BARENTSBURG, A RUSSIAN OUT-OF-THE-WAY PLACE
Barentsburg is a Russian settlement on Svalbard, about midway betwqeen continental Norway and the North Pole. The old name of Svalbard is the Dutch name Spitsbergen. Barentburg is a Russian mining communitry.
Postage stamp of Norway, mi. 412, issued July 1, 1957,
resized 50 %.
In 1596 a Dutch expedition was anchored at Svalbard: one ship with Willem Barentsz and Jacob Heemskerk and one ship with Jan Cornelisz Rijp. Barentsz went to Nova Zembla and Jan Cornelisz Rijp will -a year later- survivors take on Kola in the White Sea. By this expedition the Dutch whaling began in these waters. On the west coast came the Dutch summer settlements Barentsburg and Smeerenburg.
Around 1850, the whales were largely wiped out and put an end to whaling.
Spitsbergen was of 'nobody'. Until 1890 large coal-seems were discovered: the Russians settled on the remains of Barentsburg and the Americans joined the hunt for coal. The American J.Longyear founded the mining town of Longyear City in 1906. He was the owner of the Arctic Coal Company and exercised in fact the authority. The Russians did in 1918 abandoned their claims with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, but the Germans would not have long enjoyment of it. The Versailles Peace brought an end to the German claims and the island was again of "nobody".
Spitsbergen is located about 400 km north of mainland Norway and the Norwegians were increasingly influence here. In 1901 the Norwegians had founded the Trondheim-Spitsbergen Kullkompani (= coal company). In 1904, the Norwegian company was sold to the American Arctic Coal Company. In 1916 the Norwegians were again owner: the Store Norske Spitsbergen Kullkompani Aktieselskap. On this Norwegian postage stamp is used Norwegian name Svalbard. In 1925, the archipelago was named by the Norwegian Svalbard and has remained so in most languages.
Van der Eb & Dresselhuys Shipping Company, a company in Rotterdam, was in 1920 the owner of the coal-seems in the area between Green Harbor and the further eastern fjord Coles Bay. The operation was founded in the same year the Dutch Spitsbergen Company. They first worked from the settlement Rijpsburg, but the water was a bit too shallow for the shipment of coal. They decided to go to work today Barentsburg, from across the bay. The mining settlement -with the name Green Harbour- was named in 1924 Barentsburg, as a tribute to the discoverer of Spitsbergen Willem Barents.
With the Svalbard Treaty, February 9, 1920, Svalbard came under Norwegian 'supervision' and there is a Norwegian governor. The companies that worked there they could independently go ahead. Only the environmental rules applied to everyone. The Norwegians had adopted the American mining areas. In 1932, the Dutch Spitsbergen Company sold all Dutch claims on Svalbard to the Soviet State-owned Trust Arktikugol.
SOVIET STATE ENTERPRISE TRUST ARTIKUGOL IN BARENTSBURG
On the postage stamp here is indicated the Russian Barentburg on the western coast of Svalbard (Spitsbergen).
FDC with Mi. 1369, issued July 12, 2006.
On the cover is also a view on Barentsburg. The postage stamp is issued on the occasion of 75 yeare Arktikugol.
Mi. 1360, resized 50 %.
About 1925 2000 Norwegians and 1000 Russian live on Svalbard. Barentsburg is for Russians the main settlement and the place has now about 500 inhabitants.
Svalbard now has about 2500 inhabitants and about 3,000 polar bears live on and around the island. It is a protected animal and may only be shot in self-defense. In guidebooks are also advised well-armed to go out, or with armed escort.
During World War II Svalbard was evacuated. Barentsburg was largely destroyed in 1943 by the Germans, but the Soviet Union began in 1946 with the rebuilding.
Norwegian Post is also working on Svalbard and in Barentsburg is a post office with postal code 9178. Nowadays it is located in a hotel. It is an sub-post office of the post office of Longyearbyen, the largest settlement on Svalbard. According to the rules only Norwegian stamps are used and the office has its own postmark, as you see on this cover.
On internet - www.pereplet.ru/text/buzni10feb03.html - is to find a special report: the memories of Russian postmaster Eugene Buzni in Barentsburg. The report is in Russian, but with Google translate nevertheless a nice time image appears:
... For many years, long sunny days and stringy black nights I had a chance to work in the most northerly post office in the world in the village of Barentsburg, Polar Spitsbergen archipelago. ... When I arrived as a translator for arktikugol in September 1991 ... The post office in the village of Barentsburg worked fine, as a division of a post office in Murmansk. ... The distribution of the letters: two small rooms in a two-story house on the street named after Rusanov. This was a famous polar explorer, who was the first Russian coal deposits discovered in 1913 .. In the building, a long, narrow corridor, ... letters were sorted in alphabetical order .. noise at the door ... Finally, the long awaited moment came when the door is open going and the mailman, and it was a beautiful young woman came out with a bundle of letters and names began to cry ... .. Later, the system was perfected for the issuance of letters .... "According to this report could be the disappearance of the mighty Soviet Union no longer stand up for equal economic rights, which were enshrined in the Treaty of Paris. That is why it was called Svalbard own money out of circulation by Russia and closed the post office. Norwegian stamps, to be paid in Norwegian kroner, however, are very expensive for the Russian miners. The report further describes cooperation with Norway Post in Longyearbyen .....
On the map here БАРЕНЧБУРГ [BARENTSBURG] indicated on the west coast of the main island of Svalbard (Spitsbergen). There is a port and ships sometimes take post to Russia.
The political status of Barentsburg is still somewhat unclear. Norway, the 'management' of Spitsbergen, but -according to the Russians- need permission to land a helicopter in Barentsburg.
At the post office -now found in the hotel- are also sometimes accepted Russian stamps: this cover with Russian stamps is send from Barentsburg to Romania.
There is a Russian coal mine and corresponding mining village: Pyramiden. The village was founded in 1910 by the Swedes and soon after bought by the Russians. The village is suddenly abandoned in 1998. On the Internet I found a report by the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security, which also Pyramiden is called as postal service and was closed in 1998.
It is a village in Soviet style: the Lenin statue. Cees Nooteboom -Dutch writer- also makes a trip here and he describes the village as a 'communist Pompeii without corpses'. According to this writer would have been a (North) post office.
It was abandoned quite suddenly in 1998 and the buildings still left behind everything: family portraits, work schedules, an old newspaper, furniture.
Yet there are two more people since 2007. This will have to deal with the rule that supervised uninhabited villages after 10 years come from the Norwegian governor and the property reverts. Russia is working to make the hotel usable again in the summer, more and more tourists.
Through the tourists letters with the stamp of the post office Barentsburg come on the market . You can also get the postmark -as this cover- by sending a letter poste restante to Barentsburg.
Letter to Friedrich Schmidt -poste restante Barentsburg - sent by Richard Schmidt.