Magnitogorsk: Once Stalin’s Model Town, Now a Polluted Hell-Hole


Welcome to MagnitogorskPhoto:
Stalin’s Five-Year-Plan: A Postcard Project
Image: John Scott

Haste makes waste. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Magnitogorsk, “city near the magnetic mountain” on the Siberian side of the Ural Mountains. Rushing to build Russia’s model steel town according to Stalin’s Five-Year-Plans of the 1930s, the steel plant there started operations before emission controls and plant security were even considered. Sufficient housing and town development also went for a toss – literally downwind from the plant, subjecting the town’s residents and workers unnecessarily to air pollution. Bronchitis, asthma and lung cancers followed, as well as an entry into the Dirty Thirty – the world’s most polluted cities.

Ice fishersPhoto:
Image: Gerd Ludwig

Ice fishers pulling their catch out of the polluted river:


Map with MagnitogorskPhoto:
Image via payer

Exact location of Magnitogorsk:

Magnitogorsk means “city by the magnetic mountain” and refers to the Magnitnaya mountain – a geological anomaly that once consisting almost completely of iron. According to legend, the hoofs of Mongol leader Batu Khan’s horses are said to have gotten stuck when he tried to conquer the area in the 13th century.