Russia is the largest country in the World, and Alaska is the 49th state in the United States. Russia, in 1867, sold Alaska to the United States for $7.2 million. Russia and the United States were allies because of their common dislike of the British. If you have a look at how close Alaska is to Russia now, you will be surprised. Here is a deep dive into the distance between these two regions and the history of the Alaska and Russian deal.
Russia Sold Alaska for $7.2 million which is about $118 million in today’s money when adjusted for inflation.The cheque for the Purchase of Alaska. Image credits: Shutterstock
Alaska was only of an estimated value of $10 million according to the team sent by Russia to value the land for the selling. Alaska was difficult to defend and Russia was having financial difficulties during the time. These facts, along with the desire to keep it away from British hands, led to them selling the territory to the US.
After the civil war in the US, the country decided to go ahead with the purchase, even though initially the deal was considered a loss for the US government. The discovery of gold reserves, however, led to a great increase in Alaska’s significance.
The Bering Strait Is the Closest Geographic Point Between Russia and Alaska.Bering Strait
Alaska and Russia are divided by the Bering Strait, a narrow passage of water connecting Pacific and Arctic Ocean, which is 55 miles at its narrowest point. In the middle of this strait sits the little Diomede Islands that decrease the distance between two territories. Big Diomede sits in Russian territory, and Little Diomede is part of the United States. Both are sparsely populated and only about two and a half miles apart.Diomede Islands. Image credits: earthobservatory.nasa.gov
The Bering Strait is the crossing that connects Eurasia and North America. The icy water between the Northernmost Russian territory and the Alaska territory is frozen almost throughout the year and they lie in the Chukchi Sea. The waterbody is navigable only between July and October. Apart from the most prominent Wrangel Islands, there are not many landmasses between the two borders.
Crossing From Russia to Alaska
The distance between Russia and Alaska is only 55 miles geographically. The answer to how close Alaska is to Russia changes with every other option.
1 The Bering Strait Bridge
The Bering Strait crossing is one way to move from Russia to Alaska that is 620 miles long. The regions were once connected through the Bering Land Bridge several years ago. The connecting points are Chukotka Island in Russia and Seward Peninsula in Alaska. This results in a single bridge of 20 miles from mainland Alaska to the Diomede Islands. Even though both governments have been toying with the idea for a new bridge, the technical difficulties are immense.
2 Traveling by AirYakutia Airlines. Image credits: onemileatatime.com
It is a 5.27 hours journey between Moscow and Alaska or around 3,000 miles. Seasonal flights between Anchorage, Alaska, and Petropavlovsk- Kamchatka Peninsula are arranged every year by Russian carrier Yakutia Airlines. Sixty percent of the visitors that use this air service are visiting snow-capped mountains, animals, and a truly challenging off-beat destination. There are great fly fishing and hunting opportunities on the Kamchatka Peninsula.
3 Traveling by FootTraveling by Foot.
The Diomede Islands are only two-and-a-half miles (4km) apart. At the peak of winter, the ice in the sea gets so thick that if you have the right permits, you are allowed to walk between the islands. This means one can walk from the United States to Russia in only 20 minutes. Indigenous people used to use this route before but now that the territory is set you need government and additional military permission for this.
Can Anyone Reach Russia By Swimming or Driving?Lynne Cox swims across the Bering Strait from Little Diomede Island (Alaska) to Big Diomede Island (Soviet Union) in August 1987. Image credits: dailytelegraph.com.au
Lynne Cox is known for being the first person to swim between the US and the Soviet Union during the summer of 1987. This was done with the help of Inuit people and a crew and after years of spending all her savings to receive the permits from both sides. The swim turned Cox into a well-known Cold War celebrity.
In 2013, an act of speedo diplomacy, which is an act of doing swims or actions that are politically sensitive to make unprecedented changes between the governments, was held on the Bering Strait. The six-day relay swim via Little Diomede and Big Diomede Islands is an annual event meant for honoring the efforts and representing the adventures of open-water swimming.