Svalbard | Urban Stroll | July 2015

  • DateJuly 2015
  • LocationBarentsburg, Svlabard
  • CategoryUrban Stroll, Arctic Coal Series
  • ObjectActive Arctic Mining Town
  • TeamAlexander Pyka & Jonathan Danko Kielkowski
  • Text & ImagesJonathan Danko Kielkowski
  • In ShortBarentsburg is a Russian coal mining town founded by the Dutch in the 1920s. Since 1932 the town is owned and operated by the Russian state-owned Arktikugol Trust. Once it was populated by over 1000 inhabitants but the population has declined over the years to only 400 permanent inhabitants today. The town has a hotel, a hospital, a church, a supermarket, a restaurant and the mine is still active.

Arctic Coal Episode 5

  • Halfway between mainland Europe (600km south) and the North Pole (1000km north) lays a archipelago called Svalbard. Formed by over 400 islands, shaped by glaciers and surrounded by the Arctic Ocean which penetrates uncountable fjords is home for more polar bears then humans. And so the need to carry a rifle is necessary as soon as one leaves town into the wild where no streets nor trails, no cars or trees can to be found. In summer 2015 Alexander Pyka and myself went on an adventure to this remote place to document the remains of Svalbards once glory mining industry.

Located on the south side of the Isfjord on Svalbard the Russian town Barentsburg, is one of the northernmost, permanently inhabited settlements in the world. Surrounded by nothing than ice and a moonlike landscape. No trees and, for four months of the year, no sunlight. Owned and operated by Arktikugol, a coal-mining company operated by the Russian government it is home to about 400 permanent inhabitants. Most of them coalminers from Ukraine. Though officially established for the extraction of coal, the town was an important focus for Russian geopolitical interests during World War 2 and the Coal War. Furthermore, with no hierarchy and no unemployment, the remote town once represented the ambition and ideology of the Soviet Union. It was a concrete realization of Soviet utopia. The Arctic town felled out of Russian favor after the Cold War and is now experiencing a renaissance. Russia has taken a newfound interest in Barentsburg because of its strategic location in the Arctic. The state-owned mining company is developing the town as a tourist destination and desperately trying to keep the town alive, impractical as that may be. The unprofitable mine is still kept alive, the Hotel together with a few other buildings had been restored and modernized and a new bar and a souvenir shop had opened. Boats from Longyearbyen are bringing groups of tourists on daily bases. They storm the quiet town for a couple of hours each day, wander around the town center, guided and protected by an armed tourist guide and disappear soon afterwards. The hotel stays most of the time empty and hardly anybody of the visitors stays longer than a few hours or gets a deeper view inside the town. While we stayed for two days in the town we tried to delve deeper inside this place, these are our impressions



Veröffentlicht am 08.04.2017 von Jonathan Danko


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