INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT MAGNITOGORSK
At the extreme southern extent of the Ural Mountains in Russia, about 140km west of the border with Kazakhstan, there are some hills that are composed largely of iron ore. So rich is their iron content that magnetic compasses cannot function near it and birds avoid flying over it.
The Russians call the mountain ‘Magnitnaya’ or the Magnetic Mountain. It is at the foot of the Magnitnaya Mountain; on the eastern slope of the Ural mountain lies Magnitogorsk the second largest city in Russia that is not the administrative centre of any federal subject or district. It is home to ‘Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works’, the largest steel plant in the country and one of the largest in the world.
Magnitogorsk was built in the 1930s to fulfill Stalin’s plan to transform the predominantly agrarian nation into a country of metal. Stalin was impressed by the great progress the Americans had made in heavy industries. Indeed, Magnitogorsk was mod- eled after two of the most advanced steel producing cities in the US then: Gary in Indiana and Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.
Magnitogorsk was supposed to be a completely planned city. The original layout drafted by the German architect Ernst May was that of a linear city with rows of similar superblock neighbourhoods running parallel to the factory, with a strip of greenery, separating them. But when Ernst arrived on site in October 1930, he found that the local officials had already begun construction. The sprawling factory and cleansing lakes left little room available for development; he had to redesign his settlement to fit the modified site.
During the first phase of construction, 250,000 skilled and unskilled workers were put to work. Most of these were forced labour recruited from dispossessed peasants who were kicked off their farms during Stalin’s dekulakisation and collectivisation movements.