What Was the Bering Strait and Why Is It Important to World History?

The Bering Strait is a narrow passage of water that separates Asia and North America. Located between Russia and Alaska, it is only about 50 miles wide at its narrowest point.

While it may seem like just a strip of water, the Bering Strait has played an important role in world history. Let’s take a closer look at why.


The Bering Strait was first discovered by Europeans in 1728 when Danish explorer Vitus Bering sailed through the narrow channel while on an expedition for the Russian navy. However, indigenous peoples had been living in the region for thousands of years before that.

Indigenous Peoples

The indigenous peoples of the region are known as Inuit, Yupik, and Chukchi. They have lived in the area for over 10,000 years and have developed unique cultures and ways of life that are adapted to the harsh Arctic environment.

The Bering Land Bridge

One of the most significant aspects of the Bering Strait is its connection to the Bering Land Bridge. During the last ice age, which ended around 12,000 years ago, sea levels were much lower than they are today. This caused a land bridge to form between Asia and North America across what is now the Bering Strait.


The land bridge allowed humans to migrate from Asia to North America for thousands of years before disappearing as sea levels rose again. This migration had a huge impact on world history as it allowed for new cultures to develop in North America and eventually led to the creation of modern-day Native American tribes.


The land bridge also allowed animals such as mammoths, bison, and elk to cross from Asia to North America. This led to an increase in biodiversity on both continents as well as changes in ecosystems.

Modern-Day Importance

Today, the Bering Strait remains an important area for international relations and commerce. It is a major shipping route between Asia and North America, and it is also home to valuable natural resources such as oil and gas.

Environmental Concerns

However, the rapid melting of Arctic sea ice due to climate change has raised concerns about the environmental impacts of increased shipping and resource extraction in the region. Indigenous communities in Alaska and Russia are also facing challenges from changing weather patterns and loss of traditional hunting grounds.

Political Tensions

The Bering Strait is also a site of political tension between Russia and the United States. The two countries have overlapping claims to the waters around the strait, which has led to disagreements over fishing rights and other issues.

  • In conclusion, while it may seem like just a narrow strip of water, the Bering Strait has played a significant role in shaping world history. From providing a land bridge for early human migration to serving as an important shipping route and resource-rich area today, this region continues to be important both environmentally and politically.

As we can see, the Bering Strait is much more than just a body of water. Its impact on world history and current affairs highlights how even seemingly small geographic features can have significant consequences.