A Soviet Cold War Outpost Lies Deserted for Years

The Soviet outpost at the small town of Pyramiden has been deserted since the late 1990s, despite once having been decently populated. Once a site of coal mining, it quickly became something of a ghost town when the populace left in 1998. The town still appears to be a remnant of the former USSR, complete with a statue of Lenin. The history of the Soviet outpost is an interesting one, having existed since the 1600s.

Back in the 1600s, the seaside town was a site for hunting whales and walruses. It did not see much varied use for a few hundred years, until the early 1900s when its use as a coal mine became prevalent. That was also around when it became a Soviet outpost, as previously the location had seen no ownership by any nation. This rise to power began with what was known as the Svalbard Treaty, which gave many nations claim to commercial use of Pyramiden and its neighboring islands.

The area of Svalbard became populated quickly by all nations involved in the treaty, especially Norway. Pyramiden was founded and named for its mountainous terrain. While it existed during the Second World War, it was afterward when the Soviet outpost saw heavier population than ever. This was largely because of an influx of funds which allowed them to build a community center and public arts projects as well as more necessary installations such as a hospital, the Smithsonian.com reports.

It was during the Cold War that the town really took off. Adding to its cultural outlets, the town spent more money on music and sports to the point that they received visitors from the town of Longyearbyen (which had twice the population of Pyramiden). The Soviet outpost also brought in soil to build its greenhouse, which helped to feed the town. The town often ate this food together in their large mess hall, adding to the sense of community amongst them.

The Soviet outpost was closed largely because of financial issues. The coal mines did not produce much industry, and a plane crash in 1996 killed many of the people who were working them to begin with. Two years later, the town was deserted. Though over fifteen years have passed since the abandonment of Pyramiden, the former Soviet outpost still looks almost exactly as it once did, and it is expected that many of its structures will stand for quite some time to come.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE