The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Tuesday, April 24, 2018


Arctic's Soviet-era ghost town seeing revival
A tourist prepares his rifle in the abandoned city of Pyramiden on July 19, 2015 on the Svalbard archipelago counting 3,000 polar bears, where authorities have allowed locals and tourists to carry weapons to protect themselves from potential polar bear attacks. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET.

By: Céline Serrat


PYRAMIDEN (AFP).- A man in a chapka hat and black coat, rifle slung over a shoulder, idles on the pontoon as a group of tourists sail in to visit Arctic oddity, Pyramiden, a Soviet-era ghost town.

Alexander Romanovskiy, better known as Sasha, is the guardian of the mining town abandoned in 1998 but still owned by a Russian firm, Arktikugol, though it is located on a fjord on Norway's Spitzberg island in the heart of the Svalbard -- islands halfway between continental Norway and the North Pole.

"The Svalbard is Norwegian but had a special status enabling other people to live or work there," tour guide Kristin Jaeger-Wexsahl tells the group of several dozen who sailed from the Norwegian town of Longyearbyen, some 50 kilometres (30 miles) away.

But as they step off to visit the former coal centre named after a pyramid-shaped mountain in the background, Sasha takes over.

Why is he armed? In case of polar bears, until recently the town's only inhabitants, he tells the group. "We haven't seen one since May but you never know," says the 33-year-old.

The Soviets bought the then-small coalmine in 1927 from Swedes, says the guardian whose hammer-and-sickle engraved chapka smacks of the now defunct Communist-era USSR.

"The first settlers came in 1936 but were evacuated by British forces at the beginning of the Second World War ... so mining really began in earnest in 1956," in the Cold War years when Nikita Khrushchev ran the Soviet empire, he added.

The rails used by the funicular to ferry miners up to the entrance on the mountain face, and by trailers to haul the coal down, are still visible, while the wharf remains littered with ageing piles of bricks, gravel and rusted metal parts.

Frozen in time 
Sasha, working his fourth season here hundreds of kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, says the residents thrived in the 70s and 80s before the USSR began to unravel. 

Some 1,200 Russians then lived in Pyramiden, which boasted several four-storey buildings, a hospital, schools, a football ground, and even a farm with cows and chickens.

Giving a glimpse of life as it typically was in the Soviet Union is a bust of Lenin placed outside the sports and cultural centre.

Black-and-white photos of football and hockey matches and chess tournaments hang in the entrance hall, taking visitors back in time. The 300-seat cinema almost looks as if it were used yesterday, as does the basketball court, still clearly outlined.

Upstairs a few children's books have been left in the library while in another smaller room a piano, drum-kit and accordion are accumulating dust.

But the 90s were killer years for Pyramiden with the Soviet Union starting to come apart at the seams, the mine becoming less profitable and Moscow unable at times to pay the wages.

In 1998, the company announced its closure and the city was abandoned by its residents.

Now in the harsh winter months when the sun fails to rise, even Sasha leaves.

But in March he happily returns. With more and more tourists visiting Spitzberg over the last few years, time-warped Pyramiden has become a popular curiosity in the Arctic Circle world of mountains, fjords and glaciers.

In 2007, one of the empty buildings was reconverted into a hotel featuring 24 rooms and lots of woodwork and vodka.

This summer eight Russians were employed at Pyramiden to look after the hotel, the electric generator and the coal-fired water system, as well as two guides.

Pavel Arkharov, the 26-year-old photography student who helps Sasha welcome the tourists when they disembark, says he doesn't find the deserted town depressing. "It's a very peaceful, harmonious place," he says.



© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse





Today's News

August 15, 2015

Archaeologists report Kukulkan Pyramid at Chichen Itza built over an underground river

Largest Rodin exhibition ever presented in Canada on view at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Elvis Presley's jewelry, outfits fetch surprisingly high bids at the annual "Elvis Week"

Christie's offers works from The Arthur and Anita Kahn Collection in a series of sales in New York, London and Paris

Nationalmuseum Sweden acquires miniature painting by Jean-Baptiste Singry

Hundreds of couples reenact famous photograph of a kiss between a sailor and a woman

Metropolitan Museum to present major exhibition of masterworks from ancient Egypt's Middle Kingdom

Ganesha idols adorn Indian town before Hindu festival celebrating the elephant-headed deity

Royals warn against paparazzi pictures of Prince George; Urged media to boycott their pictures

A unique album of unheard compositions by Jazz legend Oscar Peterson to be offered at Sotheby's

Exhibition of photographs by photographer Pete McBride on view at the Rockwell Museum

New curator ushers in exciting semester at University of Virginia's art museum

Moscow art by artist Vadim Sidur smashed as Orthodox activists denounce 'blasphemy'

David Wallace Haskins' Skycube makes world premiere at Elmhurst Art Museum

'Flame of Excellence' by Santiago Medina dedicated to the FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine

Arctic's Soviet-era ghost town seeing revival

Galpão Fortes Vilaça opens exhibition of works by Portuguese artist Julião Sarmento

First New York solo exhibition of painter Cy Gavin on view at Sargent's Daughters

Exhibition of paintings and photography by Helen Smith on view at the Art Gallery of Western Australia

The Whitworth announces four new exhibitions to complete its reopening year

Steven Campbell collage, Fake Ophelia (1991) donated to The Glasgow School of Art

Cincinnati Art Museum's new special feature 'Unknown Elements' ignites the imagination

Bucharest: "The Invisible Kids" a solo show by Daniel Brici at Nasui Collection & Gallery

Most Popular Last Seven Days



1.- Boy and an amateur archaeologist unearth legendary Danish king's trove in Germany

2.- Exhibition at The Met illustrates what visitors encountered at The palace of Versailles

3.- Philadelphia Museum of Art opens "Modern Times: American Art 1910-1950"

4.- Exhibition at Michael Hoppen Gallery presents a cross-section of works from Thomas Mailaender's career

5.- New York's Chelsea Hotel celebrity door auction raises $400,000

6.- Stevie Ray Vaughan's first guitar drives Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Auction to nearly $2.9 million

7.- Lichtenstein's Nude with Blue Hair tops $2.4 million sale of Modern & Contemporary Prints & Multiples

8.- $6.7 million Fancy Intense Blue Diamond sets auction record at Sotheby's New York

9.- Mexico court blocks sales of controversial Frida Kahlo Barbie doll

10.- Dutch museums to conduct new research on the paintings of Pieter de Hooch



Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 

Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez


Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org avemariasound.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful