Monday, 24 April 2017

the reborn (?) Russian Arctic ghost village from 'Leviathan'

This is northeastern Russian Arctic territory, close to Finnish Lapland; so geographically we are still in Europe, and civilization is somehow nearby.

Murmansk and Arkhangelsk display the nuclear-powered Russian fleet, its most powerful icebreakers and submarines; Gazprom reigns with large fields of oil and gas extracting and processing plants west of Novaya Zemlya.

Teriberka might be developed and wealthy as it neighbours oil and gas fields.

The recent movie masterpiece Leviathan, by Andrey Zvyagintsev, was mostly shot in Teriberka, a village by the Barents sea; it showed with bitter humour the lifestiles from the past and the present day corruption.

Teriberka is located more precisely west of the White Sea, on the Kola peninsula. Before the film was shot, it was just a ghost town of ruined houses and boat skiffs amidst polluted water and muddy ground. Now it's a tourist attraction.

Teriberka belongs to the Murmansk district, and was built on a flat tundra terrain.

The village was born around a small shipyard.

Teriberka was founded in the 19th century, neighbouring a ship repair yard and a fish processing factory. Codfish and haddock abounded then and the population reached some 5000. But excessive fishing and bad planning quickly exhausted the maritime resources and ruined the economy.


Coordinates: 69° 10′ N, 35º 10' E
           300 km north of the Arctic Circle.
Population: ~ 1000

This is "new" Teriberka !

Remote, cold, poor and difficult to reach, Teriberka became world known the day a filming crew arrived to shoot Leviathan. Notoriety grew when the movie won a Gold Award in 2015, and became a symbol for the almost romantic, epic, soviet failure.

Apartment blocks from the 1920s  with fissured walls and uncovered rotten brick.

By the end of the 19th century, the main buildings were a metereological station, the lighthouse, school and church; people (mostly Sami) lived from rein herding, as they were still a semi-nomadic population. Then came badly planned industrilization and the building of appalling residencial blocks. The fisheries went down , only carcasses of ships remain along the coast to remind of the sea based prosperity.

There is one called "old" Teriberka, made of wooden houses or cabins and boat skiffs close to a sea inlet; and a "new" Teriberka, more widely open to the sea, bordering the abandoned shipyards, built of semi-empty decaying blocks of the last century.

This wooden two-story dwelling, probably the best in Teriberka, was the family house in 'Leviathan'.

At over 69º N latitude, the whole year is lived in cold weather, reaching down to -20º C. The short Summer - a month to fifty days - rarely warms up to 14 º.

Covered by ice, the road is even a little more serviceable.

Entry to town.

The 'town centre': the blue church and the yellow school.

Industrial soviet derelict

Image from 'Leviathan'.

During daytime some people can be seen walking, but by night the village is deserted; uncovered and  bumpy walls, where holes open instead of windows, a very creepy ambiance:

Even the inevitable Christmas tree is not able to break the gloominess.

Amid the decaying blocks, the new school is like a sign of renovated future:

The only joyful, colored place.

So the investment in tourism came as a surprise. Someone had the brilliant idea of making profit out of ruins, like the antiquity shops do. So they built a tourist village, quite red as it should be expected, and a folk festival  was added; alltogether it's Teriberka's New Life !

"Teriberka, New Life" (новая жизнь) is now in its 3rd season.

Native people are the Sami, also known as Lapps, traditionally reindeer herders; some 2000 in Kola peninsula.

Tourist Apartaments with orthodox chapel.

Always present a handicraft saling stall.

To reach Teriberka, the distance of 90 km from Murmansk must be run on a muddy road through the wet and undulating tundra, where some shrubs are the only sight over desolation.

In winter, the road is frequently impracticable, but under snow things get much better. Like the whole landscape - under the white cap, all ugliness is disguised and landscape even gets to look beautiful.

Close by, to the North at the Barents, an immense wealthiness is accumulated by oil and gas industry. From that, Teriberka receives only an tiny fraction : tourist visitors. And even that thanks to a film which is mostly hated in Russia, but was prized in the Western world.