Murmansk (Russian: Му́рманск; Kildin Sami: Мурман ланнҍ; Northern Sami: Murmánska; Skolt Sami: Muurman) is a port city and the administrative center of Murmansk Oblast, Russia, located in the extreme northwest part of Russia, on the Kola Bay, 12 kilometers (7.5 mi) from the Barents Sea on the northern shore of the Kola Peninsula, not far from Russia’s borders with Norway and Finland. Population: 307,257 (2010 Census); 336,137 (2002 Census); 468,039 (1989 Census). Despite its rapidly declining population, Murmansk remains the largest city north of the Arctic Circle.
Murmansk was the last city founded in the Russian Empire. In 1915, World War I needs led to the construction of the railroad from Petrozavodsk to an ice-free location on the Murman Coast in the Russian Arctic, to which Russia’s allies shipped military supplies. The terminus became known as the Murman station, and soon boasted a port, a naval base, and an adjacent settlement with a population which quickly grew in size and soon surpassed the nearby towns of Alexandrovsk and Kola.
On June 29 [O.S. July 12], 1916, Russian Transport Minister Alexander Trepov petitioned to grant urban status to the railway settlement. On July 6 [O.S. July 19], 1916, the petition was approved, and the town was named Romanov-on-Murman (Рома́нов-на-Му́рмане, Romanov-na-Murmane), after the royal Russian dynasty of Romanovs. On September 21 [O.S. October 4], 1916, the official ceremony was performed, and the date is now considered the official date of the city’s foundation. After the February Revolution of 1917, on April 3 [O.S. April 16], 1917, the town was given its present name.
From 1918 to 1920, during the Russian Civil War, the town was occupied by the Western powers, who had been allied in World War I, and by the White Army forces.
On February 13, 1926, local self-government was organized in Murmansk for the first time, during a plenary session of the Murmansk City Soviet, which elected a Presidium. Prior to this, the city was governed by the authorities of Alexandrovsky Uyezd and later of Murmansk Governorate. On August 1, 1927, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (VTsIK) issued two Resolutions: «On the Establishment of Leningrad Oblast» and «On the Borders and Composition of the Okrugs of Leningrad Oblast», which transformed Murmansk Governorate into Murmansk Okrug within Leningrad Oblast and made Murmansk the administrative center of Murmansk Okrug.
In 1934, the Murmansk Okrug Executive Committee developed a redistricting proposal, which included a plan to enlarge the city by merging the surrounding territories in the north, south, and west into Murmansk. While this plan was not confirmed by the Leningrad Oblast Executive Committee, in 1935–1937 several rural localities of Kolsky and Polyarny Districts were merged into Murmansk anyway.
According to the Presidium of the Leningrad Oblast Executive Committee resolution of February 26, 1935, the administrative center of Polyarny District was moved from Polyarnoye to Sayda-Guba. However, the provisions of the resolution were not fully implemented, and due to military construction in Polyarnoye, the administrative center was instead moved to Murmansk in the beginning of 1935. In addition to being the administrative center of Murmansk Okrug, Murmansk also continued to serve as the administrative center of Polyarny District until September 11, 1938. On February 10, 1938, when the VTsIK adopted a Resolution changing the administrative-territorial structure of Murmansk Okrug, the city of Murmansk became a separate administrative division of the okrug, equal in status to that of the districts. This status was retained when Murmansk Okrug was transformed into Murmansk Oblast on May 28, 1938.
During World War II, Murmansk was a link to the Western world for Russia, with large quantities of goods important to the respective military efforts traded with the Allies: primarily manufactured goods and raw materials into the Soviet Union. The supplies were brought to the city in the Arctic convoys.
German forces in Finnish territory launched an offensive against the city in 1941 as part of Operation Silver Fox, and Murmansk suffered extensive destruction, the magnitude of which was rivaled only by the destruction of Leningrad and Stalingrad. However, fierce Soviet resistance and harsh local weather conditions prevented the Germans from capturing the city and cutting off the vital Karelian railway line and the ice-free harbor.
For the rest of the war, Murmansk served as a transit point for weapons and other supplies entering the Soviet Union from other Allied nations. This unyielding, stoic resistance was commemorated at the 40th anniversary of the victory over the Germans in the formal designation of Murmansk as a Hero City on May 6, 1985. During the Cold War Murmansk was a center of Soviet submarine and icebreaker activity. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the nearby city and naval base of Severomorsk remains the headquarters of the Russian Northern Fleet.
In 1974, a massive 35.5-meter (116 ft) tall statue Alyosha, depicting a Russian World War II soldier, was installed on a 7-meter (23 ft) high foundation. In 1984, the Hotel Arctic, the tallest building above the Arctic Circle, opened.
To commemorate the 85th anniversary of the city’s foundation, the snow-white church of the Savior-on-the-Waters was modeled after the White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal and built on the shore for the sailors of Murmansk (see photograph).