nancylebov (nancylebov) wrote,

The other Cold War barrier

There was one across the Bering Strait:
During the Cold War, the Bering Strait marked the border between the United States and the Soviet Union. The island of Big Diomede in the USSR was (and is) only 2.4 mi (4 km) from the island of Little Diomede in the USA. Traditionally, the indigenous peoples in the area had frequently crossed the border back and forth for "routine visits, seasonal festivals and subsistence trade", but were prevented from doing so during the Cold War[4]. The border became known as the "Ice Curtain"[5]. In 1987, American swimmer Lynne Cox symbolically helped ease tensions between the two countries by swimming across the border[6] and was congratulated jointly by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.

The people who were most affected:
A potent link in the connection between Alaska and the Soviet Far East are the Yupik and Inupiaq Eskimo peoples on both sides, who traveled back and forth for hundreds of years before the Cold War. When the border was closed in 1948, many Eskimo families were split, and their members were unable to visit or even communicate for 40 years.

Their special situation was one of the chief arguments for opening the frontier as Gorbachev's policies began to dissipate four decades of tension between Moscow and Washington.

The reunions of Eskimo families have, by all accounts, been poignant. Even those who have no close relatives on the Soviet side were deeply moved by the opportunity to visit others who share their threatened traditions.

``Hearing my own language spoken was like a dream,'' said June Martin of Nome, who visited the Soviet town of Provideniya last summer.

Her father, Tim Gologergen, who also made the trip, was struck by the fact that the Yupik spoken on the Soviet side was the language he remembered from growing up on St. Lawrence Island in the early decades of the century. Alaskan Yupik, he said, has been heavily infiltrated by English.

The article is an overview of contact between Alaska and the Soviet Far East, written in 1990-- this is something I hadn't heard about, and it's quite possible it would be of interest for doing a bit to fill in one's vision of the world.

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded