The long-closed Soviet Far East will open to the West and will encourage tourism, the leader of a high-ranking Siberian delegation to Alaska said on his arrival here.
Vyacheslav Kobets, governor of the Magadan Region, predicted Wednesday that the U.S.-Soviet maritime border between Alaska and Siberia will open, permitting travel across the Bering Strait.Kobets led a 26-member delegation across the strait to Alaska for a 21/2-day visa-free trip and pointed to that visit and others as evidence that the "ice curtain" border is thawing.
"I think the border is not going to be that closed," Kobets said at a news conference. "The curtain is already open between the two shores and the contacts that are already developing are a demonstration of this openness."
Magadan is more famous for gulag labor camps and gold mining than for glasnost, but everything Kobets said indicated that has radically changed, and he attributed this change to policies of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
The group arrived aboard the Dmitriy Laptev, which sailed from Provideniya - a Soviet city that opened to a June 13 Alaska Airlines "Friendship Flight" and to several recent ship visits. The ship arrived in Nome to an enthusiastic welcome in 42-degree drizzle Wednesday morning as people waved Soviet and American flags and cheered.
International reporting will let the world "catch a glimpse of the opening of relations between very special corners of the world - Magadan and Alaska," said Ginna Brelsford, a state official who welcomed the Soviets in Nome.