In un long form pubblicato su Outside, David Kushner ci accompagna in un viaggio alla scoperta dell’affascinante località di Longyearbyen, nelle isole norvegesi delle Svalbard – un arcipelago situato nel Mar Glaciale Artico, al largo della costa settentrionale della Norvegia –, dove una bizzarra rapina ai danni dell’unica banca cittadina (una filiale della SpareBank1) avvenuta nel dicembre del 2018, come pure gli effetti del riscaldamento globale, starebbe fortemente condizionando il modo di vivere della comunità che vi risiede.
Maksim Popov needed a gun.
It was late fall 2018, and the single, unemployed 29-year-old was descending into darkness. He was living in Volgograd, the large industrial city in southwestern Russia where he’d grown up, and as he later explained, he’d become desperate, even hopeless. It’s not clear what caused his downturn or if he’d sought help, but at some point he decided he wanted to shoot himself. To get a firearm legally in Russia required a psychiatric evaluation, which is presumably why Popov found himself online, reading about a remote outpost in the Arctic that’s popular with Russian tourists and is also one of the easiest places on the planet to rent a gun: Longyearbyen.
The tiny town of some 2,200 residents is among the northernmost settlements in the world, situated about 800 miles from the North Pole on the island of Spitsbergen, in the isolated Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. Nestled at the end of a mountainous valley where it meets the shore of a small fjord, Longyearbyen was for centuries an icy base for whalers and trappers. Beginning in the early 1900s, it became a lonely coal-mining community populated by Norwegians and Russians, closed to visitors because of the limited infrastructure.
But after the Svalbard airport opened just outside town in 1975, Longyearbyen emerged as a tourist destination, and today some 150,000 travelers come each year by plane and cruise ship. Russians have been especially interested in seeing the archipelago, with their numbers jumping 500 percent since 2016. Many venture into the frozen wilderness on snowmobiles or dogsled tours. Others visit the most famous structure in the Arctic: the Global Seed Vault. Built inside a mountain, the so-called Doomsday Vault opened in 2008 and stores nearly a million samples of plant seeds, so that crops might be restored following a global catastrophe.
Immagine da Wikimedia.