A minority of Vorkuta's residents -- usually those born here -- deeply love their city, with its climatic extremes, its combination of urban amenities and small-town atmosphere, its indoor swimming pools and new artificial-turf soccer field.

Emma Savina, director of the local government office that coordinates the World Bank resettlement program, is one of them.

"I like the lifestyle in Vorkuta," she said. "I like the blizzards. I like the freezing temperatures that can go down to minus 60. I like the white nights that never get dark. I like it that it's winter, winter, winter, and then suddenly summer. The tundra turns green in three days. It's like a slow-motion movie played fast."

Annual reindeer-sled races down the main street are another thrill, she said.

Mayor Igor Shpektor also likes to put a positive spin on Vorkuta's attractions, recalling with pride how a few years ago he urged the city's youth to have more babies: "In 1998, I called out to the young people and I said, 'Young people, why do you need this polar night that lasts almost 24 hours a day if you don't make love to each other? So take advantage of the dark period of time!'

"And in 1999, the birthrate for the first time exceeded the death rate, and our birthrate has been on the rise ever since."