Zheleznogorsk (Russian: Железного́рск zhyh-leez-nah-GOHRSK) (previously known as Krasnoyarsk-26) is a major plutonium-producing and electricity-generating city in Krasnoyarsk. It is a "closed city", requiring an invitation from an authorized agency in the city, with a government-approved reason for visiting.
This "secret city" of about 94,000 residents did not appear on maps of the Soviet Union. Situated on the east bank of the Yenisei River, it was constructed after World War II specifically for processing weapons-grade plutonium, and was known during this time as "Krasnoyarsk-26": essentially a post office box address indicating only a location near the city of Krasnoyarsk. In 1992 Russia's President Yeltsin permitted the secret cities to reveal themselves and use traditional names; Krasnoyarsk-26 came out as the "closed city" of Zheleznogorsk.
Although the nuclear industry is gradually being down-sized due to safety and non-proliferation pressures, in 1996 the residents voted to remain a closed city in an attempt to maintain their town's charming, village-like quality amidst harsher, more environmentally damaged cities. Built on a picturesque artificial lake, the town is said to resemble St. Petersburg. The city is clean and the transportation system efficient, a legacy from the time when Zheleznogorsk was part of the privileged, secret nuclear weapons complex.
Although you can now find it on maps of Krasnoyarsk Krai, you cannot just drive there without authorization. Visitors are only permitted by screened invitation. Before you will be permitted to visit, your hosts must submit a request to the Ministry of Atomic Energy and to Russian national security agencies for authorization, which can take up to two months. If approved, you'll receive a letter of invitation, which will be required for your visa application, which can take anywhere from a week to a month.
Travel to Zheleznogorsk is done by way of Krasnoyarsk. There are four-hour red-eye flights daily from Moscow's Domodedova airport to Krasnoyarsk's Yemelyanovo. As of late 1999, tickets were RR3740 (roughly US$148). The more scenic route is to take the near-three-day train from Moscow to Krasnoyarsk: The "Yenesei" No. 56 departs Kazan train station every other day and winds its way eastward through the vast countryside reaching the Krasnoyarsk train station at early on the third day of travel. The cost of a sleeping car for this trip is RR2000 (~US$81).
From Krasnoyarsk, bus route #521 links Yemelyanovo airport to Zheleznogorsk. The Icarus Company provides a daily shuttle on this route from the airport at a cost of RR30. The departing time is 8:30AM and arrives in Zheleznogorsk at approximately 11AM. Taxi service from the airport to Zheleznogorsk costs about RR500 (~US$20). Public buses traveling between the cities of Krasnoyarsk and Zheleznogorsk provide daily service at half-hour intervals from 6AM to 9:30PM. Buses No. 502 and 503 also depart the train station for Zheleznogorsk about every 30 minutes. This 90-minute trip costs RR18. Taxi service between the rail station and the city costs up to RR500.
Your hosts will arrange transportation within Zheleznogorsk. It has public bus routes that operate daily from 6AM until midnight and 24-hour taxi service (tel. 4-61-62, 2-58-58, 3-25-88).
A local private tourist agency provides tours of Zheleznogorsk and Krasnoyarsk Kray tel. 7 (39197) 464-44.
The city offers many recreational opportunities including:
- four indoor swimming pools
- a five-kilometer roller skating pathway
- a mountain climbing facility
- a stadium with two soccer fields, a hockey rink and running/walking track
- a separate track and field complex
- four tennis courts
- five shooting ranges
- a sports garden with an artificial ice surface
- a physical therapy center
There are also 32 community exercise facilities in town; not including those housed at state and private businesses.
There are over 200 stores in the city, half of which are food stores. Most city stores are open between the hours of 9AM-7PM. Food stores are open daily, while other types of stores are generally closed on Sundays.
- Baltiskiy, the largest variety store in the city, is open every day until 9PM. Similar to Target or K-Mart in the United States, Baltiskiy offers a wide selection of goods including clothes, shoes, electronics, and children's toys. Location is Leningradskiy Prospect 35, (tel. 4-03-97).
- The Argo, Ulitsa Kurchatova, 54, ☎ 2-16-43. Offers an ideal atmosphere for a business luncheon or dinner.
- The Baykal, Ulitsa Shkolnaya 42, ☎ 3-38-65. Popular for its delicious Russian dishes and late-night dance floor. (The dance floor is open until 3AM every night). On Friday and Saturday nights, Baykal provides guests with special traditional dance performances by professionals. In 1999, Baykal received an award for regional culinary excellence.
- The Tsentralnoye Café, Ulitsa Lenin 25a, ☎ 4-38-76. 11:30AM-midnight Sun-Thu, 11:30AM-3AM Fri/Sat. Located in the downtown Hotel Tsentralnoye. It is an exceptional Russian kitchen and offers a diverse selection of 50 wines. The café also has a banquet hall that seats 12. On Fridays and Saturdays after 11PM entertainment includes live music and dance performances.
- The Esse Club Café, Ulitsa Lenin 25a, ☎ 3-38-89. Serves quality fare at reasonable prices in a quiet and cozy atmosphere.
- Sibir' Café, 15a Ulitsa Sverdlova. Ideal for a quick and inexpensive bite.
Accommodations will be arranged by your host agency.
Many guests stay in one of the two pensions: the Zvezdniy, owned by Nauchno Proizvodstvennoe Obiedinenie Prikladnoi Mechaniki, or the Yubeleniy, owned by the Mining and Chemical Combine. Both are located in a picturesque section of town.
- Tsentralnaya, Ulitsa Lenin, 25a, ☎ 3-38-45. Situated in the center of the city and considered the best local hotel. It has a day and evening café, restaurant, money exchange, travel agency and barber shop. Current renovations are expected to raise the standard of comfort to international levels. RR500 per night.
Should no vacancies exist in either pension or hotel, the Krasremstroy Company lets two-room apartments at a rate of RR800 per night. tel. 7 (39197) 2-40-03