War of the Chukchi and Eskimos in 1947

(ORDO NEWS) — In Russia, since Soviet times, they have become accustomed to treating the Chukchi condescendingly, composing numerous anecdotes about this ethnic group. In vain; In real life, they are an intelligent people, possessing not only rare vitality, but also belligerence. The conquest of the Russian Empire by the Chukchi by the Cossacks did not take place simply, resulting in full-scale hostilities. Following the tsarist colonial policy, the Anadyr prison was founded by Russian settlers in 1652 to conquer local peoples and collect fur tribute.

It wasn’t like that. The Chukchi turned out to be incredibly strong, freedom-loving and vengeful people. It got to the point that the term Russian-Chukchi wars appeared in historical documents, when several hundred Cossacks opposed the ten thousand Chukchi population. The main fighting lasted from the 1720s to the 1750s. Then for thirty years there were regular military clashes.

At the same time, both sides suffered significant losses. Even the government troops sent to suppress the resistance of the Chukchi with difficulty coped with the task, although individual skirmishes continued until 1917, after which the Chukchi, supporting the Soviet regime, became part of the USSR. Moreover, it should be noted that the Chukchi belligerently treated not only the Cossacks, but also the neighboring peoples, by force taking away their hunting and fishing trades.

By the middle of the 20th century, armed clashes within the country had practically ceased, but serious enmity continued between the Soviet Chukchi and the American Eskimos, the indigenous inhabitants of Alaska. In the postwar years, the situation escalated to such an extent that it threatened to escalate into a major war.

At the polar front

Despite the fact that during the Soviet years it was believed that the state border was “locked”, this was not always true. So, before the start of World War II, the Chukchi and Eskimos crossed it relatively freely. And it was difficult to control such remote territories of an immense country.

The Bering Strait, which was about a hundred kilometers wide, separated two peoples, kindred in the distant past. Communication proceeded freely. However, the relationship between the Chukchi and the Eskimos deteriorated rather quickly. Often, the former staged raids on the villages of Alaska. Along with the desire to get hold of plundered goods, one of the main reasons for the frequent raids of the Chukchi was the desire to capture young women and children. Is it worth mentioning that the peoples of the Far North have always suffered from small numbers. They needed an influx of “fresh blood”, and working hands were required in reindeer herders’ camps. Men needed brides who were not distant cousins.

In the 20th century, the old disagreements were supplemented by a different level of everyday life in the USSR and the USA. The Chukchi, angered by the apparent inequality, returned to their favorite practice, starting to make regular predatory raids on the villages of the Eskimos living under capitalism, taking weapons, household utensils and even clothes as trophies.

Relations became especially difficult after the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War that followed between the USSR and the USA. The fact is that in the first half of the 1940s, the Americans rightly feared the threat posed by the Japanese troops, who made repeated attempts to land troops in Alaska and the adjacent territories of the Aleutian archipelago islands. A particularly difficult military situation in the region developed in the winter-spring period of 1942. To carry out the defense of its territories, the US government decided to organize a special Territorial Guard, whose personnel consisted entirely of representatives of the local population of Eskimo hunters and was used to defend the coast of Alaska.

After the end of the war, this military unit of the combined forces of the Eskimos, Aleuts and Indians, amounting to 2.5 thousand people, was disbanded. Formally. In reality, the authorities in Washington continued active ideological indoctrination of the local population, convincing them that war with the USSR and, accordingly, with the Chukchi is inevitable. At the same time, the US military conducted large-scale maneuvers using military equipment to assess the possibility of its use in the ultra-low temperature zone.

The Kremlin, of course, was well aware of the Americans’ cunning plans and was preparing a worthy response. Appreciating intelligence reports, I.V. By the fall of 1945, Stalin gave an order to work out possible scenarios for a military landing in Alaska in the event that the Americans begin military operations, using as a motive one of the regular military conflicts between the Eskimos and the Chukchi. To complete the mission, the 132nd Long Range Aviation Regiment and the 14th Airborne Army under the leadership of Lieutenant General Nikolai Oleshev were transferred to Chukotka. The task of the paratroopers was set extremely clear: in the event of the start of aggressive actions by the United States, to force the Bering Strait and take a bridgehead in Alaska.

The last fight is the most dangerous

The most interesting thing is that the military confrontation between the two superpowers was perceived by the Eskimos and the Chukchi, if not with joy, then with a sense of moral satisfaction. Both sides had a formal reason, under the cover of the regular troops of their countries, to settle scores with their historical rival, having won back part of the fishing and hunting industries.

It is officially believed that the last strongest clash between the Chukchi and the Eskimos took place in the Bering Strait in 1947. At the same time, according to historians, the armed conflict could well develop into a full-scale war between the USSR and the United States.

In this case, the provocateurs were the residents of Chukotka, sending several armed landing groups to the American coast.
As official sources later pointed out, unidentified citizens of the USSR from among the indigenous Chukchi people crossed the state border and organized a robbery armed attack on the Eskimos in the small Aleutian town of Wales.

In the course of a short battle, several dozen people were killed, and the reindeer herding camps of the Eskimos were plundered. In response, similar illegal Eskimo raids on Soviet territory were organized. By the end of 1947, the situation in the region was tense to such an extent that it required the intervention of Moscow and Washington.

Registration against war

Despite the increasing conflicts between the Chukchi and the Eskimos, neither the Soviet nor the American leadership, who closely followed the course of the armed clashes, did not issue official notes to each other.

It should be noted that if earlier mainly old people, women and children from the indigenous peoples stayed from the United States to the territory of the USSR to visit relatives, then in 1947 they were replaced by adult men who had no family ties on Soviet territory. At the same time, unusual tourists showed great interest in military facilities, which could not but cause concern.
At the same time, in the Bering Strait region, the activity of American aviation sharply increased, which, given the nuclear bombing of Japan several years earlier, also did not inspire optimism.

It was obvious that any border armed conflict between the Eskimos and the Chukchi could be used by the Americans as a pretext for war. In this situation, it was decided to close the border, prohibit contacts between the Chukchi and Eskimos in the border area, and also, since 1948, introduce a residence permit with the strictest control over its observance. Only after these measures were taken, the situation stabilized relatively, and the Chukchi and the Eskimos stopped military raids on each other.


Chukchi raids usually took place in the summer. The Chukchi boat used for sea fishing is called “anyapik”. For its manufacture, a frame made of wood and whale ribs is covered with walrus skin. The result is a fairly solid structure that can “survive” frequent collisions with ice floes. The average boat is about 9 m long and can hold 12 rowers. It is interesting that the Chukchi have always peacefully coexisted and even made friends with the Eskimos inhabiting Asia, while they were at enmity exclusively with the inhabitants of Alaska.


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