had been in three-week residency in Solovky Island, the first Soviet Era Gulag, so she was prepared for the sorrow found in Norilsk.  Irina Prokorova is a brilliant political activist in Russia today.