The Russian town of Vorkuta is the coldest city in all of Europe, with record cold temperatures of -61° F (-52° C). Photographer Arseniy Kotov was exploring the small mining town when he came across an abandoned apartment building that had frozen over, both inside and out.
Kotov is a photographer who focuses on documenting “architecture and life in the post-Soviet world,” and he visited Vorkuta last month to see and capture what has become of the town that was once home to one of the most notorious forced-labor camps of the Gulag.
The Vorkutlag forced-labor camp at Vorkuta was established in 1932, and it became the largest of the Gulag camps in European Russia. Mining continued after the Gulags disappeared, but high costs forced many mine closures in the early 2000s. Over the past two decades, Vorkuta has become something of a ghost town.
Many of the housing complexes in Vorkuta were built for workers in the local mines, and those buildings quickly became abandoned when the mines were shut down and jobs lost. There are an estimated 50,000-70,000 residents in Vorkuta these days, with many abandoned structures littering the landscape.
The frozen five-story apartment building Kotov found in the Severniy district has snow piled up in hallways and stairwells, ice hanging from ceilings, and small snow cylinders in neat shapes on the ground.
“Vorkuta has a subarctic climate (Dfc) with short cool summers and very cold and snowy winters,” Wikipedia states. “The average February temperature is about −20 °C (−4 °F), and in July it is about +13 °C (55 °F).”
What may be shocking to you is that there was actually one family living in the icy building when Kotov stumbled upon it.
“At the time of his visit, one family remained in the Severniy-district building,” Colossal writes, “which was still connected to the central heating system that runs through Russian cities, making it easier to pass through some of the walkways thanks to warmth from the radiators.”
Image credits: Photographs by Arseniy Kotov and used under license