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Abandoned Soviet town frozen in time taken over by polar bears
November 5, 2023
A former Soviet town in the Arctic Circle has been transformed into a terrifying space where “thousands of angry polar bears” congregate.
The chilling Pyramiden is located in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago, thousands of miles north of Scandinavia.
Founded initially by Sweden as a coal mining town, it was sold to the USSR in 1927. It mined many millions of tonnes of coal between 1955 and 1998, but was abandoned shortly after when the industry came to a halt – a statue of communist leader Vladimir Lenin was the most valuable thing left behind.
Nowadays, the town is home to a selection of empty buildings, largely preserved in the freezing conditions. But it is not completely quiet there – one man recently found himself in Pyramiden (named after the nearby pyramid-shaped mountain) and wrote in Haaretz how “there are thousands of angry polar bears all around us”.
The nearest populated town is about 31 miles away, although six brave souls patrol the town during the daylight summer season.
Described by the Svalbard Tourism Board as a “living museum”, it welcomes some adventurous visitors as part of its ‘dark tourism’ scheme.
The town was once full of culture as it housed over a thousand workers, mainly from Soviet Ukraine. There was a theatre, a library, art and music studios, schools, canteens and a sports complex, but all are now gone.
Having been untouched for a good while, a set of six humans returned in 2007, while in 2019 it played host to the world’s northernmost film festival, which was dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Soviet cinema.
Special efforts have been made to preserve the town. While visitors have no restrictions on travelling to the area, they are not allowed to enter any buildings, even if open, as this would contribute to their deterioration.
There is now a functioning Pyramiden hotel where visitors can stay overnight. The cinema has been fully refurbished too, so visitors can watch films there on request.
This foreyard was once full of over a thousand people.
The town has an eery symbol to welcome visitors.
The kitchen design is very Soviet, but it is no longer in use.
The swimming pool was drained and abandoned. But it was once the northernmost swimming pool in the world.