In the second week of my stay in Svalbard I went on visits to the Russian settlements of Barentsburg and Pyramiden.
Barentsburg is the second-largest settlement on Svalbard situated on the Grønfjord (part of Isfjorden) with about 450 inhabitants, almost entirely Russians and Ukrainians. Barentsburg is the only remaining Russian permanent settlement on Svalbard. Svalbard is under full Norwegian sovereignty, but according to a 1920 treaty all signatory countries (40 in total) are granted non-discriminatory rights to fishing, hunting and exploring mineral resources. For Russia that means coal mining. Barentsburg started as a Dutch mining town in the 1920s. In 1932 the Rotterdam based Dutch Spitsbergen Company (Nespico) sold their concession to the Soviet Union due to financial troubles. Since then coal mining is conducted by the Soviet company Arktikugol . Pyramiden was a Russian settlement and coal-mining community situated on the Billefjorden which is also part of Isfjorden. Founded by Sweden in 1910 and sold to the Soviet Union in 1927, Pyramiden was closed in 1998 and has since remained largely abandoned with most of its infrastructure and buildings still in place.