Nome (Inupiaq: Siqnazuaq), formerly Anvil City, is a city in the Nome Census Area in the Unorganized Borough of the U.S. state of Alaska. The city is located on the southern Seward Peninsula coast on Norton Sound of the Bering Sea. In 2016 the population was estimated at 3,797, a rise from the 3,598 recorded in the 2010 Census, up from 3,505 in 2000. Nome was incorporated on April 9, 1901, and was once the most-populous city in Alaska. Nome lies within the region of the Bering Straits Native Corporation, which is headquartered in Nome.
The city of Nome claims to be home to the world's largest gold pan, although this claim has been disputed by the city of Quesnel, British Columbia, Canada. The name Nome, taken from the geographic feature Cape Nome, has been variously reported to be a Norwegian name, an Inupiaq name, or a mapmaker's misreading of "name" on a blank slot on a chart.
The city is also famous for the winter of 1925, in which a diphtheria epidemic raged among Alaska Natives in the Nome area. Fierce territory and wide-blizzard conditions prevented the delivery of a life-saving serum by airplane from Anchorage. A relay of dog sled teams was organized to deliver the serum.
Nome in "Bluethroats"
A birder and his daughter went on a birding expedition to the area near Nome, shortly after his widowhood and her divorce. The birder found Nome to be half small-town America, half really weird, with satellite TV, kids with backwards baseball caps and baggy jeans slouching around looking for something to do, and an Italian-Japanese place run by Koreans. He was pleased by this mixture.
Nome in "Liberating Alaska"
Boom to Bust in Russian Alaska
Early in the 20th century, while Alaska was still an Imperial Russian territory, a Russian trapper hunting beaver found gold in the region. Siknazuak almost immediately boomed as Russians, Canadians and Americans flooded the area, digging for gold. Within six months, the city had an Eastern Orthodox cathedral, a Catholic cathedral, an opera house, and eleven brothels. However, once the easy gold was dug out, the boom became a bust, and large chunks of the population returned to their respective homes. Gold could still be had, but it required a great deal of work.
During the Russian Civil War, the United States and other countries had intervened militarily in an effort to stop the communists. They failed, and the Reds established the Soviet Union. However, their leader, Vladimir Lenin, was forced to cede a number of Russian territories. As the U.S. Marines withdrew from Siberia, they were able to seize Alaska, and Lenin could not contest it.
In 1929, Lenin's successor, Joseph Stalin, still angered by the loss of the whole of Russian Alaska to the U.S., fomented rebellion in Siknazuak, primarily because it was close to Siberia. To this end, at the beginning of June, 1929, Stalin sent pro-Soviet agitators to Siknazuak to initiate an uprising against the American garrison. "Volunteers" and weapons from the USSR quickly followed, toppling the garrison. The occupying Bolsheviks were ruthless during their short reign. While they repressed all of the citizens, they were particularly brutal to the Russians already living in the town, frequently accusing them of being White sympathizers. Many Siknazuak Russians were summarily executed for this "crime", usually with a single gunshot to the back of the neck. Further, on Stalin's orders, the occupiibg Bolsheviks turned much of Siknazuak into a labor camp akin to the ones Lenin had created in the USSR, with the inmates tasked with extracting the remaining gold in the area. Several citizens were worked to death in the few weeks the Bolsheviks ruled. Bodies were placed in shallow mass graves.
|Liberation of Siknazuak|
|United States||Soviet-backed occupiers|
The United States Marine Corps liberated Siknazuak after a fierce battle at the end of June, 1929. The liberation began with a bombardment of Siknazuak from U.S. destroyers in the Bering Sea, in order to give cover to the landing force. Curtiss Hawks and Martin T3Ms, USS Lexington, attacked both Siknazuak proper and the various positions the Reds had set up west of town. The Soviets in the town were able to respond with heavy guns of their own, although they didn't sink any ships.
The first wave of marines disembarked from their transport ships in motor boats, and successfully landed on the beach. However, they immediately discovered that what appeared to be solid ground was in fact a bog. Weighed down as they were, the men couldn't move forward very quickly, but the did steadily make their way up Siknazuak River, encountering their first fight in a small hamlet nearby. Almost immediately, a machine gun opened up from one of the nearby houses. The marines returned fire, and quickly began to entrench.
That set the tone for the entire drive to Siknazuak: the marines would advance towards the Bolshevik positions. The Reds would inflict some casualties before the marines brought stealth and superior firepower to bear. Once the marines overran one position, they'd have to do it all over again with the next position. In this way, the marines overran a small hamlet outside of town, then two barbwire fence lines, and then a minefield before entering the outskirts of Siknazuak proper. The marines sustained casualties at each point, but the Bolsheviks suffered more. Nonetheless, the Bolsheviks proved adept at organized retreat.
Even when the marines entered Siknazuak, the fighting was intense. Two M1917s did substantial damage to the Reds before one fighter was able to destroy one of the tanks with a whiskey bottle full of a flammable liquid. When the Marines made their way into the most densely populated part of the town, the Bolsheviks put up their stoutest resistance yet. Both sides soon engaged in close quarters combat, with the marines using their bayonet and trenching tools. Only when the marines reached the middle of town did the Bolsheviks begin to surrender. Some still managed to retreat into hills north of town.
The marines learned of the atrocities the Bolsheviks had commited during their reign. With a high number of fighters still in the hills, the U.S. resigned itself to maintaining a substantial garrison in Siknazuak for the foreseeable future.
- Asimov's Science Fiction, July/August, 2018.