Krasnoyarsk: a long way from everywhere
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At 2.3 million square kilometres, Krasnoyarsk Krai in Siberia is about four times the size of France. However, its population is only about 3 million. So there are areas the size of France that are effectively unpopulated. Still, the region is wealthy, thanks to some of the massive industrial enterprises built here in the Soviet era, such as Norilsk Nickel, built by slaves in Stalin’s time, or Kraz, the huge aluminium smelter powered by Krasnoyarsk hydroelectric power station.

The region, home to exiled dissidents and rebels for hundreds of years, has a reputation as being rough. In the 1990s, it was the site of the “aluminium wars”, as criminal gangs fought for control of Kraz. “A car bomb went off outside here back in the 1990s”, my guide mentions, as we pull up at my hotel. There’s a story about a Moscow analyst flying out to visit the smelter during that period. He was met at the airport by company representatives, driven round the city, and taken right back to the airport, with instructions that if he ever came back he’d be killed.

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