A Juneau-based organization backing a memorial of U.S.-Russia cooperation during World War II wants to honor those who have helped promote unity between the two nations and it's starting at the top.
The Alaska-Siberia Research Center, which has been working to build a memorial to the Alaska-Siberia Lend-Lease Program in Fairbanks, has commissioned 200 medallions for the awards. The first two will be presented to President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, said center Director Alexander Dolitsky of Juneau.
The gold-and-silver medallions, produced by the Alaska Mint in Anchorage, feature a likeness of the proposed memorial and the words "Allies Unity" on one side. The other side has a view of a Bell P-39 plane commonly used in the lend-lease program - and a map of the Alaska-Siberia Lend-Lease flying route.
"The medallion has a message, it has important historical information, and artistically it's well done," Dolitsky said.
The Alaska-Siberia Lend-Lease Program, which operated from 1942-45, sent thousands of planes and other supplies from America to Russia to assist in the war against Nazi Germany.
The route for delivering planes ran from Great Falls, Mont., over Alberta, British Columbia and the Yukon and across Alaska via airports at Fairbanks, Galena and Nome before continuing to Siberia.
Although final details have to be worked out, Dolitsky said he hopes a delegation from the research center will be able to present the medallions to Russian Embassy and U.S. State Department officials, representing the two presidents, in Washington next month. The delegation will carry a letter to the two world leaders from Gov. Tony Knowles.
"In a world troubled by conflict," the letter says, "it behooves us to remember, honor and promote the ties that have contributed to peace, cooperation and better relations." The letter notes the "enduring shared history" of Alaska and Russia.
The remaining 198 medallions will be awarded, at a rate of 10 to 15 a year, to people who have helped improve relations between Russia and North America or made contributions in the field of Russia-Alaska studies, Dolitsky said.
"It could be an artist, a politician, a businessman - anyone who made