Incredible Tales from Alaskans Who Helped End the Cold War || The Inside Story of Melting the Alaska-Russia Ice Curtain

Loading Map....

Date(s) - Friday, December 1, 2017
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Add this event to my Google Calendar

49th State Brewing Company


Key players in melting the Alaska-Russia Ice Curtain in the mid-1980s discuss how Alaska helped end the Cold War, launching a 30-year era of productive commercial and personal relations across the Bering Strait.

Speakers at a glance –

David Ramseur, long-time Alaska journalist and author of a new book, Melting the Ice Curtain: The Extraordinary Story of Citizen Diplomacy on the Russia-Alaska Frontier, moderates the panel discussion. His guests include:

Jim Stimpfle – a Nome realtor whose stories of interactions with Russia through his Native wife’s family inspired him to engage in “Balloon Diplomacy” and other efforts to open the Strait. Stimpfle has visited Russia many times and helped convince Nome merchants to accept Russian rubles.


Dave Heatwole – a former Alaska oil company executive who caught the “Russia bug” through the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce and traveled numerous times to Russia as one of the few Alaska businessmen who were successful working there. Heatwole even met his wife working in Russia.

Elena Kostonko-Farkus – West High School’s Russian language teacher and founder of the Anchorage public school Russian immersion program. Farkus moved to Alaska from Magadan, Russia, in 1992, operated a Russian bookstore in Anchorage and promotes Russian cultural understanding.


David Ramseur is a Visiting Scholar in Public Policy at the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska Anchorage and is the author of Melting the Ice Curtain: The Extraordinary Story of Citizen Diplomacy on the Russia-Alaska Frontier, telling the story of how inspiration, courage, and persistence by citizen-diplomats bridged a widening gap in superpower relations.

A 36-year-Alaskan, Ramseur just concluded six years as chief of staff to Alaska U.S. Senator Mark Begich where he managed the Senator’s Washington, D.C. and Alaska offices and served as the top political and foreign policy advisor to Senator Begich. Between 2003-08, he was chief of staff to then Anchorage Mayor Begich. He also served Alaska Governors Tony Knowles and Steve Cowper as chief of staff, press secretary and foreign policy advisor.

In 1988, Ramseur helped organize the “Friendship Flight” between Nome, Alaska and Provideniya, Russia, which reunited indigenous families on both sides of the Bering Strait and helped launch nearly two decades of commercial, scientific and cultural activity between the regions. He managed a $2 million federal grant for educational and scientific exchanges between Alaska and the Russian Far East at the University of Alaska’s American Russian Center in 1993-94 and worked in Nizhny-Novgorod, Russia as a volunteer media advisor in 1993.

He has traveled extensively in Russia, Asia, Europe and the Arctic. He holds a political science Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina Asheville and a Master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri. He lives in Anchorage where he enjoys triathlon training and golf. He is married to Anchorage attorney Susan Wibker.


Just five years after a Soviet missile blew a civilian airliner out of the sky over the North Pacific, an Alaska Airlines jet braved Cold War tensions to fly into tomorrow. Crossing the Bering Strait between Alaska and the Russian Far East, the 1988 Friendship Flight reunited Native peoples of common languages and cultures for the first time in four decades. It and other dramatic efforts to thaw what was known as the Ice Curtain launched a thirty-year era of perilous, yet prolific, progress.

Melting the Ice Curtain tells the story of how inspiration, courage, and persistence by citizen-diplomats bridged a widening gap in superpower relations. David Ramseur was a first-hand witness to the danger and political intrigue, having flown on that first Friendship Flight, and having spent thirty years behind the scenes with some of Alaska’s highest officials. As Alaska celebrates the 150th anniversary of its purchase, and as diplomatic ties with Russia become perilous, Melting the Ice Curtain shows that history might hold the best lessons for restoring diplomacy between nuclear neighbors.

  • Lunch at this program will be available for individual order and purchase from 49th State Brewing Co.
  • Doors will open at 11:30am and the program will begin at noon.
  • Online registration closes Wednesday, November 29th at midnight. Remaining spaces will be sold at the door.

Complimentary parking is available in nearby EasyPark Alaska lots for individuals who preregister online to attend this program by the posted registration deadline above. Successful registrants will receive an email prior to the program with parking details. Thank you to EasyPark Alaska for partnering with us to make Downtown parking a breeze!

  • High school and college students who register in advance receive complimentary admission and a voucher for a lunch item of their choosing thanks to the generous support of BP. Online pre-registration and presentation of a valid student ID at check-in is required to qualify.
  • Teachers who would like to bring a group of students to this program must submit a request via the online form here at least one week in advance to inquire about availability. Questions should be directed to Deputy Director, Alyssa Bish.


Active-duty military personnel and their spouses who register in advance receive complimentary admission thanks to generous support from USO Alaska. Online pre-registration and presentation of a valid military ID at check-in is required to qualify.

Get Tickets

Ticket Type Price Spaces
Active-Duty Military Admission, 12/1
Admission for active-duty military personnel and spouses with valid military ID. Does not include lunch.
Ambassador Member Admission, 12/1
For current Ambassador level members of the Alaska World Affairs Council and their complimentary guest. Does not include food.
General Admission, 12/1
General admission. Does not include lunch.
Guest Pass Admission, 12/1
For non-members who posses a guest pass from the 16/17 membership promotion OR non-member guests of BOARD members. If you do not meet the eligibility criteria, we will require payment for your admission.
Member Admission, 12/1
Admission for current members of the Alaska World Affairs Council. Does not include lunch.
Punchcard Admission, 12/1
For current punchcard holders only. Must present punchcard at check-in. Does not include food.
Student Admission with Lunch, 12/1
Admission for full-time high school and college students with valid student ID. Includes voucher for lunch. Groups of 5 or more students must contact our office to confirm availability.