The Tiny Russian Town Located on a Norwegian Island

The fascinating animated series Half as Interesting by Sam Denby takes a look at Barentsburg, the tiny Russian town that sits on the archipelago of Svalbard, Norway (previously.

Denby also notes that this chain of islands is under the Norwegian government, but a specific condition of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference after World War I allowed any party to the treaty, and its citizens, to travel to Svalbard without a visa and stay for as long as they wanted. Later on, that invitation would be extended to everyone.

Norway would be allowed to own Svalbard and enforce Norwegian laws, but any country that was party to the treaty was allowed to set up shop and use Svalbard’s natural resources. Also, any citizen of any country party to the treaty had to be allowed to come to Svalbard anytime they wanted, and stay as long as they wanted, no visa required. Later, Norway expanded this privilege to everyone…

Barentsburg was originally set up as Dutch mining town in the early 20th century before it was purchased by Soviet Russia. Even though the town became less prestigious after the Soviet Union fell, the Russian government still supports it due to its strategic maritime placement.

Once the Soviet Union fell, there was less need for a Soviet utopia in Norway, so funding decreased and the town began to struggle to stay afloat. Since then, the Russian government has been giving it just enough money to survive—not because they need coal, but because Barentsburg sits in the middle of key sea routes that connect Russia to Western Europe and North America.