Living Next Door To Russia: How The Remotest US Community Stays Happy.

Will Jelbert
8 min readFeb 10, 2018

You can see Russia from my living room. No really.

Little Diomede, Alaska. Photo: Will Jelbert

It’s about as close as anywhere in the US gets to ‘Hygge’. It’s a place of sharing, equality and close contact and it’s also the most isolated community in the United States. That said, there is occasionally cell phone service.

The location is the Bering Strait, the outermost reaches of Alaska, 140 miles Northwest of Nome [home of the Discovery Channel’s Bering Sea Gold], less than a mile East of the International Date Line and the Russian border.

The only way to get here is an hour and a half ride on a freight helicopter from Nome that delivers the mail, food and other supplies to the Native village once or twice a week, weather permitting, and the weather doesn’t often permit…

Where East is West. Russia stands across the narrow Bering Strait. Photo: Will Jelbert

So how does an American community keep its spirits up when it’s living on an almost barren pile of rocks that for most of the year is either covered in fog or ice, and is so far from the rest of the US that it’s closer to Siberian Russia? Here’s a rundown of how the Eskimos keep their five happiness muscles in good shape….

Eskimo happiness muscle number 1: Kindness: As we landed, around 20 villagers (Diomede has a population of about 100 of which 95% identify themselves Eskimos) gathered around the helipad, 20 feet above the waves. They grabbed about thirty bags and boxes from the chopper and carried them on their shoulders along a path towards the houses and the school; many hands making light — unpaid — work.

As I stared across the 2-mile channel to the cliffs of Russia, Ron walked up to me with a grin. Ron is a well weathered thirty-nine year old Eskimo who smiles often. His father is the school janitor and his mother, the dinner lady. I even saw Ron’s daughter helping her grandfather in the rain to reinforce the sea wall in front of the school.