Dikson - Russia's Arctic "capital"
The 1980ies were the golden age for Dikson. Michael Gorbachev presented big plans for developing the Arctic, including shipping along the Siberia north coast. Located at the western edge of the Taimyr Peninsula, east in the Kara Sea and at the entrance to the Yenisei River, Dikson had the geography on its side.
Founded in 1915, a year before well more known Murmansk city, Dikson served a Polar station with a radio communication unit and a metrological and geophysical observatory. During WWII, the strategic location in the Arctic became obvious for the Soviet Union. During Cold War, an airfield was built and smaller military units deployed.
The town is named after a Swede. Arctic explorer Baron Oscar Dickson sailed on numerous voyages along Russia’s remote Siberian coast. With pockets full of money, Dickson sponsored way more famous expeditions, like Nordenskiold’s North east Passage voyage with “Vega” and Fridtjof Namsen’s Arctic sea ice journey with the “Fram”.
Today, a rusty vessel named “Vega” is grounded a few metres from the sign in the harbour reading Добро пожаловать в Диксоне (Welcome to Dikson).
No wonder many of the inhabitants remember the glory Soviet days. In 1985, Dikson had more than 5,000 inhabitants. Today, there are around 500. And plenty of sealed off apartment blocks.
Although the town can brand itself as the world’s northernmost on the mainland, few visitors find their way so far north. The traditional tourist river cruise vessels sailing the Yenisei River has Dudinka as the northernmost stop. From Dudinka, there are another 650 kilometres to sail.
Dikson belongs to Krasnoyarsk Krai, the largest in size of Russia’s Federal subjects. If visiting the administrative offices in Krasnoyarsk City, where important questions have to be solved, the distance is 2,507 kilometres to the south. No wonder why the locals in Dikson look at their own home as an isolated Island on the tundra. Other cities further south are on the ‘mainland’.
There is plenty of space for the locals. Official statistics show that population density is 0,003 persons per square kilometres.
Summer is short so far north. The ice on the river normally breaks up by mid-June and freezes again in early October. Polar night last, when the sun is under the horizon round the clock, last for 82 days. Average winter temperature is - 30° C, while average summer temperature is +9° C.