Pyramiden is a utopian coal-mining town, a landscape- scale “museum” of soviet-style industrial heritage that shows

the fragmented remains of a communist dream. It is a unique village, a real-life time-machine that illustrates all

that remains of a forgotten and failed utopia. Pyramiden is located in Svalbard, in the Arctic Norwegian territory.

The settlement was founded by Norway in 1910 and bought by the Soviet Union in 1927. The mine closed down in 1998 as

it was financially unsustainable. With it, its grandioseness and highly qualified workers vanished, leaving what had

been the perfect example of a communist utopian town behind. Over 1000 inhabitants lived there in its heyday, but

after the mine closed down, the town was left almost deserted. Only 13 workers live there temporarly. They are sent

from Russia for a few months every year. Their job is to both, guide a few tourists through Soviet history, and

dismantle the machinery and infrastructure which is still in place. It has been predicted that due to the low rate of

decay in such a cold climate, the abandoned town’s major buildings will still be visible 500 years from now. 

 

To explore Pyramiden is to step back in time. Soviet politics, architecture and culture penetrate the place. Being

offered the possibility to work there was, for Soviets, something of an honour and privilege. Unlike in other places

of the USSR, in Pyramiden, quality of life mattered. The best workers from the mainland were promoted and moved to

the Arctic town. The Cultural Palace had a library, a gymastics room, a basketball court, three heated swimming-pools

and a large auditorium with red seats, where performances took place and movies were screened. Aesthetics mattered in

Pyramiden and helped display the monumentality of the Soviet’s Arctic project. The perfect example of that is the

shiploads of soil and seeds that were imported from what is today Ukraine. The soil formed the groundwork for the

largest beautification project likely ever to take place in the Arctic, creating a massive artificial lawn that

matched the bourgeoisie colours of the buildings. It was also put to use in greenhouses. It was a nearly self-

sufficient town where residents grew all sorts of vegetables and raised their own pigs, chickens and cattle. All of

it, was powered with the coal that workers mined. In the context of the Cold War, Pyramiden was a sort of window

display created by Soviets to show capitalist societies how great communism was. It was a town where any foreigner

could vist without a visa, so it served as an exhibition of the Soviet Union’s power.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Avenue of the Sixth Anniversary of the Great October.

Avenue of the Sixth Anniversary of the Great October.

 
 
 
 
 
Worker # 7 - Sasha Romanovskiy

Worker # 7 - Sasha Romanovskiy

Sasha in his room at the Tulip Hotel

Sasha in his room at the Tulip Hotel

 
 
 
 
 
 
The mine closed in 1998, a few years after the Soviet Union collapsed. 

The mine closed in 1998, a few years after the Soviet Union collapsed. 

 
 
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Worker #8: Kplya

Worker #8: Kplya

Worker #5: Elena

Worker #5: Elena

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Worker #11: Gosha

Worker #11: Gosha

 
 
Pyramiden sign. Nordenskiold-breen glacier at the back.

Pyramiden sign. Nordenskiold-breen glacier at the back.

 
 
Worker # 13 - Kirill Shepelev

Worker # 13 - Kirill Shepelev

 
 
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Mount Pyramiden.

Mount Pyramiden.

 
Worker #10. Dima

Worker #10. Dima

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Northemost bust of Lenin on earth.

Northemost bust of Lenin on earth.