Inside the abandoned yet stunning mining town where residents carry guns

Pyramiden, an abandoned Russian coal-mining community, is a frozen-in-time testimony to Soviet-era culture and one of the world’s northernmost communities.

Located on a secluded island in the Svalbard archipelago it can only be reached by boat during the summer or by snowmobile from the Norwegian town of Longyearbyen during the winter.

As one of the few Soviet outposts, the town was purposefully created with cutting-edge amenities to demonstrate the USSR’s dominance over the rest of the globe, according to the Arctic Institute.

Norway, a member of NATO, was granted sovereignty over Svalbard in the 1920 Treaty of Paris.

However, the treaty ensured that all signatory nations, including the Soviet Union, were granted equal rights to explore and utilise the mineral resources found on the island.

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Pyramiden housed around 1,500 people at its height in the mid-1990s.

However, the mining firm closed down the settlement in 1998 for a variety of reasons, as detailed by Visit Svalbard.

The dropping coal price, the costly and difficult technique of extracting coal from the mountain, and a horrific plane crash two years previously that killed 141 locals all contributed to Pyramiden’s closure and ultimate abandonment.

Pyramiden provided modern urban amenities and a great quality of life to its 1,000 people during its prime.

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The town had a school, a library, an ice hockey rink, a sports arena, dance and music studios, a radio station, a cinema that doubled as a theatre, and even a dedicated cat cemetery.

Efforts have been made during the 2000s to turn Pyramiden into a tourist attraction, resulting in the renovation and reopening of the town’s hotel in 2013.

Visitors who want to learn more about the unique history of this Arctic ghost town can take guided tours.

Pyramiden is inhabited by a small group of eight residents responsible for maintaining the facilities and conducting guided tours for visitors.

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Due to the frequent presence of polar bears in the area, both residents and tourists carry firearms as a necessary precaution for self-defence.

The bust of Lenin still stands in the centre of Pyramiden, overlooking the town and looking east to the far-off Nordenskiöldbreen glacier.

Within the crumbling buildings, one gets the impression that time has been frozen as if the people left abruptly but could return at any time.

Meanwhile, the KGB headquarters have reinforced doors and miner files spread on the tables.

The classrooms are decorated with children’s drawings, and the teacher’s cup is left alone, providing a sense of suspended time and a glimpse into the past.

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