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One of the coldest and easternmost cities in Europe, Vorkuta, is slowly dying. The extremely low winter temperatures, dipping down to below fifty degrees Celsius, are potentially deadly even among Russian natives acclimated to extreme cold. Vorkuta has the distinction of being the fourth-largest city in the Arctic Circle, but it’s losing population at a rapid pace.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Vorkuta has been slowly but surely losing its population. Photos of the extreme weather in the region show icicles hanging from ceilings within homes, snow filling living rooms, and ice covering everything in sight. Sources within the country have begun calling Vorkuta the “fastest dying city in Russia” due to the rapid immigration out of the frozen settlement.

Vorkuta History

The city was once a bustling center of activity in the region, built upon the backs of miners during the political reign of Joseph Stalin. The harsh conditions of the mining work reportedly led to at least 200,000 deaths among the coal miners over the years, giving the city a grim reputation even during the reign of the Soviet Union.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, things took a dark turn for the city. Hyperinflation of currency led to a financial crisis in Eastern Europe, and Vorkuta wasn’t exempt. Coal mining in the region all but vanished, drying up one of the main reasons to live in the city. Now, the frozen city is on its way to becoming history.

Modern Era

Today, the city is dwindling rapidly. As people move out of the region’s sprawling suburbs to warmer climates, buildings sit abandoned in the extreme cold. Photos of buildings buried under snow and ice are typical, with many haunting images coming from the frigid ghost town’s abandoned regions.

Inside abandoned apartment buildings, walls and furniture are caked in ice. The images are surreal, looking like something from a fantasy book instead of the real world. Abandoned cinemas fill with snow as the extreme cold makes the structures unstable and collapses portions of the building. It’s not uncommon to pass parking lots filled with heavy construction equipment sitting unused under thick layers of snow.

According to the local government, there simply isn’t money to deal with all of the abandoned buildings and equipment. The cold makes it difficult to address even the simplest of problems. As such, it’s no surprise why people are leaving the city in large numbers for warmer locales.