How Close is Alaska to Russia?

How far is Russia to Alaska
Map showing split in Pacific of Russian and American boundary; Diomede (US) and Little Diomede (Russia) lie right on that line.

NPS Graphic

A Technical Response

The narrowest distance between mainland Russia and mainland Alaska is approximately 55 miles.

However, in the body of water between Alaska and Russia, known as the Bering Strait, there lies two small islands known as Big Diomede and Little Diomede.

Interestingly enough, Big Diomede is owned by Russia while Little Diomede is owned by the US.

The stretch of water between these two islands is only about 2.5 miles wide and actually freezes over during the winter so you could technically walk from the US to Russia on this seasonal sea ice.
 
Black and white photo of 9 males ranging in age in orthodox garb.
Russian orthodox church presence in Sitka, Alaska.

NPS Photo Galler/E.W. Merrill Collection: SITK 3796

Russia in America

Vitus Bering's 1741 voyage of exploration for Russia brought the first Europeans to Alaska. The sea otter pelts they took home to show the Czar drew them back to stay, and the area was soon overrun with Russian promyshlenniki - free-ranging hunters and fur traders.

The Russians were likely the first European traders to encounter Alaska Natives. Through barter and coercion the promyshlenniki used the skills of the native Aleutians - the Aleuts - to gather the profitable pelts.

By 1784 a Russian trading company employing promyshlenniki had established a station on Kodiak Island, and forced Aleuts to hunt sea otter and other sea mammals. Russia remained the dominant power in the North Pacific for 125 years.
 

Take a Deeper Dive

Alaska's public lands tell the stories of the Russian colonization of Alaska and the natural connection between the continents. Click on the following sites to learn more information about the history and culture:

Sitka National Historical Park - preserves the site of a battle between invading Russian traders and indigenous Kiks.ádi Tlingit.

Old Sitka State Historical Park - visit a site that Russians built in the early 1800's.

Bering Land Bridge National Preserve - delve into the idea of a physical bridge between continents that led to migration of people from Assian into North America in what we now call Russian and Alaska.

Beringia - learn about the human connection that is still taking place between the two continents.

Last updated: December 8, 2023

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