Not all ghost towns are created equal, or represent the remnants of manifest destiny, but the former Soviet mining colony of Pyramiden has a leg up on the competition as far as obscurity remoteness. Even the harsh ruggedness of the climate and unforgiving terrain was unable silence the Bolshevik echoes and chorus of Lenin’s nightmare.
Located in the vastness and tundra above the Artic circle, the settlement was originally founded on the island of Svalbard by Sweden as a coal mining venture in 1910. Adding to the isolation equation, the icy archipelago is nearly 600 miles to North of the Scandinavian coast and in competition with Greenland for land mass nearest to the North Pole. With no dreams of Santa’s village of Christmas wonderment, the Swedes sold the infrastructure to the fledgling dystopia of the Soviet Union in 1927, as a thriving carrot for the Russian dream of perpetual iron grip control in seizing regional territories and leading to world domination.
Aerial Shot of Pyramiden courtesy Google Maps.
Today, Pyramiden is a collection of drab buildings and stoic monuments that lay empty in their immaculate defiance to the unrelenting climate and solitude from the rest of the world, and the sobering reality is that long after generations and generations live and die, the exacting standards in the template of Stalinism will remain as museum at the whim only of the aerial view options of digital mapping programs.
As the mine began producing at an abundance during World War II, the settlement grew proportionally into a bustling and conforming town, represented as a plug and play cog in the robust mechanism of party bureaucracy. During its height, the berg offered officials, workers and their families, a movie theater, a library, a gym, and even a swimming pool for VIP’s who made the arduous trek from Moscow, but as in life attrition eventually won out, and combined with fading government policy the end eventually came.
The honeymoon reached an abrupt conclusion after the dissolution of the Soviet state in 1989, and in the convoluted nature of European politics, the surrounding land became Norwegian soil, and the property was, and still is owned and administered by a subsidiary of a subsidiary of a Russian sub-committee.
The current stillness engulfing the monolithic structures, along with the faint kiss of the sun and frigid temperatures, is offset by the persistence of entrepreneurism, as a small team of investors has transformed a block building into a hotel. While the journey is only half the fun into traveling to Pyramiden, the allure of reaching out and experiencing something almost surreal attracts visitors from all over the world, a similar phenomenon to the throngs of tourists who flock to the radioactive ruins of Chernobyl, or the skeletal launch facilities of Baikonur gradually corroding into the surrounding wasteland.
Pyramiden does not exist as the traditional ghost town in celebrating the resilience of the settler, but the will and muted decadence of the politicized industrial military complex. And yet there were women, children and men who once called these unfeeling dormitories and corridors home, and were as far away from the ideology in Moscow, as those reading about the murky gem of history on their devices today.
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