Murmansk is a city on the northern shore of the Kola Peninsula and the centre of the Murmansk region. Situated at the end of the Kola Gulf, it is also the largest Russian sea port in the Arctic Ocean. Quite amazingly, it is ice free in winter - the combined efforts of ice-breaking ships and warm sea currents make it so. In addition to being an important navy base, the city has three fishing fleets and one merchant fleet operating out of it. Fish processing and ship engineering are therefore important industries.
Romanov-on-Murman was founded in 1916, named after a member of the royal family. With the Russian Revolution the following year, royalty fell out of fashion the name was officially changed to Murmansk. This name bears witness to the town's close relations with Norway. The Murman family was descended from Scandinavians, as their name implies - the word derives from Nurman, which means Northerner or Norwegian.
In World War I, the Allies decided to build a proper harbour in the north. As previously mentioned, the fjord of Kola can be kept ice free, and is the only port in the Barents Sea with this advantage. The work completed, a railway was built from Murmansk was connected to Petrograd, the capital of Russia at the time. The city remained in White Russian hands until 1920.
Fishermen had been inhabiting the Kola Inlet since the 1500s, and nautical industries like fishing, trade in fish and ice-breaking have always been an important part of the town's life. Revolutionary optimisim also helped develop other industries, primarily the mining for minerals.
During World War II, the city was attacked continuously by German bombers. The inhabitants fought fiercely to keep the invaders out. Those who died in the struggle are commemorated by a monument called Alyosha, a great concrete soldier on the top of a hill.
The fallen buildings have all been substituted with Soviet-style concrete boxes.
Today Murmansk has 440 000 inhabitants and is the largest city north of the Arctic Circle. These days the railway has been supplemented with a motorway to St. Petersburg, and a domestic airport. In keeping with its Scandinavian relations, most street signs are in both Russian and Finnish.