Publication details

The rise and fall of Pyramiden : The story of a town in a wider geopolitical and environmental context



Year of publication 2022
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Polar Record
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Keywords Environmental impact; Geopolitics; Infrastructure development; Pyramiden; Svalbard
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Description Climate change has become significantly pronounced in the Arctic over recent decades. In addition to these climate effects, the environment has experienced severe anthropogenic pressure connected to increased human activities, including the exploitation of natural resources and tourism. The opportunity to exploit some of the natural riches of Svalbard was promptly grasped by the Soviet Union well before the 1940s. In this paper, we present the story of Pyramiden, a mining settlement in central Svalbard. The Soviet town experienced its golden age in the 1970–1980s but fell into decline in the late 1990s which corresponds well with the overall economic and geopolitical situation of the Soviet Union. The impacts of past mining activities and related urban infrastructure development are illustrated with the use of historic aerial photographs. The most pronounced changes in the terrain configuration were connected to adjustments of the river network, construction of roads, water reservoirs, and obviously mining-related activities. The natural processes overwhelmed the city infrastructure rather quickly after the abandonment of the town in 1998, though some traces of human activities may persist for decades or centuries. Nowadays, Russia has been attempting to recover the settlement especially through support of tourism and research activities.
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