Image 1 of 1
Due to its location, Svalbard is home to many northernmost things (university, blues festival, museum, hospital, atm). And the tiny soviet-era settlement of Barentsburg - one of the four in Svalbard - is home to the world's northernmost Orthodox Church and Russian consulate. The small wooden church in the picture was built following the Operafjellet plane crash in 1996, in which all 141 passengers perished. All of them employees of Arktik Ugol, the coal-mining company operating in Barentsburg. The history of this very small outpost in the middle of the High Arctic is closely linked to the Cold War. Despite never making a profit in many decades when the Soviet Union still existed, Barentsburg continues to operate today, also at a loss, as it continues to be of strategic importance to modern Russia. One may wonder how the USSR and Norway could coexist on the same territory. The explanation lies in the Svalbard Treaty. This international agreement signed in 1920 gives all signatory countries equal rights of entry and access to its natural resources. These rights exist today and, as long as Russia continues to extract coal from Svalbard, Barentsburg will live on. The Cold War era sign below the multicolored building hosting Arktik Ugol's employees states: "Our goal: communism".