With the events surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Alaska and Russia began exploring economic and cultural relations. Businesspeople, students and cultural exchange groups visited their counterparts and several organizations were established to promote bilateral relations. Sister-city relations were established between Alaskan and Russian cities, such as Magadan, Vladivostok, Yakutsk, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and others.
The excitement grew with the announcement of several Sakhalin oil and gas development projects in the 1990s. Since the Russian Far East is a resource-rich region, Alaska has not been a large exporter of commodities to the region. Rather, Alaska companies have been exporting technical and professional expertise and services. Several firms have garnered contracts in transportation, construction and other fields. Some participated in joint development projects in Sakhalin and continue their operations in the region to this day. For example, Lynden Inc. is a provider of transportation and logistics services in Sakhalin, and Alaska Interstate Construction LLC is involved in road construction, oil well pad installation, and other oilfield infrastructure development projects.
In the same period, the University of Alaska established close ties with its counterparts in the Russian Far East. Many students from Magadan, Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, as well as other cities in the region, enjoy resident tuition at the University of Alaska. At one point in time, the University of Alaska had more Russian students than any other university in the United States. Also, the American-Russian Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage was one of the principal technical assistance organizations between the U.S. and the Russian Far East. It had branch offices in eight Russian cities and several thousand Russians participated in its courses and educational exchange programs.
Both Aeroflot and Alaska Airlines started direct service between Alaska and the Russian Far East in 1991. By the early 2000s direct flights stopped. Since then there have been a few unsuccessful attempts on both the U.S. and Russian sides to resume regular service. Last summer regional Russian air carrier Yakutia Air started seasonal service from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to...