Following last week’s introductory exploration of Magnitogorsk; we return to speculate further. Last week, I dove straight into the mechanics of the phenomena that is Magnitogorsk, and in doing so skipped over some of the basics. Well, the time has come to redress the thrust of my enthusiasm. The city’s name is interesting in itself (it looks great on a T-shirt), and even those of you who have no familiarity with the Russian language can recognise something approaching “magneto” in there. That’s no coincidence, and yes; it does refer to magnetism. Also, the “gorsk” section is derived from “gora” meaning mountain and “sk” which denotes a “belonging to”. So “Magnitogorsk” translates into “the city of/near the magnetic mountain”.
The mountain in question is Magnitnaya which was (is?) a curious geographically anomaly consisting largely of iron ore with approximately 60% iron content. Anecdotally, I have heard that birds tend to avoid flying over the area; the implication being that the anomaly’s iron content interferes with their innate navigational senses. The current validity of this information is uncertain, due to the fact that the mountain has been heavily mined since the early 1930’s and for much of the time has been ‘off the map’ at any rate. What has occurred during the 70 year black-out? And what is left of the original natural formation?
Eye in the sky
A peek at Magnitnaya via Google Earth reveals a grey, scoured landscape under siege from an onslaught of machinery keen to extract whatever scant treasures remain interred. The earthy remains lie pulverised as a dour wound straddled by a concrete city-scab, spread-eagled across the brutalised terrain.
Picture-postcard, it is not. However, should you wish to pencil-in a visit to glorious Magnitogorsk; then it can be found approximately 400 Km SSW of Yekaterinburg and 260 Km SW of Chelyabinsk, which you may remember from the 2013 meteorite incident. The city also lies towards the Southerly extreme of the Ural Mountains, nestled-in to facilitate the historical (and ongoing) raid upon the range’s rich mineral treasures.
“We are becoming a country of metal”
So said Stalin in 1929, with a boastful pride in Soviet progress. He was referring to the technical and industrial advancement of his country as a whole, particularly in response to the Western capitalist view of it’s traditional “backwardness”. At the heart of these developments were industrial centres such as Magnitogorsk, literally forging the future on a daily basis, at the likely expense of all else. Such were the strides that the Soviet leadership pushed to achieve in order to place the USSR at the apex of 20th Century progress.
“Magnitogorsk was built as a testament to these (Socialist Utopian) ideals as the first completely planned city. In Kotkin’s words, ‘Magnitogorsk was the October revolution itself, the socialist revolution, Stalin’s revolution.” –AMDigital
The establishment and celebration of iconic Magnitogorsk represents a very specific view of “progress” of course, measured in industrial quantities and agricultural yields, -with highlights related nightly on regulated news broadcasts to a captive audience. Whilst productivity strove for higher and higher national goals, the cost at ground level to the individuals building and maintaining Magnitogorsk (and others) was also, proportionately great, and it’s interest is still being repaid, generations later.
Where is the place for the frailty of skin and bone, in a “country of metal”? -We’ll consider that next time.