Founded by Sweden in 1910 and sold to the Soviet Union in 1927, Pyramiden is on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. It was the Swedes who first discovered coal at Pyramiden in 1910. At the time, the legal status of Spitsbergen (Svalbard’s former name) was disputed: most of Norway’s Arctic neighbours considered Spitsbergen to be international territory, until in 1925 nations from the Arctic and beyond signed the Svalbard Treaty. Under the treaty’s terms, still in force to this day, the island archipelago belongs to Norway, but the treaty provides that “All citizens and all companies of every nation under the treaty are allowed to become residents and to have access to Svalbard including the right to fish, hunt or undertake any kind of maritime, industrial, mining or trade activity.” Taking advantage of Svalbard’s anomalous legal status under the treaty, Sweden sold Pyramiden to Stalin’s Russia in 1927 becoming one of two Russian outposts on Spitsbergen (the other is Barentsburg). These were coal-mining towns operating under the Soviet behemoth mining trust known as Arktikugol. Pyramiden in the 1950s had 2,500 inhabitants, but dwindling coal production, coupled with the eye-watering cost and logistics of maintaining a town in such a forbidding place, sealed Pyramiden’s fate: the mines closed in 1998, and the town was abandoned. Today, apart from winter snowmobile expeditions and the occasional supply plane, Pyramiden is cut off from the outside world for eight or nine months of the year. Read more: BBC Travel
Norway, Scandinavia, Svalbard, Tourism
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