Murmansk is a city in the extreme northwest part of Russia with a seaport on the Kola Bay, 12 km from the Barents Sea on the northern shore of the Kola Peninsula, not far from Russia's borders with Norway and Finland. Population: 320,900 (2005). The city is an important base for the Russian Navy.
Murmansk is the administrative centre of Murmansk Oblast. The port remains ice-free year round due to the warm North Atlantic drift ocean current and is an important fishing and shipping port. It is home port to Atomflot, the world's only fleet of nuclear-powered ice breakers. It is the largest city north of the Arctic Circle.
The word "Murmansk" came from saami language. It means "the land on the sea shore". About 1 500 saamis live on the Kola Peninsula, they were hunters, reindeer breeders and fishermen. The city, known initially as Romanov-on-Murman was founded on October 4, 1916 and named after the Russian royal dynasty of the Romanovs. The city, the only ice-free port in the Russian Arctic, was built as a terminus of the railroad line to Kola designed to open the North Atlantic supply route to Russia in support of Eastern Front during the First World War. The city was renamed to Murmansk after the October Revolution in 1917.
From 1918 to 1920, the city was occupied by the Western powers who had been allied in the First World War and "White" forces during the Civil War in Russia.
During World War II, Murmansk was a link with the Western world for Russia, and a vast commerce with the Allies, in items important to the respective military efforts passed through it: primarily manufactured and raw materials goods into the Soviet Union. These supplies were brought to the city in the Arctic Convoys.
A joint German and Finnish force launched an offensive against the city in 1941. Murmansk suffered profound destruction, second only to Stalingrad of all the Soviet cities. However, fierce Soviet resistance and unforgiving territory prevented the Germans from capturing the city and from cutting off the vital Karelian railway line. This resistance was eventually recognized in 1985 by the Soviet Union with the formal designation of Murmansk as a Hero City on May 6, 1985. For the rest of the war, it served as a transit point for weapons and other supplies entering the Soviet Union from other Allied nations.
During the Cold War it was a centre of Soviet submarine activity, and since the breakup of the USSR, it remains the headquarters of the Russian Northern Fleet. To commemorate the 85th anniversary of the city's foundation, the snow-white church of the Saviour-on-Waters was modeled after the White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal and built on the shore for sailors of Murmansk.