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NORTHERN OUTPOST OF RUSSIA

Дата публикации: 20 ноября 2021
Автор(ы): Alexei KISELYOV
Публикатор: Научная библиотека Порталус
Рубрика: ПРИКЛЮЧЕНЧЕСКАЯ ЛИТЕРАТУРА
Источник: (c) Science in Russia, №4, 2014, C.79-85
Номер публикации: №1637424264


Alexei KISELYOV, (c)

by Alexei KISELYOV, Dr. Sc. (Hist.), Prof, of the Murmansk State University of the Humanities

 

In view of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War of 1914-1918, marked in 2014, we would like to tell to our readers about Murmansk, a city born by the war on the rocky shores of the non-freezing Kola Bay, the biggest city beyond the Arctic Circle, often called Russian gates to the Arctic. In addition, 70 years ago, in 1944, during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, as a result of the Petsamo-Kirkenes Offensive of the Karelian Front and the Northern Navy, the Nazis were finally defeated in the Northern Europe and the defence of Polar Regions was completed.

 

The myths of different peoples tell that, in the remote northern lands, beyond the mysterious Ural Mountains, from where a fierce cold wind Borei was blowing, there lived people-demigods. Their native land--Hyperborea with the center somewhere near the Kola Peninsula, was described by the authors of the Veda--the earliest works of Hinduism (at the turn of 2nd-1st millennia B.C.), in the holy book of Persians Avesta (9th-5th cent. B.C.), and in the ancient Greek poem Odyssey (8th cent. B.C.).

 

According to the Iceland sagas, in the Middle Ages, there was a country named Bjarmia (or Bjarmaland). It was settled by Vikings-Normans from Scandinavia, who following in the Norwegian Ottar's footsteps, rounded the northern end of Europe and reached the White Sea aboard the sailing vessel in the late 9th century. Speaking of the Russians, these lands were sometimes visited by hunters from Novgorod in search of fur and marine animals. They called Normans "Nurmans", which later on transformed into "Murmans" and stuck to the coast of

 
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the Arctic Ocean, visited by strangers and foreigners, and then to the whole of Kola Peninsula.

 

With such an advantage the non-freezing Kola Bay of the Barents Sea, a narrow twisted fjord with the Tuloma and Kola Rivers flowing into it, was almost uninhabited and had no roads running from the center of Russia. Only in the 19th century a number of attempts were made to arrange ship stations, but all of them failed due to different reasons. However, in the 1890s some progress was achieved: construction of a port and a city named Alexandrovsk-on-Murman (today Polyarny) was launched there. But three years later it became clear that it was not able to satisfy growing needs of trade and merchant navigation.

 

Commenced in 1914, the First World War made the czarist government adopt a long overdue decision--to build a road from Petrozavodsk to Murman and construct a new port in the place of its joining with the non-freez-

 
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ing bay. It was there that the authorities planned to get weapons, supplies, military equipment, and ammunition provided by the Entente allies to the Russian army. The problem was that the Black and Baltic Seas were already blocked by the enemy, and Arkhangelsk was the only exit from Russia to Western Europe. But it could be used only in a warm season (narrow entrance to the White Sea and the estuary of the inflowing Northern Dvina are covered with ice for almost six months), and moreover, the capacity of the existing railroad was quite low.

 

HOW THE SEAPORT WAS BUILT

 

June 19, 1915, is believed to be a "birthday" of Murmansk port, when a team of workers started driving in of piles for a pier on the eastern bank of the Kola bay, 50 km away from the exit to the sea. The work went with a swing: on February 2, 1916, three steam pile drivers (equipment to drive piles in the soil) were installed, a pier for small vessels with trolley tracks, two warehouses, a residential building serving as an office and dwelling for the local staff were built.

 

With the start of the summer navigation of 1916, Arkhangelsk began to supply all kinds of materials. In the meanwhile, as the engineer Boris Kachurin recalled later on, "favorable weather conditions and polar days failed to accelerate the work speed. Manpower deficit was pressing. Workers whose contract terminated in spring, left for home, to the south. It was difficult to find new workers since a regular call-up to the front was announced in the country. Only people who were not qualified for military service due to poor health or were out of service age were hired for construction works." In this context, it was decided to engage warriors (older soldiers), who could work as carpenters.

 

In March 1917, three deep-water mooring lines were already built, two more ones were almost finished (with the total length of 630 m), and preparations were under way for the next one. The port could receive up to seven ocean ships and had a 35-ton and two 20-ton cranes to unload them. In the settlement of Drovyanoe (today it is located within the city limits), there were workshops, in the bay--a floating crane to repair vessels. About 20 residential buildings, a hospital, and a canteen were built to satisfy the needs of the workers.

 

The first ocean steamer--Drott from New-York--carrying supplies to build a railway moored to a temporary pier on August 19, 1915. At the end of the same year, when the navigation period in Arkhangelsk terminated, all supplies provided by the allies were delivered via Murman. Petrograd requested: "First send gunpowder, rifles, shoes, barbed wire, weapons, and air cargo by ice-breakers." However, berthing facilities were still not enough for the new port--sometimes vessels were moored for a long time. Nevertheless, the count Alexei Ignatyev (a diplomat and a writer, a military agent of Russia to France) wrote in his book Fifty Years in the

 
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Service (1940) that in the period from 1915 to 1917 Murmansk and Arkhangelsk ports received over 130 vessels with military cargoes onboard, including more than 1 mln missiles, lots of cars and aircraft.

 

NORTHERNMOST RAILWAY IN THE WORLD

 

Construction of a permanent way for a future railroad began in Murman in the spring of 1915: rocks were hollowed, loaded into wagons and then on carts driven by horses. Railing works were carried out during the winter of 1915/16, in the period of polar nights the light of torches and camp-fires, at a temperature of 20-30 degrees below zero by peasants from the central territories of Russia, including Chinese, Finns, Kazakhs, Tatars, and from 1915, prisoners of war (according to German historians, almost 70,000 natives of Germany and Austria-Hungary). However, in spite of all difficulties, the railroad (though incompletely) was built, and every day it carried to the south 2-2.5 thous. tons of cargoes.

 

THE KOLA NAVAL BASE

 

Let us recall that the work--construction of the port and the railway--were effected in terms of the bloody war when military hostilities took place in the northern waters. In the spring of 1915, the Germans laid land mines in the eastern part of the Kola Peninsula and in the narrow entrance to the White Sea, which blew up a number of steamers of the Entente countries. The en-emy cruisers Meteor, Berlin, and Grosser Kurfurst were also very active in the region. After assessing the situation, our command sent there some vessels stationed in the Pacific Ocean and filed a petition to assist in defending Murman to the English Admiralty. In response it sent the battleship Alternai, cruiser Iphigenia, floating bases Herneston and Saninendale, as well as 15 minesweepers. In addition, in March 1916 Russia redeemed from Japan its battleships Poltava, Peresvet, and Varyag captured by Japan during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, and they also set for the Barents Sea.

 

Concentration of great number of vessels in one place required coastal bases able to receive them and supply with whatever necessary. One such base was established in the Kola Bay, another--in the settlement of lokanga. Besides, there was also established the Bazstroika department in charge of construction of piers and berths; thanks to which, the vessels were supplied with coal, water, armory, etc. This is how the recently constructed settlement near the railway station Murman transformed into a merchant seaport and a big naval station. In July 1916 it was granted the status of a city (the last one established by the Russian Empire) named Romanov-on-Murman, and from April 1917--Murmansk.

 

IN THE MID-20TH CENTURY

 

In the 1920s-1930s there was founded a transport-industrial complex incorporating a railroad and a mer-

 
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chant seaport, which was engaged in intensive work to reinstate communication between this remote area and the central regions of the country, constructed industrial plants, exported timber, and developed fishery. Then again, the Great Patriotic War put local economy on "military rails". Recently constructed trawlers were assigned to the Northern Nawy, three municipal shipyards repaired battleships, and hospitals, including school facilities, were turned into hospitals to treat wounded soldiers. From January 1942 Murmansk accepted ally caravans carrying cargoes under the US land-lease program based on provision of military machinery and other materials to the allied countries in 1939-1945 as a loan or by lease.

 

The port operated in terms of constant air attacks-they commenced on June 22, 1941, and lasted for over three years. Murmansk stands second only to Stalingrad by the number of bombs dropped on it (according to re-searchers, 4, 100 high-explosive and 181,000 incendiary bombs), while losses from these attacks make up 15 per-

 
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cent of the civic population. In the first months of the war most air attacks were aimed to demolish defense facilities and strategic plants (port, railway station, shipyards). However, after the Hitlerites understood that the blitzkrieg failed, like in other regions of our country, they began to bomb residential blocks.

 

The summer of 1942 was the heaviest time for Murmansk: the wooden center was completely demolished by fires with only chimneys left to remind of peaceful life. Local residents moved to dugouts in the hills, and the battle continued. The port received ally steamers carrying tanks, aircraft, cars, military equipment, and food, then transported to the south by railroad. Two years later, in October 1944, the Karelian front army and the Northern Navy passed to the coun-teroffensive, dealt a crushing blow to the enemy and completed defense of the Polar regions. In 2014 we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of that glorious victory.

 
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MURMANSK TODAY

 

In the post-war years the city on the bank of the Kola Bay was listed among 15 cities of the country to be reconstructed first of all, and actually began rising from the ruins. Fishery, shipyards, housing construction, transport and utilities became top priority, which is topical even today. Murmansk has also preserved its significance as a seaport connected by the railroad with the central parts of the country. It is still a transit point for cargoes shipped to Europe, America, and Asia; the city is a "gate to the Arctic" and a homeport of the Russian atomic ice-breaker fleet.

 

The present-day symbol of the city is "Alyosha from Murmansk", the 35.5 m monument of a soldier in a helmet and a ground sheet with a gun-machine hanging over his shoulder on a high hill. It is the central monument of the memorial complex "To the Defenders of the Soviet Polar Regions During the Great Patriotic War" (1974, sculptor Isaak Brodsky), seen from almost every point in the city, one of the biggest monuments in Russia.

 

Another pride of the city is the northernmost in the world and the only oceanarium in Europe, where Arctic pinnipeds are trained (a species named "true seals", including sea hare and ringed seal) for entertainment performances. The oceanarium was set up in 1984, when a laboratory for marine mammals was organized under the RAS Institute of Marine Biology. Today this complex is focused on environmental education with a number of training programs, and studies in physiology, visual, audio and color perception, visual acuity of animals, etc.

 

The shipentine Sedov (built in 1921), the biggest training sailing vessel, and the first in the world atomic icebreaker Lenin are registered in Murmansk. The latter was built to service the Northern Sea Route; in 1960 it joined the local shipping company. Currently, the ship is a museum dedicated to the history of national nuclear fleet and Arctic exploration. As for its "grandfather", the legendary Yermak launched in 1898, there is only the anchor left, making part of the external décor of the Murmansk Museum of Local Lore mounted in at the background of the mosaic panel.

 

Speaking of the sights of the recent years, we must mention the Church of the Festival of the Saviour on Water consecrated in 2002 (Church of the Icon of Christ Not Made by Hand); it is a part of the memorial complex in commemoration of the seamen, who died in peace time, the first stone church in the city center. In 2005, the 1.6 km long bridge across the Kola Bay was commissioned--at that time it was the longest bridge beyond the Arctic Circle, connecting Murmansk and western territories of the region, Norway, and Finland.

 

Photos, Yuri Vorontsov

Опубликовано на Порталусе 20 ноября 2021 года

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