Random weirdness for the week of April 28, 2015


If people sense Russia isn’t exactly buckling under the heat as other nations are becoming increasingly hostile due its Arctic aggressiveness, it’s because they’ve got a remarkable history of concealing its woes and ambitions. We’re not sure which of the following is more mind-boggling: that a fire in the Pyramiden mine was still burning 18 months after it started, or that Russia kept it a secret from Norway for 30 years. A report last Tuesday by TV2 reveals the fire started Feb. 12, 1972, and was still burning in August of 1973. “If these failures had been known to the Norwegian authorities, they could have been used to damage Soviet interests on Spitsbergen,” KGB Chief Vasilij Mitrok wrote in a letter that month to the Soviet Union’s Central Committee, according to the TV station. The health and safety of the workers was reportedly overlooked as well, with operations continuing despite several explosions coal dust more than ten times the legal limit and 626 safety violations during the first five months of 1973. Nutrition from fresh food was also described as scant, with 200 grams of tomatoes and one lemon among the provisions in one person’s yearly ration. Norway’s Police Security Service finally learned about the fire in 2002 from their British counterparts in the Secret Intelligence Service…

Meanwhile, the old Soviet mentality is still thriving today as the quarreling continues about Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozan’s unwanted visit here earlier this month. While some media are playing up the incident when reporting the Norwegian government’s support for a Store Norske bailout and others are focusing on Russia’s insistence that “Norway has no right to stop anyone from visiting Svalbard,” we’re intrigued by how the Russian state-owned media keeps dutifully reporting Rogozan “spent no more than an hour on Svalbard.” Since the reports also usually remind readers he was indulging in his Twitter habit during the visit, it takes a remarkable bit of doublethink to accept the claim since a message was sent from Barentsburg four hours and 53 minutes after his first tweet from Svalbard Airport.