Artists have tried to breathe new life into ghost town built on Stalin’s orders in Siberia.
The spooky Gulag outpost of Kadykchan was officially closed after the fall of the Soviet Union and a coal mine explosion in 1996 which killed six.
Now it has been repopulated by pictures of its lost residents in a project by designers from two art studios from Yakutsk, the world’s coldest city.
‘Now Kadykchan is not so empty,’ said one of the participants.
‘There are people living along its central street, they are going about their usual daily business.
‘They walk to work, meet their loved ones and wait for customers.’
The town in the wild Kolya region – which once had a thriving 10,000 population – was a staging post on Josef Stalin’s notorious Road of Bones, built by political prisoners many of whom perished in this furnace of cold.
The deserted settlement’s name in local Evenk folklore means ‘Death Valley’.
One of those banished to a coal mine here in the Stalin purges was famous Russian writer Varlam Shalamov who wrote: ‘Kolyma is Auschwitz without the ovens.’
A repeated victim of repression, he also penned: ‘There is much that a man should not see, should not know, and if he should see it, it is better for him to die.’
By 1986 Kadykchan had a cinema hall, a House of Culture, shops and a restaurant called ‘Polyarniy’ along with a statue of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin.
Coal from its mines was burned to heat remote villages in temperatures sinking to minus 55C.
The outpost became nonviable after the Soviet collapse in 1991, with a population exodus which increased after the mine explosion five years later.
A decision to close the town was taken in 2003, but several hundred refused to budge and remained until 2009.
By 2012 an elderly man with a dog was its final citizen but now it is empty apart from the newly-painted figures adorning its crumbling walls.
The town is a tourist attraction for people traversing one of the world’s loneliest routes from Yakutsk to Magadan.
‘We wanted to breathe a bit of life into the empty town,’ said one of the artists.
‘Now will live in Kadykchan forever,’ said Rostislav Pavlov, head of the artistic odyssey.
‘This was one of the purposes of our expedition to Magadan region, to revive the deserted town of Kadykchan.
‘We bought paints and decorated the houses on its central street.’
Among the group were former residents of the town who returned to see their tumbledown homes.