Table of Contents Show
- Where Exactly Is Alaska?
- A Quick History of America’s Largest State
- Why Did the United States Want Alaska?
- Alaska’s Distance From the United States
- Alaska’s Distance From Russia
- Can You See Alaska From Russia?
- Can You Drive From Russia to Alaska?
- Can You Swim From Russia to Alaska?
- There Are Only Two Ways to Travel From Alaska to Russia
- Visit the Last Frontier
Due to the distance between the contiguous United States and Alaska, many people wonder why it’s even a state. Isn’t it closer to Russia than America, anyway?
Why didn’t Russia or Canada take control of the territory? It is unique that the United States owns and occupies this large mass of land. So how far is Russia from Alaska?
Let’s look at this beautiful wilderness and answer some lingering questions.
Where Exactly Is Alaska?
On the northwest part of North America lies the 49th state: Alaska. It’s by far the largest, covering over 663,000 square miles. That’s more than California, Texas, and Montana combined.
But it’s the third least populous state with only about 736,000 residents. Half of those residents live in the Anchorage metropolitan area.
Alaska, known as The Last Frontier, is bordered by Canada’s Yukon and British Columbia territories to the east.
The Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean form the southern border, and the Arctic Ocean forms the northern border.
The Bering Sea, Bering Strait, and Chukchi Sea border Alaska to the west. The state has more shoreline than the entire contiguous United States.
A Quick History of America’s Largest State
During the mid-18th Century, Russia established a presence in Alaska. The Inuit peoples had lived in the region for 15,000 years and were the first settlers in the Americas.
But the Russians were never self-sufficient and consistently needed the help of the indigenous people and the trade of the British and Americans. Soon, Russia wanted to sell the land.
First discussions with the American government were stalled when the Civil War began. However, after the war, Secretary of State William Seward pursued the matter again, believing that purchasing such a large territory would help expand America’s reach and influence.
In 1867, Seward signed a treaty with Russia to purchase Alaska for $7 million. The secretary of state purchased the land for cheap considering the size of the future state.
However, the purchase was called “Seward’s Folly” and President Andrew Johnson’s “polar bear garden.”
Politicians believed it was a waste of money and not worth the burden. Clearly, the “folly” wasn’t true, as Americans later discovered gold and oil in the state.
Why Did the United States Want Alaska?
The United States probably didn’t want Alaska. After the “Seward’s Folly” purchase, Secretary of State William Seward received much ridicule for the purchase. However, decades later, the purchase proved profitable.
In 1912, Alaska was incorporated as a United States territory during the Gold Rush era of Alaska and the Yukon Territory.
The capital then moved from Sitka to Juneau. During World War II, the Navy bases at Unalaska/Dutch Harbor and Adak became very important.
However, statehood didn’t officially occur until July 7, 1958, when Congress approved the measure. Alaska officially received its statehood on Jan. 3, 1959.
Alaska’s Distance From the United States
Alaska is approximately 500 miles from the state of Washington.
To go from Washington to Alaska, you’d travel through British Columbia, Canada. However, driving from Seattle, Wash., to Juneau, Alaska, requires a non-direct route because of the myriad of islands along the Pacific Coast.
It takes three times as many miles when driving from city to city.
Depending on where you travel, the distance from the United States to Alaska could take thousands of miles.
The capital of Juneau lies on the southern portion before you even get to the mainland of Alaska. Visiting a city like Fairbanks, in the middle of the state, would take over 2,100 miles of driving.
Alaska’s Distance From Russia
It takes thousands of miles to drive to Alaska and a few hundred by plane. But how far is Russia from Alaska?
The narrowest distance between Alaska and Russia is only 55 miles, separated only by the Bering Strait. Thus Alaska is closer to Russia than the United States.
Also located in the Bering Strait are two small islands: Big Diomede and Little Diomede. Russia owns Big Diomede, while the United States owns Little Diomede. Less than three miles of water separate the two islands.
They lie in two different hemispheres, two different countries, and two different days. Big Diomede is 21 hours ahead of Little Diomede as the International Date Line separates the two islands.
Can You See Alaska From Russia?
You can see Russia from Alaska on a clear day, depending on where you stand. Since the distance between the two islands is less than three miles, you can stand on Little Diomede and see Big Diomede on a summer day.
Little Diomede is about 16 miles off the west coast of mainland Alaska.
The westernmost city on mainland Alaska is Wales. On a clear day, it’s possible to see glimpses of the Siberian mountains in Russia. But the best place to see that largest country in the world is from the neighboring islands.
Can You Drive From Russia to Alaska?
You cannot drive from Russia to Alaska. Although, some have discussed building bridges to the two Bering Strait islands and then tunneling through the islands to connect them.
But that hasn’t happened. If you lived 10,000 years ago, you could have walked across using the land bridge that once connected the two lands.
In the winter, walking from Big Diomede to Little Diomede is possible. However, due to the freezing waters of the Bering Strait and entering another country illegally, we don’t recommend it.
So technically, you can walk from Russia to Alaska if you trek along the ice.
Keep in Mind: Some of the Hardest National Park to Visit are in Alaska! Some of these you can only visit by taking a boat or a plane!
Can You Swim From Russia to Alaska?
Some people have made the swim from Russia to Alaska. One of the most notable swimmers was Lynne Cox, the first person to complete the feat. She wanted to ease the Cold War tensions between President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.
Local indigenous Inupiaq guides accompanied her in their traditional skin boats.
Two hours and five minutes later, Cox had reached the Russian border, where two soldiers helped pull her out of the frigid water.
Frenchman Philippe Croizon also made the daring swim. In 1994, he experienced a tragic severe electric shock accident that left him with amputated arms and legs.
He chose to bring awareness to amputees and people with disabilities by swimming the English Channel in 2010.
In 2012, he left Little Diomede in the Bering Strait and swam towards Big Diomede. Although he wasn’t allowed to enter Russian waters, he made the swim in an hour and 15 minutes.
Keep in Mind: Alaska is well known for their national parks! If you’re planning a trip to The Last Frontier, here’s Everything You Need to Know About Alaska National Parks
There Are Only Two Ways to Travel From Alaska to Russia
If you want to travel from Alaska to Russia, you have two options unless you plan to swim in the dangerously cold and choppy waters of the Bering Strait. You can take a boat or a plane to travel between the two locations.
A flight from Nome, Alaska, to the Chukotka region of Russia takes approximately one hour.
You can also get a charter flight. Just ensure you have all the correct documentation and paperwork completed. Remember, you are entering another country and will need a passport and perhaps a visa.
Visit the Last Frontier
Alaska is one of the most beautiful destinations in the United States. It’s almost other-worldly due to the volcanos, islands, forests, and mountain peaks. It has incredible wildlife and spectacular views.
The eight National Parks offer some of the most stunning scenery in the world, not just in the country.
So if you have Alaska on your bucket list, why not start planning today? Who knows? Maybe you’ll get a glimpse of Russia when you visit.
So, how far is Russia from Alaska? Technically just a hop, skip, and a jump away.