Krasnoyarsk Krai

Dikson: an outpost of civilisation in the Arctic

Tourism for the strong of mind and body

09.11.2022 /// Dikson settlement. The northernmost port in the Russian Federation, long a closed territory for ordinary Soviet citizens, has long been inaccessible to tourists. Today you can visit it and experience its rugged beauty. Really, one would think, why? An ordinary shift workers' camp—tundra, sea and few ships. However, it's not that simple. Today, Dikson is changing, slowly but surely becoming a true centre of civilisation in the Arctic. A trip there is an opportunity to see for yourself how the North surrenders to human will, to get a taste of the harsh romance of working life above the Arctic Circle and to learn about the troubled history of the place.

Dikson was founded on 7 September 1915 on the island of the same name, which in turn was named after the Swedish merchant and industrialist Oscar Dickson (1823–1897). He was once Sweden's richest man and sponsored Arctic exploration, including the great expedition of Nils Nordenskiöld to northern Russia on the Swedish ship Vega.

The emergence of the Dikson settlement is also linked to Arctic research: to provide the expedition of B. A. Vilkitsky on the Taimyr and Vaigach ice-breaking steamers with communications, a radio station and a settlement were built on the island. In 1916, a hydrometeorological station was opened which is still in operation today. The mainland part of the settlement on the western end of the Pyotr Chichagov shore of the Taimyr Peninsula, separated from the island one and a half kilometres by a strait of Yenisei Bay, was erected later.

In August 1942, the only battle with German troops beyond the Urals was fought at Dikson, resulting in an extremely important victory for the Soviet Union. The peak of development of the settlement was in the 1980s, the maximum population was recorded in 1991: including personnel of the polar station and military in the units, it was about 5,000 people.

Over the past decades, the number of inhabitants has fallen by nearly 10 times.

However, Dikson remains an important transport hub. In addition to the seaport, there is also an airport. The colourful events of the settlement's history have left their mark on its streets, with landmarks associated with the exploration of the Arctic and the Great Patriotic War.

In the heart of the mainland of Dikson there is a monument to Nikifor Begichev, a Russian sailor and polar explorer; the boatswain of Baron Toll's expedition that set out in 1901 to find Sannikov Land; a member of Nikolay Urvantsev's expedition.

On Yuzhnaya Sopka on the mainland of the settlement is a monument to the defenders of Dikson, who in 1942 managed to repel an attack by the German heavy cruiser Admiral Scheer. The monument features three bayonets, which symbolise the three branches of the army: navy, air force and infantry. The monument was unveiled on 27 August 1982, the 40th anniversary of the Dikson's defence. Next to the obelisk, you can see an anti-aircraft gun and the grave of Dikson battery commander Nikolay Kornyakov. Other Great Patriotic War-related attractions include monuments to the heroes of the North Sea. The first, a sailor with a machine gun on a pedestal decorated with a bas-relief, is located on the island side of Dikson. Behind it is a monument in the form of a concrete cube, on which lies a navy cut cap. This is the common grave of fallen seamen, whose remains were moved here in 1981. The second, a monument with an anchor and a laurel branch at the foot, can be seen on the mainland of the settlement.

Although Dikson is no longer in the full sense of the word a 'military' settlement, you need a permit to get there. It is issued at the FSS office in Norilsk or on the State Services portal. The permit is free, but may take some time to be issued. The easiest way to get to Dikson is by plane—a flight operates once a week, departing from Alykel Airport.

At the intersection of Vodopyanov Street and Voronin Street, the Dikson hydrographers erected a memorial to the vehicle, without which no expedition can take place.

Today marks the beginning of Dikson's second heyday. Together with the growth of trade turnover along the North Sea Route, as well as the implementation of plans to organise year-round navigation in the Russian Arctic, the port has once again gained paramount strategic and economic importance. Today, Dikson is under active construction, and after many years of 'sleepy' existence, it is being reborn as a vibrant community.

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