Benefitting from the Gulf Stream, Murmansk resembles cities of its size across western Russia, with highway and railway access to the rest of Europe, and the northernmost trolleybus system on Earth. Its northern latitude of 68°58'N makes Murmansk 2° north of the Arctic Circle at approximately 66°33'N. Its connectivity contrasts to the isolation of Arctic ports Dikson and Krasnoyarsk Krai in Siberia on the shores of the Kara Sea and Iqaluit, Nunavut in Canada on Baffin Island's Frobisher Bay off the Labrador Sea. Having long, snowy winters, Murmansk's climate is moderated by the generally ice-free waters around it.
Although there was a building boom in the early twentieth century's arms races, Murmansk's population has been in a slow reversal since the Cold War; to 299,148 ; 307,257 ; 336,137 ; 468,039. Still, it remains by far the largest city north of the Arctic Circle and is a major port on the Arctic Ocean.
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 that 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 imperial 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.
In the winter of 1917 the British North Russia Squadron under Rear Admiral Thomas Kemp was established at Murmansk.
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. Before 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 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 the Soviet Union 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. 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 with the bad terrain 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, now known as Azimut Hotel Murmansk, opened and became the tallest building above the Arctic Circle.
On January 1, 2015, the territory of Murmansk was expanded, when the urban-type settlement of Roslyakovo, previously in jurisdiction of the closed administrative-territorial formation of Severomorsk, was abolished and its territory merged into Murmansk.
Within the framework of administrative divisions, it is incorporated as the City of Murmansk—an administrative unit with the status equal to that of the districts. As a municipal division, the City of Murmansk is incorporated as Murmansk Urban Okrug.
As of 2012, the city is divided into three administrative okrugs:
City districts were established in Murmansk for the first time by the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR of April 20, 1939; at the time, three city districts (Kirovsky, Leninsky, and Mikoyanovsky) were created. They were abolished on June 2, 1948. The same city districts were created for the second time on June 23, 1951.
Mikoyanovsky City District was renamed Oktyabrsky on October 30, 1957, but on September 30, 1958, all three city districts were again abolished. On June 10, 1967, two city districts were created (Leninsky and Oktyabrsky); Pervomaysky City District was split from Oktyabrsky on February 21, 1975. In the Charter of the Hero City of Murmansk, adopted on December 17, 1995, the districts started to be referred to as administrative okrugs.
In November 2010 direct mayoral election was abolished, and re-instituted in January 2014, with the most recent elections for mayor and city council taking place in September 2014.
The port of Murmansk remains ice-free year round due to the warm North Atlantic Current and is an important fishing and shipping destination. It is home port to Atomflot, the world's only fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers.
The Port of Murmansk is the headquarters of Sevmorput (Northern Sea Route) and the administration of Russian Arctic maritime transport.
Murmansk is linked by the Kirov Railway to St. Petersburg and is linked to the rest of Russia by the M18 Kola Motorway. Murmansk Airport provides air links to Moscow and St. Petersburg, as well as an international connection to Tromsø, Norway.
Buses and trolleybuses provide local transport.
Murmansk is set to be the Russian terminus of the Arctic Bridge, a sea route linking it to the Canadian port of Churchill, Manitoba. Even though the passage has not been fully tested for commercial shipping yet, Russian interest in this project (along with the Northwest Passage) is substantial, as the bridge will serve as a major trade route between Europe and Asia.
Murmansk features a subarctic climate (Köppen Dfc), with long and cold winters and short, cool summers. In the city, freezing temperatures are routinely experienced from October to May. Average temperatures exceed 0 degrees Celsius only from May through October. The average low during the coldest part of the year in Murmansk is approximately −14 °C (7 °F). However, temperatures routinely plunge below −20 °C (−4 °F) during the winter.
Murmansk's brief summer is mild, with average highs in July exceeding +17 °C (63 °F). The city is slightly wetter during the summer than the winter and receives an annual average of just under 500 mm (20 in) of precipitation.
The "midnight sun" is above the horizon from 22 May to 23 July (63 days), and the period with continuous darkness lasts a bit shorter, polar night from 2 December to 10 January (40 days).
The population of the city, according to the 2010 Census, was 307,257, down from 468,039 recorded in the 1989 Census. Ethnic Russians make up the majority of the population, but Ukrainian and Belarusian minorities also live in the city.
Murmansk has two main (and several small) museums: Murmansk Oblast Museum and Murmansk Oblast Art Museum. There are three professional theaters, libraries, and an aquarium in Murmansk.
Murmansk is home to Murmansk State Technical University, the Murmansk State Humanities University (formerly Murmansk State Pedagogical University), the Murmansk Institute of Humanities and the Murmansk College of Arts (the only Art School of the Kola Peninsula, formerly the 'Murmansk Music School'). The city has 86 primary schools and 56 secondary schools, two boarding schools, and three reform schools.
Murmansk's evening newspaper is Vecherniy Murmansk, published since 1991.
The city's association football team, FC Sever Murmansk, played in the Russian Second Division until 2014 when it folded due to financial difficulties.
Bandy club Murman has played in the Russian Bandy Super League, last in 2011–2012. Since then they have been playing in the second tier Russian Bandy Supreme League. Their home arena Stadium Stroitel has an audience capacity of 5 000.
The city is one of only three places with representation in the female league, through the team Arktika.
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.