Barentsburg (Баренцбург)


Barentsburg (Russian: Баренцбург) is a mining town on the Grønfjord in Nordenskiöld Land on Svalbard, with about 435 inhabitants (2011), almost exclusively Russians (~ 10%) and Ukrainians (~ 90%). The population has declined steadily since the peak in the 1970s when there were about 1,000 inhabitants in the settlement. Barentsburg is located about 40 kilometers southwest of Longyearbyen as the crow flies, and can be reached either by snowmobile in winter or by boat during the ice-free period. The place can also be reached by scheduled helicopter, and there is a small landing site at Heerodden just outside the city.

Barentsburg is located on a slope below Olavsvarden, a straight ridge that runs straight north from Grønfjordfjellet (547 masl) and forms an eastern ridge that sets the boundaries of the settlement. The small Gladbekken forms Gladdalen which cuts into Olavsvarde hill, and Gladdalen has a low-lying direct transition northwards in Zachariassendalen which is formed by Olavbekken and empties straight north into Hollendarbukta east of Heerodden. Barentsburg is built on a straight south-northern axis along the Grønfjord from Heerodden in the north to Finneset in the south. Barentsburg has a coal mine, school, museum, helicopter site, coal power plant, hospital, research park and harbor.



In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Grønfjord was used extensively as an anchoring and hunting ground for whaling, and in the second half of the period also by Russian Pomor hunting teams. A house was erected in 1825 in "Green Harbor", which occasionally names Finneset and occasionally present-day Barentsburg. Norwegian whaling companies took a short time interest in the Grønfjord at the beginning of the 20th century, and had both land stations here and in Kokerihamna on the other side of the fjord. The whaling company Spitsbergen av Tønsberg set up a large whale facility on Finneset which was in operation from 1905 to 1912, the last four years owned by the Sandefjord-based whaling company Nimrod.

Coal was discovered here at about the same time. In 1899, Kulkompaniet Isefjord Spitsbergen was formed in Kristiania by the Tromsø skipper Andreas Schrøder, and in July 1900 the company set up a building for exploration and sharpening for coal out at Heerodden. Fredrik Hiort and Christian Anker also formed various companies that annexed the coal fields around Barentsburg in 1908. The large Norwegian Spitsbergen coal company also owned sharps and targets in the area from 1916, but has never had coal mining here. The company A / S Stavanger Spitsbergen expanded Heerodden from 1912, without much success.

In 1915, both previously Stavanger-occupied fields in Hollendarbukta, and coal fields at Kapp Heer - Barentsburg were collected on A / S De Russiske Kulfelter Green Harbor, where M. Lewin was a member. In 1917, M. Lewin & Co expanded some facilities and buildings both on Heerodden and in the eastern course of Gladdalen in today's Barentsburg.

From 1920, Dutch stakeholders had the majority shareholding in A / S Isefjord Kulkompani, and in 1921 De Russiske Kulfelter sold all its sharps and targets in Grønfjorden to NV Nederlandsche Spitsbergen Compagnie, which established the town of Barentsburg and invested a lot of capital in facilities and buildings. As early as 1926, however, Nederlandsche Spitsbergen encountered serious financial problems, and stopped coal mining on the site. At about the same time, the Russian Coal Fields also sold their targets east of the Gulf of Coles, but in 1932, both this and all fields and sharps from Barentsburg in the west to Grumantbyen in the east were taken over by the Soviet state-owned company Arktikugol.

During World War II, Barentsburg was evacuated during German attacks from the sea, and the city was heavily bombed. The Russian mine owners set fire to the mine, and the fire was not extinguished until after the end of the war. In the final phase of the war, a Norwegian cannon battery was out on Heerodden.

Arktikugol has launched plans to reopen the mines in Grumantbyen, but in 2012 was rejected an application to the Governor to build a road between Barentsburg and Colesdalen.