Kadykchan Ghost Town - Russia
Kadykchan is a ghost town in eastern Siberia, the name translates as ‘Valley of Death’ named by the commander of the Gulag which was built here to house the prisoners who mined coal here in the Second World War.
During World War II, the Russians had an insatiable need for coal to power the armaments factories and the trains that transported troops and weaponry across the vast distances of the country. Political prisoners and prisoners of war took those same trains to where coal had been discovered, usually in the most inhospitable of places.
After the war Kadykchan mine supplied coal to power the nearby Arkangelisk power station but even when coal was at a premium in the USSR mining it there was a difficult and dangerous task.
The coal seam was at a depth of 400 metres and in an area well known for marsh and coal gas. Numerous fatal explosions combined to make the mine less attractive, not so much for the loss of life – human lives were cheap according to the powers than ran the Soviet economy – but for the damage that held up the extraction.
A final mine explosion in 1996 led to the loss of six lives and the closure of the mine.
At its height the town had a population of nearly 6,000 people but that has fallen to just a couple of hundred who roam its barren lifeless streets.
Today, walking through the town reminds one of Prypiat except for the radiation. The homes lay deserted, many with personal belongings still in place in cupboards. When the mine closed, offers of work and accommodation elsewhere were made to the inhabitants and fearful of becoming unemployed in the new dismantled Federation, many simply got on the buses with what they had with them.
The town is depressing, derelict, rat infested and set in a barren landscape. Apart from the history attached to the town in the part it played in the Russian war effort, there is little to commend a visit and with coal rapidly fading as a fuel, the chances are that the town will one day disappear into the sands of time.