Pyramiden, ghost town on the North Pole

Imagine a village with roads, schools, a glass still on the piano, a balalaika on the floor and basketball balls on the gym floor. Nothing special except when it turns out nobody lives there and it looks like it was abandoned in a hurry.

Pyramiden – And that is exactly what Pyramiden, a former Russian village in Spitsbergen is. Only a few hundred kilometers from the North Pole in the Svalbard fjords near Nordenskioldbreen, one of the most impressive glaciers.

Pyramiden, ghost town on the North Pole has been abandoned for almost twenty years now. It was a Russian settlement with about 1,000 inhabitants who disappeared from one day to another. A long time this area was interesting because of coal mining. The Russians were allowed to mine here by the Spitsbergen Treaty as long as they recognized Norwegian sovereignty.

Pyramiden, ghost town

It has never been convincingly explained exactly why Pyramiden was abandoned so quickly one day. It is said that in 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow’s financing of the town ceased, and the mine never generated sufficient profits to keep this “icy Eden” afloat.

The Langoysund crew remember it as a strange and mysterious place, populated by intellectuals and scientists more than miners. Pyramiden owes its name to the mountain that overlooks it.

After securing permission to extract coal in 1927, Stalin’s USSR decided to make the town an outpost of the Communist sphere.


Buildings were constructed five stories high, just like in Moscow. In the town’s main square, a bust of Lenin still overlooks the city, staring directly at the pyramid-shaped mountain.

It has impressive buildings, a kindergarten, school, hospital, a cinema, a library with 50.000 books, sport fields and even a heated swimming pool. But not a single house featured a kitchen because food was served at a large central restaurant. Fruit and vegetables were grown in greenhouses, and chickens, pigs and cattle filled heated barns.


In the winter, when the sun is not visible for four months, Pyramiden is inaccessible, and the only visitors are polar bears and arctic foxes. From June to October there are excursions by boat from Longyearbyen. thanks to the cold the village will remain as it is and this Lenin will probably the last to remain on a pedestal.

Text: Anneke de Bundel  – Image: Shutterstock

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