A film by Ivan S. Tverdovskiy
2015, 54 minutes
No. 006

The arctic archipelago of Spitsbergen was discovered in 1596. In 1920, a treaty established it as both a Norwegian territory and a free economic zone, allowing 46 countries to access it for commercial and scientific activity. The Soviets established their settlement here shortly thereafter, calling it Grumant. Today, it’s the only one that remains.

This gorgeously shot, fascinating documentary follows a group of miners from their home country, where they bid emotional farewells to their loved ones and travel to this “island of communism,” as locals refer to it, where not much has changed in nearly 100 years.

It’s a cold, forbidding landscape where its night for much of the year, where a statue of Lenin still stands welcoming visitors, and where money doesn’t exist (all purchases are deducted from workers’ salaries).

“There’s nothing good here,” one of the miners tells the cameraman. Yet, for various reasons – social, economic, psychological – men and women have been coming here for decades. When they’re not working, they find warmth in a former ski chalet that’s used as a church. They stage performances and prepare for New Year’s Day celebrations. Meanwhile, we hear from some of the residents – a music teacher from Ukraine who runs the recreation center, a surgeon who didn’t like the pressure of working in Moscow, or a married couple who keeps livestock and talks with great melancholy about the old days on the island.

Official Selection, International Documentary Festival Amsterdam

"Three Stars. Offers a unique view of a long forgotten segment of the Russian populace, people whose incredible perseverance deserves respect. Recommended." - Video Librarian

“A rare opportunity to visit one of the most remote and least hospitable places on earth. Recommended.” - Educational Media Reviews Online