Aleksey Ivanov: Nikel. The Lost Element.

Says Aleksey: The town of Nikel is one of the numerous single-industry towns in modern Russia. It is located in the North-Western part of the Kola Peninsula, 123 km North-West of Murmansk and a few kilometers from the Norwegian border. It was founded by Finnish companies in 1935 for the extraction of copper-nickel ore. In 1944 it became Soviet settlement and got its modern name from the chemical element of the same name. The growing demand of the USSR for Nickel-based superalloys used in the aerospace industry determined the economic profile and prosperity of the town for decades to come. After the disappearance of the Soviet Union Nikel faced social decline and outflow of population. But the town is striving to survive. Nickel and other valuable elements are still mined. I decided to focus on the most active part of Nikel population – the youths and find out how they live.

Abandoned houses in the center of Nikel. About 11,000 people now live in the town, while over the past 30 years the population has decreased by almost 2 times. Nikel, Russia 2019

Originally hailing from the picturesque region of Trans-Baikal, Aleksey Ivanov (born in 1984) since 2017 divides his time between Moscow and Siberian city of Chita. He started his career as an independent documentary photographer in 2017. He studies photography in The School of Modern Photography “Docdocdoc”.


During summer Maksim (27) lives in the apartment, left over from his deceased parents. He gets food in a christian orthodox parish. Since the heating batteries in the apartment were stolen, and some of the windows are broken, during cold season he spends nights with friends or goes to the forest dugout. Nikel, Russia 2019
Snow-covered car in a courtyard. There are tens of derelict cars lay on the streets of Nikel. Nikel, Russia 2019
Katya (25) is on leave to take care of her second son and is learning the profession of a cook, hoping to find a better job. Nikel, Russia 2019
Kola Mining and Metallurgical Company’s integrated plant. It employs about 25% of the economically active population of Nikel. Nikel, Russia 2019
Denis and Alina (19) are together for about a year. Denis works for the Kola Mining and Metallurgical Company, the main employer of Nikel. Alina decided to move to the city of Rybinsk, where her friend lives. Nikel, Russia 2019
Alena (25) is a hairdresser and vocalist in a local punk-rock band. A few years ago she met her future husband on the internet and moved to him from Ukraine. Since then she lives in Nikel. She and her husband and daughter are planning to move to the Voronezh Oblast in the next two years. Nikel, Russia 2019
Students are waiting for the rehearsal in the auditorium of Pechenga Polytechnic College, the only professional educational institution in Nikel. Nikel, Russia 2019
Andrey (18) is a student of Pechenga Polytechnic College. His future specialty is an electrician. Nikel, Russia 2019
Autodrome in Nikel. The sign on the ground read “Start”. Nikel, Russia 2019