Modern Ruins – Piramida

2. Piramida – A Soviet Beachhead on Spitsbergen

Pyramiden, the former Soviet coal town in Svalbard with the most northern Lenin-monument of the world, was for almost 80 years the communist advance guard in the capitalist abroad. Ceded by Norway in 1920, confirmed in a special agreement, about 1.000 workers mined coal in the short summers and long winters in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. They were compensated by relatively luxurious living conditions. With the collapse of Communism, the end of Pyramiden began. Nowadays the town is a stony monument for the decline of the Soviet Union and is rediscovered by tourists, exploited by junk dealers and resettled by polar bears, arctic foxes and sea gulls.

News

  • 09/2013 - “Midsummer Night's Tango” at Nordic Film Days Lübeck

    Our German-Finnish-Argentine Coproduction “Midsummer Night’s Tango” (Director: Viviane Blumenschein) will compete in the official selection of Nordic Film Days Lübeck. [...]

    Our German-Finnish-Argentine Coproduction "Midsummer Night's Tango" (Director: Viviane Blumenschein) will compete in the official selection of Nordic Film Days Lübeck. Additionally, "Piramida" of our TV-series "Modern Ruins" will take part in the retrospective category (Director: Markus Reher). The Nordic Film Days take place from 30 October to 3 Noveber 2013; it is the only festival in Europe which is entirely devoted to the presentation of films from the North and Northeast of Europe.

    Nordic Film Days Lübeck


Parts


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    Modern Ruins (5 parts)

  • moderne_ruinen_kolmanskuppe_artikelbild

    Modern Ruins - Kolmanskop

  • moderne_ruinen_detroit_artikelbild

    Modern Ruins – Detroit

  • moderne_ruinen_fordlandia_artikelbild

    Modern Ruins – Fordlândia

  • ZecheLohberg_artikelbild

    Modern Ruins – Lohberg


Modern Ruins – Piramida

2. Piramida – A Soviet Beachhead on Spitsbergen

 

Pyramiden was an outpost of the Soviets in the “Capitalist Abroad”, where people worked and lived for 80 years in an extremely hostile surrounding but under comparatively luxurious circumstances. Nowadays Pyramiden is history – a deserted ghost town, which appears in many places as if it just yesterday had been abandoned. Svalbard strictly speaking belongs to Norway, but an international agreement from the 1920ies allowed the young Soviet Union to mine on the archipelago. Pyramiden received its name by the the Pyramid-shaped mountain beneath which the town is located. The town endured the Second World War almost undestroyed and then boomed as a coal state combine. Almost anything that can be seen there today had been built by the Soviets after the Second World War. Most of the goods had to be shipped into the Arctic by boat, but only during the summer, when the fjord was not blocked by ice. Every year in October the long period of isolation started again. Then Pyramiden had to survive on its own. The coal and the central power plant kept the town in the ice alive. Its electricity provided light in the apartment buildings of the miners; the heated cooling water gave comfortable warmth. Even animal husbandry and growing vegetables were possible. About one thousand people worked here in underground mining – workers, resettled from the Ukraine and Russia. Despite of the cold, the long polar nights and foggy summers, the people here were well supplied, almost luxuriously. There was a swimming pool with an own basin for children and a civic hall with concert venues, a gymnasium and a cinema, which showed a film at seven o’clock every night. 
Until 1998. Until Russia abandoned the coal mine on Svalbard. The hotel “Tulip” still was opened for one or two summers for curious tourists, but in 2000 this had an end, too. Nowadays Pyramiden is one of the most northern ghost towns of the world.

At first sight the town seems quick-forzen, a preserved Russian model-town, where its inhabitants might return to anytime. But slowly, in the pace of the Arctic climate, nature starts to take back the town. At first the sea gulls returned, which found the ideal surrounding for nesting in the houses, attics and cupolas. Recently more and more polar bears are observed which feel comfortable in the abandoned buildings. Also arctic foxes and the rare Svalbard-reindeers roam the deserted streets of the ghost town and meet adventurers and tourists there, who are more frequently taken to Pyramiden by travel agencies since two, three years.

During the summer small working teams appear from Barentsburg or the capital of the island, Longyerbyen, to exploit the ruins and take disposable materials or furniture with them. Currently it is being discussed if arctic explorers and other scientists will be allowed to camp here. In the sea in the east of Svalbard one of the biggest and still unexplored gas fields of the world are located. Last year a team of Scandinavian archeologists and a photographer around Hein Bjerck stayed in the hotel “Tulip”. For a book they kept records what has remained of the settlement. “Most of the things are still where they belong.”, is stated in the illustrated book. “That’s why it feels as if everything is just delayed or shortly paused: A Soviet town, where time seems to stand still. ”

The Protagonists

 

Oleg Terechow, physics student, since last year spends almost 5 months per year in Pyramiden. He lives in the hotel “Tulip” and guides tourists through the ghost town.

Igor Danilow and Sergey Iljin works in Barentsburg nearby, the still active Russian enclave on Svalbard. By order of the mining association they come to Pyramiden again and again to fetch commodities, furniture but also cables and construction materials.

Hein Bjerck, Norwegian explorer and archeologist has spent several weeks in Pyramiden last year and wrote a book about the history of this place. Nobody knows about the rise and fall of the coal-town better than him.

Director: Markus Reher
Cinematography: Torben Müller
Editor: Martin Schomers
Sound Design: Bea Müller
Composer: Eike Hosenfeld, Moritz Denis, Tim Stanzel
Graphic Design: Susanne Radelhof
Line producer: Kathrin Isberner, Susanne Heinz
Production Manager: Sarah Maret, Nick Pastucha
Executive Producer: Anahita Nazemi
Producer: Christian Beetz
Commissioning Editor ZDF/ARTE: Marita Hübinger, Caroline Auret

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