Eighty years ago this spring the Soviet Central Executive Committee created the distinction Hero of the Soviet Union. The earliest recipients of the accolade all showed exceptional service to the state in the Russian Arctic where, in the 1930s, a major program was initiated to transform the Northern Sea Route* from a theoretical navigational possibility
into an operational waterway.
On a bright Tuesday morning in September 2008, the president's Ilyushin jet descended over the waters of the Anadyr Estuary for a perfect landing at the airport on the north side of the bay. For Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (pictured above), a one-day visit to the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug was a chance to address several agendas at once. Anadyr is Russia's easternmost city, and the Chukotka region has a shared maritime frontier with the state of Alaska.
Medvedev's day out to Chukotka came just as then Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin was being mercilessly parodied by Tina Fey, who mimicked Palin and said Alaskans knew exactly where Chukotka was: they could see it in the West as they gazed out their kitchen windows. While fanciful, it nonetheless put Alaskans one step ahead of Muscovites, for even today many residents of the Russian capital would be hard pressed to identify Chukotka as anything other than the source of many good jokes.
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