Diomede Islands: Two Islands Split by the US-Russian Border and the International Date Line

Feb 28, 2014 13 comments

The Diomede Islands are a pair of rocky islands located in the middle of the Bering Strait between mainland Alaska and Siberia. Though the two islands are only 3.8 km apart and clearly in a single group, they are separated by the International Date line which also marks the international border between Russia and the United States. Big Diomede is owned by Russia and Little Diomede is owned by the USA. Additionally, Big Diomede is 23 hours ahead of Little Diomede owing to the International Date Line that passes between them, because of this they are sometimes called Tomorrow Island and Yesterday Isle, respectively.


Both islands are flat-topped, steep-sided and very isolated by its location, by rough seas, and by the persistent fog that shrouds the islands during the warmer months. During the freezing winter, sometimes moving chunks of ice clog in the open waters forming an ice bridge connecting the two islands. At such times one can practically walk between the United States and Russia. Of course, this is only in theory. Crossing the Bering Strait is not legally permitted.

The islands were originally inhabited by Yupik Eskimos as long as 3,000 years ago. The first European to reach the islands was the Russian explorer Semyon Dezhnyov in 1648. Eighty years later, it was re-discovered by the Danish navigator Vitus Bering on August 16, 1728, the day on which the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of the martyr St. Diomede.

When the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867, it included the Little Diomede. The new boundary was drawn between the two Diomede Islands and the Big Diomede was left to Russia.

While Little Diomede developed into a small community of about 75 individuals, with a church and school, Big Diomede became a Russian military base. After World War II the native population was driven off the island to avoid contacts across the border, and any Little Diomede inhabitants who strayed across the waters too close to Big Diomede where taken captive by the Russians. Today it has no permanent population but it is the site of a Russian weather station and a base of Russian Border guard troops

Little Diomede Eskimos live a subsistence lifestyle, harvesting fish and crab, hunting beluga whales, walrus, seals and polar bears. Most supplies come from an annual barge delivery from the mainland from stores like Wal-Mart. A few residents work for the local government or school. There has been some commercial fishing and mining on the island, but both industries are in decline.


Big Diomede island on the left. Little Diomede island on the right. Photo credit


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Diomede (Inalik) village on the west coast of Little Diomede Island, Alaska. Photo credit


The native village of Little Diomede island. Photo credit


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Sources: Wikipedia, PBS, Angus Adventures,


  1. So turns out Sarah Palin was right, you can see Russia from Alaska. However, she's still an idiot.

    1. So you imply the above anonymous poster whom you know nothing about is an idiot for deeming Palin an idiot after many documented accounts of her actually being an idiotic. Yes, that's logical. (That was sarcasm- just in case you're an idiot)

    2. You type as if you are studious, which you likely are, although you were simply asking for someone to respond negatively. (And yes - I am intending to type "smartly" as you have)

  2. Tina Fey was the one that said "You can see Russia from my house" parodying Palin. It was such a humorous portrayal that people erroneously thought that's what she (Palin) said. Palin did say Russia was visible from Alaska, which it turns out is true at times...

    1. I never watch SNL. I am almost positive that on one of her reality shows that didn't stay for long, she said I can see Russia from my back yard. I could have heard this wrong or subconsciously heard someone else say something but I just remember her saying something about seeing Russia.

  3. interesting...............

  4. This looks really cool to explore..

  5. ummmmm I would really like to be gay on that island

  6. Poster #1 is a douchbag

  7. Can inhabitants of little Diomede go fishing or hunting towards big diomede? If big diomede is uninhabited I guess no one will be checking passports

    1. The article said that Russian Border guards troops are there.


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