A thousand km away from the North Pole (620 miles), at the 79° parallel in the island of Spitsbergen, in the Svalbard, there is a Ghost town called Pyramiden, reachable only by the sea through the fjords on an icebreaker.

The city, popping up maybe in the least inviting part of the planet, is a miniature of the Soviet ideal of society. A Russian city then, in the middle of Europe. Its funding dates back to 1910, when a Swedish expedition discovered under a pyramid-shaped mountain appearing on the island, a good coal reserve.

Below: picture by Zairon shared  via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

The climatic conditions though were hostile so the site was abandoned up until 1930 when the Russian mining company Arktikugol bought it, becoming a full-fledged Soviet outpost.

Below: picture by Zairon shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

Unlike the rest of the Soviet Union, Pyramiden was visitable without visa and for this reason, after the WW2 bombing, the city was rebuilt with all the imaginable comforts ever, in order to become an actual sponsor of the social Soviet ideals of cohabitation and communion of their society.

Between the 60’s and the 80’s in Pyramiden there were around 1000 people, mostly miners, privileged compared to other Russian citizens as they had their very good salaries. It is estimated that between 1955 and 1998 the coal site produced 9 millions of tons of coal of which one million consumed by the same city and the rest of it sent back to their homeland.

Below: picture by Christopher Michel shared via Flickr – licence Creative Commons 2.0

On the day of Christmas of the year 1991, Michail Gorbačëv resigned as a Head of State. The following day at the Kremlin the flag of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was furled so many citizens in Pyramiden, free from the regime, decided to leave that place and come back to Russia. Furthermore in 1996 the Vnukovo Airlines 2801 charter coming from Moscow crashed nearby the Longyerbyen area killing approximately 130 inhabitants of Pyramiden. In 1998 to the last 300 people in the city were given 4 months to look for an alternative accommodation since the mine was going to be shut down completely.

On the 10th of October of that same year, the last citizens left the city for never to come back anymore

Below: picture by Zairon shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

Today Pyramiden counts 6 residents whom, in turns, live in the building equipped with electricity, the Tulpan Hotel. There they face the long gelid nights with a rifle under their arm in case a bear shows up. The purpose of keeping the Ghost Town guarded is avoiding the decay of the buildings caused by the complete abandonment.

The six guardians have neither smartphones nor internet and the only means of communication with the external world are the satellite phones.

Once entering Pyramiden you are welcomed by an obelix where at its base there is a kart in which it’s kept the last coal extracted from the mine. When proceeding you will be crossing several buildings each of them with its own name: “London” the one where the single men used to live, “Paris” the one where single women were instead, and the “Crazy house” building in which families were hosted. In those apartments there are still objects belonging to those inhabitants who left in 1998, almost as if time had frozen everything up. Each space was lacking of a kitchen since the meals were provided by a huge public canteen every day, twice a day. At the back of that massive room, in the kitchen area, it is still possible to smell the food, perhaps preserved by the rigid temperatures.

Below: picture by Prillen shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

The city, in which it had been carried soil from Ukraine, had a greenhouse, a henhouse and a stable for the animals, hence it was self-sufficient.

Beside that there was also a hospital as well as several buildings for recreational purposes. While roaming around the empty roads you bump into a Culture Palace where you can glimpse on the inside the posters with the shows of that time; a cinema/theater with 300 seats where, inside its screening room, you will see hundreds of Russian films left on the floor in a jumble; then again a place with an indoor pool, back then filled up with warmed up sea water and eventually a school, onto which walls there are still children’s drawings  from the 1998 and desks with opened notebooks on.

Below: picture by Zairon shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

A huge squared building shows at its top floor some windows barred with metal. They are part of the KGB offices which, although abandoned, can still not be visited in any ways.

In the central square, core of the social life in Pyramiden there is the monument to Lenin which faces the great glaciers. It is the northernmost monument to a leader, stuck in a still city since the 90’s that according to some experts it could be, due to its rigid climate, the last ghost town which time could wipe away.

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Rachele Goracci

DESIGNER, COSTUME MAKER AND LANGUAGE ENTHUSIAST. I HAVE ALWAYS HAD A HUGE PASSION FOR MYSTERY, ODDITIES AND PSYCHOLOGY. BY COLLABORATING WITH VANILLA MAGAZINE I HAVE THE CHANCE TO NURTURE (ALMOST) ALL THESE INTERESTS AT ONCE

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