Mass exodus from Arctic Russia
Rasma Stodukh from Riga in Latvia spent 13 years as a political prisoner in a Gulag camp in Vorkuta. She stayed on after her release in 1960.
Rasma’s children left years ago but she is cared for by neighbors and says she is resigned to living out her days in the city.
Vorkuta is a coal mining and former Gulag town 1,200 miles north east of Moscow, beyond the Arctic Circle, where temperatures in winter drop to -50C.
Here, whole villages are being slowly deserted and reclaimed by snow, while the financial crisis is squeezing coal mining companies that already struggle to find workers.
Moscow says its Far North is a strategic region, targeting huge investment to exploit its oil and gas resources. But there is a paradox: the Far North is actually dying. Every year thousands of people from towns and cities in the Russian Arctic are fleeing south. The system of subsidies that propped up Siberia and the Arctic in the Soviet times has crumbled. Now there’s no advantage to living in the Far North - salaries are no higher than in central Russia and prices for goods are higher.
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