Visiting the Russian mining settlement of Barentsburg is like stumbling upon a forgotten outpost of the Soviet Union somewhere close to the end of the earth. Although efforts are being made to spruce it up, the bleakness of its Soviet-era architecture in the icy north still seems like a grim evocation of Arctic Siberia.
The first thing you see upon arrival is its power-station chimney, belching dark black smoke into the blue sky. This isolated village continues to mine coal against all odds and still produces up to 350,000 tonnes per year – the seam is predicted to last until around 2030. With its signing in Cyrillic script, still-standing bust of Lenin, murals of muscled workers in heroic pose and a rundown and dishevelled air, Barentsburg is a wonderfully retro Soviet time warp.