The Northernmost Armenians of the World
Special for the Armenian Weekly
Svalbard, an isolated Norwegian island, lies in the Arctic Ocean between 74 and 81 degrees north latitude. During the summer the sun does not set for 99 days, and darkness reigns for 84 days in the winter. The 3,000 or so people that call Svalbard home are considered to live in the northernmost settlement in the world. The majority can be found in Longyearbyen, the de facto capital, while the second largest settlement is Barentsburg with 400 inhabitants.
As we strolled around Barentsburg, my tour guide, Yuliya, shared with us the pan-Soviet nationality breakdown of the mining workforce. The majority of the workforce hailed from Ukraine, followed by Russia. Rounding out the settlement was a group of 20 from Armenia. My ears perked up. Armenia? My ethnic homeland. I grabbed my Dad and informed him that even in the Arctic Circle there were Armenians. (My Dad and I were vacationing on a cruise to Svalbard and Greenland.)