ALSIB is 80 Years Old: How to Preserve the Historical Heritage of the Legendary Route

Старое здание аэропорта. Фото: Рустам Ахунов

80 years ago, at the beginning of 1942, the construction of airfields for the Alaska-Siberia air route began, along which aircraft from the United States were ferried to the Soviet Union under the Lend-Lease agreement during the Great Patriotic War. The legendary ALSIB worked for about four years. During this time, along the difficult 6,500-kilometer route – from Fairbanks to Krasnoyarsk – the heroic pilots delivered to the USSR more than 8,000 military and transport vehicles, about 130,000 passengers and thousands of tons of cargo for various purposes. The video conference of the International Organization of the Northern Regions "The Northern Forum", which was held on January 21 in the format of a round table, was dedicated to the anniversary of the air road and the topic of preserving its historical heritage. Sergey Chechulin, head of the Expeditionary Department of the Executive Directorate of the Russian Geographical Society, made a report on the results of the expedition to survey the ALSIB airfields at the event.

During the 2021 field season, the first stage of the expedition was completed. It turned out that now 4 of the 14 surveyed airfields are abandoned and unusable (Chaplino, Uelkal, Anadyr-Gorka, Tanyurer), 3 more have the status of airfields (Oymyakon, Susuman, Vitim), 3 are under reconstruction (Khandyga, Seimchan, Olekminsk), runways with artificial turf are being created on 2 airfields (Seimchan and Olekminsk). According to Chechulin, connections between the airports have been broken and it is impossible to get from one to another along the ALSIB road, since at the moment they are tied to regional centers. The route as a connecting corridor in the latitudinal direction does not work.

The expedition members managed to identify unique buildings from the Great Patriotic War, which are of great historical interest and require informed decisions on their preservation. Also found is equipment supplied under Lend-Lease and suitable for display in museums. One of the most important results of the work was the collection of information on the lost aircraft, on the basis of which it is possible to organize the second stage of the expedition in 2022.


Ценная находка. Фото: Александр Бормотин

The Russian Geographical Society proposes to create an interregional association at the level of heads of administrations, which will unite the settlements where the ALSIB airfields were based. This will allow to revive interaction and revive the route that unites the country in the latitudinal direction. It is also necessary to develop a unified style for the design of ALSIB airfields, create a geographic information system containing the data on the heritage of the historic route, and a traveling exhibition dedicated to the history of the heroic air road.

In his report, Sergei Chechulin noted the importance of holding the second stage of the expedition in order to study the crash sites of aircraft flying along the route, as well as to make informed decisions on the preservation of the most important historic sites built during the Great Patriotic War and associated with ALSIB. It would be advisable to consider the possibility of returning the status of an airport to the airfield in the village of Oymyakon (Tomtor), which is the center of tourism development in Yakutia, and to speed up the decision-making process on the reconstruction of Kirensk Airport.

Sergei Chechulin added that in 2022 the Russian Geographical Society, together with “Marka” JSC, plans to issue an anniversary postcard. It will be dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the ALSIB air route.