Not many people have heard of Norilsk, an industrial cityin an isolated part of Arctic Russia. No roads or trains lead there; internet is severely limited; and it is it closed to foreigners.
Getting there, I would find out, is very difficult. Yet despite its obscurity, Norilsk has one of the largest mining and metallurgical complexes in the world and produces most of the earth’s palladium, an essential mineral in electronics and automobiles. Most of us probably have a bit of Norilsk in our pockets, bags or homes.
Having this connection to such an alien place intrigued me; Norilsk was the most important city I’d never heard of. Then, after seeing my co-producer-to-be Elena Chernyshova’s photo reportage of the city, which reveals a mysterious place stuck between a Soviet past and a dystopian future, I decided that I had to go.
But getting there took almost two years of almost daily calls and negotiations with the mining company and the Russian Federal Security Service.
Our requests to visit were repeatedly turned down and unspecified members of our team of six deemed “dubious.” After we increased pressure, two of us were finally allowed enter the city with a week’s warning.
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