Haunting images show the remains of Joseph Stalin’s infamous ‘Railway to Nowhere’ built on the deaths of around 300,000 Gulag prisoners who died while building the doomed track.
Convicts attempted to make something of the flawed blueprint in the brutal -50c winter temperatures. Similarly in summer things didn’t get any better as they were plagued by mosquitoes.
Tragically, there are no gravestones near the site of the railway.
The track was projected to connect Salekhard – a town near the polar circle – with the remote village of Ikarka, linking the river Ob and the Yenisei in a mad bid to take control of the Arctic Ocean.
The Siberian Times report the project was ‘outstandingly and deliberately senseless’, the railway was constructed secretly by the Soviet Union.
As per Atlas Obscura:
Stalin conceived of an 806-mile-long rail line to run between the Siberian cities Igarka and Salekhard. Between the years 1947 to 1953, political prisoners were tasked with turning two separate projects into one massive bad idea.
Working from the banks on the River Ob prisoners constructing the 501 Railroad’s struggled to unite their project with that of a separate team of prisoners who were actively dying as they laid ties and rails on their 503 Railroad.
On either side of the tracks, wooden barracks (also built by the very prisoners they once housed) can still be seen crumbling into the low brush of the tundra. As the years wore on, progress was made with ever increased sluggishness. Supervisors also started to realise that demand waiting on the other side for the completed railroad verged on nonexistent.
To this day, the purpose of Stalin’s project remains dubious. Outwardly, the purpose was said to be one of transporting nickel between the two cities’ Arctic deep-water ports.
Yet more likely, it seems the true idea behind Stalin’s railroad lay in creating pointless work for a large population of politically threatening individuals in order to decimate their numbers, all disguised as “serving the nation.” At no time in history did this massive stretch of rail connect to the rest of the Russian railway system, nor did it transport a single rail car — teeming with nickel or otherwise.
No accurate record of prisoners’ death or injury was kept, meaning there is no way of knowing this impotent railway’s human cost. Over time, its official name, the Salekhard-Igarka Railway, has been eclipsed by the more succinct moniker “Death Road.”
Among the main causes of death were accident, disease and illness including scurvy and exhaustion.
Most were buried without coffins with little more than a number tag tied to their carcasses.