Salekhard – the
capital of Yamal
1930 the Presidium of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee
adopted a resolution “On organization of national associations in the
areas of Northern national minorities settling”. Among eight new
national okrugs of RSFSR Yamal (Nenets) okrug with the capital in
Obdorsk settlement was founded within Ural region. In 1933 Obdorsk
settlement was renamed into Salekhard settlement (from Nenets
“Sale-Kharn” meaning “settlement on the cape”). In 1938 the centre of
the okrug obtained status of a town.
In the after-war years traditional branches of economy including fishing,
hunting and deer raising were developed. Apart from these branches plant
cultivation appeared: potatoes, vegetables and root crops were grown in
polar areas. At the same time large industrial enterprises were
developed in town. Fish plant, dairy and woodworking plant were set up.
Irtysh Navigation Office opened an operation sector in Salekhard. River
transport workers delivered construction materials and foodstuffs to
remote settlements and trading stations during short navigation period.
Salekhard became the centre of small aviation playing an important role
in development of difficult-to-access northern areas. Hydroport for
An-2V hydroplanes was opened in Salekhard.
One of the most dramatic pages in the history of the town was
“Construction site NB 501” carried out after the Second World War.
According to the order of Stalin construction of transpolar railway
Chum-Labytnangy-Salekhard-Igarka started in 1947. The railway was
supposed to serve as a safe transportation line linking the centre of
the country with districts of the Extreme North where a large port and a
number of strategic objects were supposed to be constructed. The
construction was performed by prisoners. Due to extreme working
conditions in permafrost, construction of railway through vast
inhabitable territories cost a lot of human lives. In 1953 after
Stalin’s death the construction was stopped and later considered as
In 2003 a memorial devoted to the victims of construction NB 501 was
inaugurated. Steam locomotive was set up on a pedestal with the train
which used to carry people between Salekhard and Nadym.
During the period of oil and gas fields discovery in Western Siberia
Salekhard became the centre of exploration expeditions. In summer 1958
Yamalo-Nenets complex exploration expedition was founded in Salekhard.
Intensive activity for hydrocarbon fields exploration started. On the
14th of April 1962 the first gas was produced in Tazovsky tundra. From
1964 to 1966 five large gas fields were discovered on Yamal, including
Gubkinsky field (350 billion cubic meters of gas) and the world biggest
gas field – Urengoysky. In 1967 three new fields were discovered
including a unique one – Medvezhye. In 1969 a new world giant –
Yamburgsky gas condensate field - was discovered. In the 1970’s a
network of gas pipelines was constructed to supply blue fuel to the
European part of the Soviet Union.
Today there are a bit more than 515 thousand people inhabit the
territory of Yamal of 750,3 thousand km2, i.e. 0,7 persons per square
kilometre. At the same time the okrug keeps the third place in Russia
for the amount of taxes paid into the federal budget.
Yamal produces about 90% of the natural gas in Russia (equal to almost ¼
of the world gas production) and about 15% of oil and gas condensate in
Russia. Totally the okrug produces about ½ of primary energy resources
of Russia. A giant part of regional natural resources is not yet
One of the global long-term projects is development of gas resources of
the peninsula and Kara Sea offshore. 11 gas fields and 15 oil and gas
condensate fields are discovered here. Potential gas resources taking
into account offshore fields are evaluated in more than 50 trillion
cubic meters; liquid hydrocarbon resources – more than 5 billion tons.
Another biggest project is
creation of a new centre of metal mining industry on the territory on
Polar Urals to supply metal manufacturers of the neighbouring regions
with raw materials. Presently the richest deposits of chromium,
manganese, bauxites and gold are developed in Polar Urals.
One of the peculiar features of Yamal is combination of totally
different types of management on the okrug territory: industrial
development of subsoil resources and traditional activities of the
aboriginal population of Extreme North. There is the biggest livestock
of reindeer in the region - 600 thousand heads. One third of valuable
whitefish world reserves comes from the Ob River basin. One tenth of the
okrug territory – about 8 million hectares – is a protected natural
Salekhard is one of the most interesting and dynamic developing cities
of the Russian North. It is unique because it is the only city in the
world located on the Polar Circle. Its population reaches 40 000
inhabitants. There are no big oil and gas producing companies in
Salekhard and its neighbourhood thus the city, in the first place, plays
the role of administrative and cultural centre of Yamal. Salekhard
combines traditional and contemporary styles.
In 1990 Salekhard was put on the list of historical cities. There is a
number of architectural elements of historical and cultural value.
Obdorsk Burg in wood was reconstructed on its original place for the
410th anniversary of Salekhard.
Acquaintance with Salekhard gives an opportunity to feel the unique
colouring of life of northern cities. Lately there are many modern
houses under construction using original architectural decisions. One of
Salekhard attractions is Yamal restaurant built on the bridge over the
Shaitanka River. The restaurant offers a variety of dishes of fish and
venison. The visitors can admire panoramic view of the city circled with
tundra through the elevator window and restaurant windows.
Another examples of
original architectural projects are airport, Ice Palace and
Entertainment centre Polyaris. Polar chess school named after the world
champion Anatoly Karpov was opened in Salekhard in 2001.
One of the distinguishing features of residential buildings in Salekhard
is usage of yellow and red colours for external lining of houses. This
practice is used to introduce warm colours into severe northern
In the neighbourhood of Salekhard there are several monuments
underlining unique geographic situation of the city located on the Polar
Circle. One of them is the symbol of the city – stele “66th parallel”;
the other one is the monument to mammoth near the crossing for
At present the look of Salekhard symbolizes specific feature of
contemporary Yamal – the neighbourhood of traditional mode of life of
the northern territory and advanced industrial development of the North.