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Russia’s Bering Sea Islands

Covering an area of more than two million square kilometers, the Bering Sea has Alaska to the east and northeast, with Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula and Siberia on the west, and the Aleutian Islands on the far north where the Bering Strait connects the Bering Sea to the Chukchi Sea. The islands of the Bering Sea which fall under the jurisdiction of Russia include the Commander Islands, the Diomede Islands and Karaginsky Island. Included in the Commander Islands is the Bering Island. Both the island and the sea are named for the Danish navigator, Vitus Bering, who died on Bering Island in 1741, along with twenty-eight of his men, after being shipwrecked.

The sparsely-populated and treeless Commander Islands are located around 175 kilometers off the coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula. The islands consist of Medny Island, Bering Island and fifteen smaller islets. Geographically, the Commander Islands are part of the Aleutian Islands, although located more than 300 kilometers away. The terrain consists of volcanic plateaus, folded-block mountains and terraced plains, with the highest point being Steller Peak (755 meters) on Bering Island.

The settlement of Nikolskoye, located on Bering Island, was founded by Aleut settlers in 1826. The Aleut people originate from the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, with quite a number moving to, and settling in, Russia's Kamchatka Krai and various islands in the Bering Sea. The shores of Bering Island are home to large numbers of sea otters and seals which were hunted for their fur. Today, Medny Island and most of Bering Island, along with thirteen smaller islands make up the Komandorsky Nature Reserve and the wildlife, which includes more than a million seabirds, as well as thousands of Northern Fur Seals, Steller Sea Lions, Spotted Seals, Common Seals and Sea Otters are protected. Fishing is also prohibited within a 50 kilometer zone around the nature reserve.

Once occupied by the Koryaks, an indigenous people of Russia's Kamchatka Krai, Karaginsky Island currently has no permanent settlements, although reindeer herders live in temporary shelters, moving with their herds. The island is a popular tourist destination as it is abundant in wildlife, and is covered with lush vegetation and colorful in the summer months with masses of flowers. Karaginsky Island is reached by crossing the 40 km wide Litke Strait that separates it from the Kamchatka Peninsula.


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