The Russian mining community of Barentsburg is the second
largest settlement on Svalbard, with about 300 inhabitants.
The first settlement came into being
in 1912 but in 1932 it was sold to the Russians and is owned by the
Barentsburg is run by Trust Arcticugol
and is still a "company" town. As we walked up the one-and-only
road our guide told us much about the buildings and that the the
coal mines are still in production, albeit on a much smaller scale
than originally. The coal is sold to other countries, not Russia,
but mining could be escalated again should the need arise.
The miners do a two-year stint and
then return to their home. Their young children are able to attend
the local school but once they reach secondary age, they return to
Russia to continue their education.
The chapel was built following a
tragic plane crash in 1996 when 141 people were killed and the
following year when 23 miners died in a mining accident.
Not only is there the usual bar and
post office, but there is a hospital staffed by one doctor and a
dentist who can treat most minor complaints. Anything serious is
sent to Longyearben. The settlement has its own cultural centre,
with performance hall, swimming pool and a gym. There is also
hotel, a souvenir shop and a museum.
We were entertained at the cultural
hall by a colourful folklore show performed by the residents.
Unfortunately, towards the end the generator blew and the lights
went out. Unperturbed the entertainers continued singing and
encouraged the audience to join in until eventually lamps and
torches were produced. They were given a rousing cheer by the
audience who had to make their careful way out using the lights of
During the Second World War, the entire city was razed to the
ground by the battleship Tirpitz, yet there is a sense of
history about the place, with Lenin on top of the hill, overlooking
A word of warning: Be careful
where you walk because the ground can be very uneven due to the
shifting permafrost, which similarly makes some of the wooden
landings and steps a bit rickety. Above all do not go beyond the
confines of the community because of the polar bear
Russian local folk show at Barentsburg before the lights went out
The Nordstjernen docked at Barentsburg
The only road in Barentsburg
The chapel at Barentsburg
The steps up to the Russian settlement of Barentsburg
The local school