I have been watching a total of six films over the weekend. Three of them were documentaries. One of them was about a place you most likely never heard of: have you ever heard of Svalbard, this Norwegian island archipelago somewhere close to the Arctic? It is a largely frozen place populated by few people and way more polar bears, and the starting point of many expeditions to the Arctic. After seeing a short, informative and rather awkward TV documentary about the Russian community there (see the bottom of the page), I realized I heard about this place before, when I read about Pyramid, a Soviet town that used to represent the ideal communist community. The town is now abandoned.
For some reason, I feel attracted to these places, to the quietness and peacefulness of the ice. There is something heartwarming in making a home in such hostile places. Have you seen Elena Chernyshova’s photos of the Siberian Norilsk? Well, living in Svalbard must be even more extreme. There are two Russian towns there, one of which is the still inhabited and it’s called Barentsburg (see the doc at the end of the page).
Pyamid is no longer inhabited, in fact the only one living there is this tourist guide who took the photos. This ghost town is now a tourist attraction, where you can see the most northern Lenin monument in the world. And the world’s most northern grand piano.
The place was founded by Sweden in 1910 and sold to USSR in 1927. The name comes from the pyramid shaped mountain next to the town. Pyramid was a mining town and used to be a Soviet paradise in the 1970s and 1980s. About 1000 people lived there. The place had a nursery, a school, a sports and entertainment center and a warm swimming pool covered with a roof made of Karelia birch.