Mass exodus from Arctic Russia
Alexander Yelpayev is a Cossack and lives, unemployed, in the outskirt of Vorkuta town. 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.
Yelpayev worked for years as a miner until his unit closed down.
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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