An inuit village in far-east arctic Siberia
Cape Dezhnev and
the Bering Strait are
close by, and this is
a major sea route
the two continents.
In the russian remote
Chukotka, said to be
the end of the
Earth, the farthest
Eurasia, Uelen is the
last settlement before
the ocean, and the
closest to America.
Uelen (russian: Уэлéн)
Coordinates: 66 09′ N, 169 48′ W,
just south of the arctic circle.
Population ~ 750 (some 70 are Yupik eskimos)
Uelen was initially an Yupik Eskimo settlement; the Ancient Bering Sea culture
existed from the 3rd century BC till the 1st century CE. But at the beginning of 18th
century the incoming Chukchi settlers outnumbered the prior occupants and
assimilated the territory of Cape Dezhnev.
In the Western explorer history, the first mention of Uelen appears on the 1792 map
of the Billings-Sarychev expedition.
After 1917, Uelen became one of the first trade co-operatives in Chukotka and a
dedicated American trading post was established. In the first half of the 20th century,
Uelen was the site of one of the first Russian arctic research stations.
The Chukchi and Inuit (Yupik) people who live in the area have a long tradition of
ivory and bone carving that goes back several centuries. Works from the Uelen
Studio, carved from walrus ivory, sea-mammal bone, and reindeer antler are widely
appreciated and represented in many major museums.
Uelen is located on the northeast corner of the Uelen Lagoon, a roughly
15 by 3 km east-west lagoon separated from the ocean by a sandspit.
The narrow sandspit clearly
separates the Uelen Lagoon
from the Bering Sea.
The village has local administrative offices, a boarding school, day
care, hospital, post, native crafts workshop, museum, and culture
Newly built Canadian style houses
New School, Museum
and Arts Center
Most of the income derives from the sea - walrus, whales, fish –
, from reindeer herding and also from trapping and hunting with sled
In recent years, the Uelen Art Studio is a welcome new economic
source for the local artists.
The oceanfront Orthodox
Chapel of the Resurrection
was built at the end of 2002.
It was designed by Mikhail
The wooden chapel was a gift
from the people of Omsk sent
as homage to Chukchi
people, and was mounted in 2
It is the easternmost church in
The 750 inhabitants are
an ethnic mix of Chukchi
Chukotka region), Yupik
eskimos and Russians.
Chukchi and eskimo folk
dances take place each
year in a festival.
A dance and drumming performance by a local dance troupe – one of the most
appreciated attractions in Uelen.
NATIVE ARTS – Ivory sculpture and carving
The Chukchi and Inuit people who live in the area have a long tradition of ivory
and bone carving that goes back several centuries.
A Carving Workshop was founded in the 1930s, employing a number of award-
winning Chukotka Native artists.
Since then the reputation of Uelen’s craftworks has grown and can now be found
in collections around the world.
They are perhaps most famous for their detailed engraving on walrus ivory which
often depicts their legends as well as scenes of traditional activities like hunting
and reindeer herding.
The basic Walrus tusks engraved with
traditional native scenes and legends.
mostly made by
mostly made by
Whales, seals, and white bears
Mother and child
Beating the clothes
The nearest large exhibition of Uelen crafts is located in Anadyr, at the
Museum Center ‘Chukotka Heritage’
The Chukchi coast is mainly rocky high steep cliffs. Uelen lagoon is just
a low interval, the sandspit seen here at its eastern extreme.
Eastern Chukotka and Cape Dezhnev
The Bering Strait is about 80 kilometers
wide, with depth averaging 40-50 meters
and a few spots as deep as 60 meters.
Cape Dezhnev, the farthest eastern
point of Eurasia. From here the distance
to Alaska is 80 km
The Lagoon is
The Cape Deshnev peninsula was a center for trade between American
(and other) whalers and the fur traders and the native Yupik and Chukchi
people of the coast in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In the early years, ships would call at Uelen to trade for furs produced
along the arctic coast. There were established trading stations at Uelen
Of the four historical villages by the cape, only Uelen is still inhabited.
Cape Dezhnev memorials
The abandoned village of Naukan on Cape Dezhnev. Yupik eskimo tribes lived here
and in Big Diomede island from at least 2000 years ago, visiting and trading through
the Bering Strait with their partners in Alaska.
Some archeological sites and modern memorials remain, including a lighthouse.
This was once the easternmost settlement in Eurasia.
The Bering strait project
Could a bridge, or a tunnel, be built to link the once connected continents ?
Studies have been made,
costs and dificulties are
formidable , but who
Uelen, on the Russian
side, would be the first
(or last) settlement: all
traffic would past there.
Already Czar Nicholas II had
approved a railroad tunnel in
Tunnel or bridge, that fantastic
project would connect directly
Paris to New York… around the
earth, via Siberia and Alaska !