August 15, 2023

Leave or Die

Leave or Die
Life in a Siberian town.

Kolpashevo is a city of 24,000 souls on the Ob River in Tomsk Oblast. Soviet era romantics moved there from all corners of the country to explore for oil and gas. It is a wild region governed by the taiga, roadlessness, and a severe climate. People came to work in the Tomsk Geophysical Trust, which disappeared after the country’s transformation in the 1990s. Those who remain in Kolpashevo today have essentially been left stranded in the middle of Siberia. The Trust’s headquarters building has become a frozen ruin.

“Either leave or die,” the locals say. And in this Kolpashevo is similar to 70 percent of Russian towns. People are leaving them behind, because they cannot find work and don’t see any future.

Last winter, a journalist and photographer from the Russian independent news website 7x7 traveled to Kolpashevo to see whether Soviet oil and gas exploration’s glorified past is a sturdy enough foundation for a town to build its future on.

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