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'The possession of Siberia's natural wealth has become vital in determining Russia’s position in the world'
W.Bruce Lincoln

The ghost town at the end of the earth

By The Siberian Times reporter
05 December 2013

Pyramid is literally frozen in time, captured on camera by Vladimir Prokofiev.

'Welcome to the very end of the earth'. Picture: Vladimir Prokofiev

This old mining outpost, called Pyramid and abandoned in 1998, is on the Arctic Ocean island of Spitsbergen. An anomaly, it is a deserted Soviet town that is in fact in Norway, just 1300 km from the North Pole. And no, it is not in Siberia, but we liked the Arctic pictures and ice-scapes which highlight a spirit of conquering the cold which is a Siberian quality; indeed among the people who came to work here were many from Siberia.

'Welcome to the very end of the earth,' said Vladimir, whose amazing images capture a lost Soviet world which is now becoming a tourist attraction for intrepid travellers to this remote outpost. He took the images when he worked here as a guide for the mainly Western tourists in spring.

'The sun has been shining since 4-30am. Soon it will start shining 24/7', said Vladimir. He regularly visits the one place in Pyramid where, on a good day, he might be lucky to catch a signal for his mobile from Norwegian settlements on Spitsbergen.

'There are no radio, TV, Internet in the village. However we can try to catch a signal from Norway in the so-called 'emotional spot' or 'spot of hope',' he said. 

'It is marked by a pole'. 

It is fraught with problems trying to stay in contact with loved ones. 

'The battery runs down before the fingers get frozen, you can never know which one will give up first - your fingers or a battery of your mobile', he explained. He visits a disused gym in a wooden building known to the Soviets as 'London'. It housed unmarried men when the community was a thriving settlement. The bigger house to the right was called 'Paris', it was inhabited by single women.

There is a canteen between the two houses, probably to give a chance the unattached to meet'. 

This old mining outpost, called Pyramid and abandoned in 1998, is on the Arctic Ocean island of Spitsbergen.

This old mining outpost, called Pyramid and abandoned in 1998, is on the Arctic Ocean island of Spitsbergen.


This old mining outpost, called Pyramid and abandoned in 1998, is on the Arctic Ocean island of Spitsbergen.

Top to bottom - Vladimir's usual set of clothes, the airport, and an old hooter. Pictures: Vladimir Prokofiev

The thermometer reads minus 10C in the sun but Vladimir calls this 'optimistic' since it feels cooler with the wind chill. In a garage he funds a 22 year old Toyota, called a 'limo' by the Norwegian visitors. A sign commemorates Yuri Gagarin's trip to space in April 1961, and while the town was abandoned seven years after the fall of the Red flag, everything about it has the stamp of Soviet Communism about it.

Waiting for his tourists to arrive, he finds random traces of what was once a thriving Soviet town.  Old film reels, snow boots, explosives devices, a 25 metre swimming pool... The tourists like to visit the old works canteen, once open day and night, where the food was free to hardy workers willing to work in this icy climate. And also "the most polar Lenin in the world".  

'The northernmost Lenin looks a bit crazy, doesn't he?' asks Vladimir. 

This old mining outpost, called Pyramid and abandoned in 1998, is on the Arctic Ocean island of Spitsbergen.


This old mining outpost, called Pyramid and abandoned in 1998, is on the Arctic Ocean island of Spitsbergen.


This old mining outpost, called Pyramid and abandoned in 1998, is on the Arctic Ocean island of Spitsbergen.


This old mining outpost, called Pyramid and abandoned in 1998, is on the Arctic Ocean island of Spitsbergen.

'It used to be a Soviet paradise in the 1970s and 1980s with a nursery, a school, a sports and entertainment centre, a warm swimming pool covered with a roof made of Karelia birch. Pictures: Vladimir Prokofiev

The ghost town, which once boasted 1,000 people, is reputed to maintain the world's most northern grand piano in the cultural centre.

'It used to be a Soviet paradise in the 1970s and 1980s with a nursery, a school, a sports and entertainment centre, a warm swimming pool covered with a roof made of Karelia birch', said a report on Vesti-Yamal TV in Russia.

'Soil with special freeze-resistant grass was brought here by plane from 'the big land'. This grass still grows here.  But all the people have left. The last tone of coal was lifted on 31 March 1998'.

This TV report accused early tourists of looting the town - 'they took away all they could carry', including library books and parquet flooring.

Now, though, the buildings have been secured and lighting restored, with a view to increasing the number of tourists visiting Pyramid. A threat is polar bears. 'They enjoy coming into the village and checking rubbish bins', said the TV report, stressing the guides in the village monitor their movements.

This old mining outpost, called Pyramid and abandoned in 1998, is on the Arctic Ocean island of Spitsbergen.


This old mining outpost, called Pyramid and abandoned in 1998, is on the Arctic Ocean island of Spitsbergen.

This old mining outpost, called Pyramid and abandoned in 1998, is on the Arctic Ocean island of Spitsbergen.

This old mining outpost, called Pyramid and abandoned in 1998, is on the Arctic Ocean island of Spitsbergen.


This old mining outpost, called Pyramid and abandoned in 1998, is on the Arctic Ocean island of Spitsbergen.

Pyramid - Pyramiden - was founded in 1910 by Sweden and sold to the USSR in 1927. Pictures: Vladimir Prokofiev

The Spitsbergen Treaty of 9 February 1920 recognises fully Norwegian sovereignty over the archipelago of Svalbard, but allows other signatory nations to settle in the islands of which Spitsbergen is the  largest. The main settlement Longyearbyen is a Norwegian town, while the second-largest is Russian coal mining outpost of Barentsburg, still occupied and functioning.

Pyramid - Pyramiden - was founded in 1910 by Sweden and sold to the USSR in 1927. It is named after the nearby pyramid-shaped mountain. 

Nowadays, it is accessible to travellers by boat or snowmobile from Longyearbyen, Svalbard's capital, some 31 miles to the south. 

A small number of residents do now live here in order to maintain facilities needed for tourists to visit a town literally frozen in time. Experts say it is the cold temperatures that have helped to preserve buildings that would otherwise have deteriorated in the 15 years since the Kremlin pulled the plug on this relic of Stalin's industrialisation of Russia. 

Comments (10)

If i wasn't so old and of need of a nearby hospital,I would move in and keep the stove going.
Colin Youmans, North Bay ON. Canada
10/12/2013 00:58
4
0
Love the weight room, now that's utilitarian austerity.
The foxes are nice too.
jacemace, vancouver
09/12/2013 12:55
3
0
Detroiter comments: In respect to 24/7 , you have to understand that geographically you are 1300 km from North Pole. Scientifically known as the "North Pole " phenomenon, where the sun does not go beyond the horizon in mid summer , where it does not rise in midwinter too.

In other words, read, check and then make comments..

I am inspired by stone, image of "Lenin", the survival who had witnessed warm and cold,nights and days
life, Windsor
09/12/2013 10:56
2
0
I would like to visit here along with Swedish or Finn Ice Hotel.
R.C.Clemensson, Bakersfield, CA/USA
09/12/2013 01:52
1
0
I so want to move there.
Tom, Orland Park, Illinois USA
08/12/2013 22:09
3
0
Re. Detroiter comment above: Just because there's snow doesn't mean it's winter. The story refers to spring, and the Spitsbergen weather stays below freezing well into May. The statement that the sun will start shining 24/7 is a quote from the guy being interviewed, not a random statement by the writer. Perhaps one should think more clearly oneself, before calling another a "retard."
Justaguy, USA
08/12/2013 14:53
12
0
"The sun will soon start shining 24/7" in the winter? Amazing the retards are allowed to write here. Worse that readers will believe this.
Nick, Detroit
08/12/2013 11:39
0
33
Conquering cold is Russian spirit, not some "siberian".
Roman, Ryazan
06/12/2013 20:23
7
0
The white snow, highlights the invisible footsteps ,the silent sounds, the still movements of this taiga town ,



An eerie ghostly feeling given to us by these magnificent photos, sends a message of a chilling finality up your spine



It's always sad to see a town devoid of people especially as they had battled isolation and loneliness for so long .Alas these were the very elements that caused the slow agonising death of once such a vibrant ambitious town,



The pool , the cinema , the apartments ,the community town hall, show clearly that people tried very hard to make this a place a good place to live and raise families .



Not a failure , quite the opposite , a place of endeavour and fortitude , where win or lose is not important ,but the willingness to try.



Patrick .








Patrick Travers, Perth Australia
06/12/2013 17:49
7
0
lenins got a huge forehead!
Rich, U.S.A.
06/12/2013 09:18
12
0
1

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