Alaskan and Soviet Eskimos holding their first major reunion since the Cold War imposed a forced separation 40 years ago sang and talked animatedly Tuesday about current events - like walrus hunting.
The meeting at the Palace of Culture in this remote Siberian port was one of the highlights of the 225-mile "friendship flight" from the western Alaska town of Nome by an 82-member U.S. delegation.Timothy Gologergen, 68, of Nome shared a traditional song with a Siberian Eskimo who identified himself as Kaygigun, 41, from the nearby village of New Chaplino.
"They got three walruses last night," Gologergen said later. "They were hauling them back and forth by dog team, and he heard that we were coming. He dropped everything and came over.
"He said this way is really good - just to speak our own (upik) dialect and not listen to the war stories or think about war, or plan about war - just be doing our thing, speaking our Yupik language and hunting and being relaxed," Gologergen said.
The Soviets earlier this month approved the charter flight by Eskimos, Alaskan business leaders, peace activists and politicians, the product of two years' work by Alaskans.
Eskimos once freely crossed the icy Bering Strait in motorboats and walrus-skin umiaks to trade and visit with relatives. The Cold War ended all that in 1948, when the border was closed.
Summit meetings between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev helped make the "friendship flight" possible, said Bob Clarke, a State Department official on the flight.
The summits were "strong on people-to-people exchanges," Clarke said. "This is a real grass-roots effort."
The leader of the effort was James Stimpfle, a 40-year-old Nome real estate agent who dreamed up the flight two years ago to help thaw relations between Alaska and Siberia.