Is This The Most Depressing Place To Live In The World?

Is This The Most Depressing Place To Live In The World?

I know what you're all thinking; where could possibly be worse to live than Leitrim? The city of Norilsk in Russia might just take the crown as the world's most depressing city. It is the world's most northerly city, and the second largest Russian city within the Arctic circle (Murmansk is the biggest).

There are no roads to Norilsk. If the waters aren't frozen solid, you might get there via boat, or you fly there, snowstorms permitting. It snows around 250-270 days a year in Norilsk, with around half of those having full on snowstorms. Due to the Arctic circle, there is a seven week period of total darkness from November to January, with 65 days of sun in May-July, but this does not melt the snow. The city exists in the continuous permafrost zone. Average temperatures are -10 degrees Celsius, with lows of -55 at times.

Norilsk originated thanks to a huge nickel, copper, and cobalt deposit at the foot of the Putorana mountains. As was the way back in the 1930s, the Soviets got a gulag up and running to build the city and metallurgy complex, and of course to mine. Half a million prisoners made their way to Norilsk, 17,000 died in a period from 1935 to 1956.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Norilsk became the world's leading producer of nickel and palladium, with 17% and 41% of the world's production. 60% of the 180,000 people living in the city are involved in the mine. Due to pollution from the mine, snow is black, and sometimes yellow, or even pink in addition to white, and acid rain covers a surrounding expanse the size of Germany. The amount of sulfur dioxide in the air is so high that there is no vegetation in an almost 20-mile radius, and the rare berries or mushrooms that grow here have a high toxicity. The soil is so contaminated that it is now economically feasible to mine it.

Norilsk is one of the most polluted cities in the world. Every year, more than 2 million tons of gas (clouds of dioxide sulfur, nitrogen oxides, carbon, phenols, and more) are expelled into the atmosphere. This ecological disaster is damaging the health of the city's locals, who on average survive 10 years fewer than people living elsewhere in Russia. The risk of cancer is also twice as high, and respiratory diseases are widespread.


The polar day and night have a huge influence, both physically and psychologically, on the human body. People in Norilsk can suffer from "polar night syndrome," experiencing anxiety, nervousness, drowsiness, and/or insomnia. Given the psychological discomfort and lack of environmental stimuli, it should come as no shock that Norilsk has many cases of depression.

To sum up; Norilsk is really cold, it's always snowing, you can't get out of the place cos of the weather, you have to work in a mine that will make you sick, and you'll die young. It used to be a gulag for God's sake! Rough out.

If you want to see what life is like inside the world's most depressing city, check out this very cool photo essay

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Joe O'Gorman

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