In the Murmansk region of Russia, there is a somewhat dilapidated settlement named Teriberka. It is not entirely abandoned as it is still home to about 600 residents. Teriberka stands on the coast of the Barents Sea at the mouth of the Teriberka River, from which it got its name.
The settlement of Teriberka was first mentioned in 1523 when it was noted that fishing Saami had made their home there. However, it was only in the 1860s when the Murmansk coast began to be actively settled that the village was officially founded.
Teriberka developed rapidly, and by the end of the 19th century, a church, a lighthouse, and a weather station had been built there. Interestingly, this weather station was the first one to be constructed anywhere along the entire Murmansk coast. It is still standing today.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the village’s fishing industry began to develop quite rapidly. Cod and sharks were the main catch, and there was a fish factory together with a shop that was run by Norwegians.
However, fishing wasn’t the sole livelihood in the village because at the beginning of the twentieth century, a collective farm was created and named Murmanets. It consisted of a dairy farm and a herd of reindeer. A shipyard in the village of Lyudeyny provided additional employment.
Before World War II, Teriberka was doing so well that some of its fishermen and farm workers went to the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy in Moscow in recognition of their achievements. After Teriberka became the administrative center of the district, it became even more important.
The village developed rapidly in the post-war years. Between 1940 and the 1960s, two fish farms, two dairy farms, a poultry farm, an American mink farm, two fish processing plants, shops, and various warehouses operated in Teriberka. Furthermore, the collective farm now had a herd of 2,000 reindeer.
The population of the village was about 4,800 in the 1950s. With so many people living and working there, it was necessary to build new and improved amenities. These included a cultural center, a stadium, two hospitals, a working men’s club for the shipyard workers, and a Young Pioneers club.
To support the growing number of families in the region, there was also an elementary school, a high school, and even a boarding school for children from other coastal settlements.
Since the 1960s, Teriberka has been slowly fading away. A contributing factor to this is that ships were modernized so that they could move in the open ocean and transport significantly more fish, but this made them too big to enter the river. Furthermore, a large fish processing plant was built in Murmansk, taking over the trade from smaller local plants.
Such advances meant that smaller local industries that relied on coastal fishing from the river began to see their businesses diminish. A further nail in the coffin was when the construction of hydroelectric plants in the 2010s disrupted a salmon migration to the Teriberka river.
Eventually, the fish processing plant in the village stopped working. Teriberka’s administrative status was transferred to another nearby city – Severomorsk. And in the 2000s, the village of Teriberka came under the control of this city, and the settlement was almost forgotten.
Currently, Teriberka has only 617 inhabitants. The village became popular thanks to the Russian film Leviathan, which was filmed there in 2014. Over time, Teriberka has attracted tourists and photographers who enjoy the art-house atmosphere that a semi-abandoned Russian village can provide.
The human-drama film Leviathan, directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev, brought Teriberka to the attention not only of the Russians but of the world. During the Cannes Film Festival, the film received the award for Best Screenplay and was also nominated for the Palme d’Or, the highest prize at the festival.
The movie also won a Golden Globe in 2015 for Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language and was nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category in the 87th Academy Awards.
On the back of this movie, Teriberka got the opportunity to develop as a tourist hot-spot. Now, Russian and Chinese tourists come to the village all year round. A particular draw is that, in winter, you can see the Northern Lights here. The locals provide fishing trips and tours to see the landscape and the Northern Lights.
Danko Films managed to capture moments from the life of this decaying Russian town. The photos were taken in autumn 2020. A big thank you to Ivan Danko for allowing us to share his amazing photographs and video. You should check more of his work on his Instagram account.
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