Though the dark mountain behind the city glowered from on high, we could see that attempts were being made to brighten the buildings and thus the overall ambience. We saw murals on the walls and varied colors on the structures, like the lime green color that identified the “Governor-General” residence. Our guide was animated and very positive about life in this remote outpost of Russia. The gloomy mountain is indeed the town’s raison d’etre since it contains the coal bed the town exists to exploit. There are 500 permanent residents, including children, and 120 of them are the miners. During the summertime, most of the town’s children are sent to the Russian mainland to stay with relatives and friends. Most of the miners sign a 2-year contract but end up staying at least one year more. We supposed that the salaries are better than the men could earn at home. Because there are whole families here, the town boasts a school, a Russian Orthodox Church, a brewery, a huge community center that houses a pool, library, sports arena, a bakery & delicatessen/dining area and a theater. Living quarters are contained in huge Soviet-style apartment buildings that line the street as well. The town main street is wide and paved with concrete. There is also a new hotel at the very end of that street since the city is trying to attract tourists.
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