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Клуб. 2016 фото, цифровая печать 60х97.j
Community Club. 2016. photo


The sole surviving building from Voroshilovsky camp in the eastern part of the industrial estate near Dzerzhinsk is an uncompleted community club of the Rulon Factory. It was built from a standardized blueprint, construction began in 1940 but was not completed because of the war. During the 1940s, there were too many other pressing concerns, and in the 1950s the settlement was disbanded altogether. The club never opened. The structure was then used for storage and currently serves as a produce warehouse for a local penitentiary facility. The silica brick it was built with turned out to be poor quality. Erosion and winds converted the bricks into “stones” that crumble in your hands. Bricks that turn into sand can be an apt metaphor for the history of daily lives and the vanishing memory of the very recent times.

Скан с газеты Дзержинец. Цифровая печать
Dzerzhinets newspaper. January, 8. 1941. Scan
Иприт. 2018. х.м. 100х150
Pavel Otdelnov. Open-pit mine
Open-pit mine. 2018. oil on canvas. 100х150

Open-pit mine

After major factories were shut down, their premises were occupied by new and smaller industries. Each new enterprise handles waste disposal in its own way.

One of the most visible recent problems is unsanctioned household and industrial landfills. The entire eastern end of the Dzerzhinsk industrial estate is gradually becoming one large dump. A second major problem plays heavily into that: illegal sand mining on the industrial estate. The resulting pits are promptly filled up with industrial waste. Walking around factories, you can see many sand pits loaded with waste and garbage.

Pavel Otdelnov. Boom Barrier
Boom Barrier. 2018. oil on canvas. 180х260
Pavel Otdelnov. Hazardous Area
Hazardous Area. 2018. oil on canvas. 180х260. Courtesy of IRRA

Hazardous area

Many large enterprises were driven bankrupt and had to curb their business in the 1990s. There are still a number of industrial waste ponds in the eastern part of the industrial estate that had been collecting waste for decades. One has been dubbed the Black Hole. It is a sinkhole close to one of the largest plants where waste was dumped illegally since it could not be disposed of in open-air ponds due to its hazard classification. Geological surveys estimate that the underground pond holds over 70 000 cubic meters of chemical waste, including such compounds as methyl methacrylate, phenol, butyl methacrylate, tridecyl methacrylate, dibutyl phthalate, isopropyl benzene, alpha-methylsterol, petrochemicals, polychlorinated biphenyls, also organic compounds acetophenone, phenothiazine, cyclodecane, sulfates, chlorides, cianides, and heavy metal derivatives.

In the 1990s, the Black Hole was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “the most polluted lake in the world.” This “cumulative environmental damage” issue is exacerbated by toxic waste spreading through aquifers and far beyond the lake. The Black Hole is fenced off with barbed wire, coming close to it may cause harm to health. Nonetheless, it is frequented by extreme tourism enthusiasts as can be inferred from many abandoned sneakers and boots lying around.

Hazardous Area shows a fence built around this infamous location.

Pavel Otdelnov. Black Hole
Pavel Otdelnov. Deep Waste Repository. 2017.
Deep Waste Repository. 2017. oil on canvas. 150х200

Deep Hazardous Waste Repository

A landfill for toxic simazine waste from an herbicide plant, hazard class 3, was commissioned in 1976. The repository received 2 million cubic meters of toxic waste. Three injection wells pumped the waste down to 1200 meters underground. In the 1990s, wellhead isolation equipment went out of service and the landfill company went bankrupt. There was a real danger that the piping would burst and toxic waste would spill into a massive environmental disaster. In 2012, the wells were properly re-sealed and plugged. Aboveground sections of the wells were covered with huge concrete cubes to hold the pressure and prevent a manmade disaster.

Pavel Otdelnov. Tracks
Tracks. 2018. oil on canvas. 150х200

Tram Tracks

The most common means of commuting for factory workers in Dzerzhinsk was by tram. The first tram line to connect the city and the industries was built in 1933. Its commissioning was heralded as a victory over sands and chaos. This first line was extended numerous times. Additional routes were opened later on. Tram connections were developing through to the late 1980s. In the 1990s, as many major employers were in decline, there were less trams on the streets and some routes were cancelled altogether. The Dzerzhinsk tram had been online for 82 years. In 2015, the last route was shut down and the tracks together with the tram fleet were given up for scrap metal. On Goggle, I found an older picture with the tracks still in place but sand already covering them up and devouring this crucial piece of urban infrastructure.

Buildung the first Dzerzinsk tram line. 1935. photo
Pavel Otdelnov. Mutant
Mutant. 2018. Installation


A lot of improvised waste dumps have emerged around the industrial estate. Everything gets disposed of there: from household waste and collapsed factory walls to defective product batches and toxicants of varying hazard. A nearby landfill was closed a couple of years ago. Garbage trucks are now dumped into open-pit sand mines. These places inevitably breed new forms of life unknown to science. One of the exhibits is a mutant yet to be classified. It is displayed in sludge from the White Sea—its natural habitat.

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