A unique symbol of Russian-American friendship is taking shape near downtown Anchorage. A 20-foot totem pole is being carved in Paul Fuhs' front yard.

Fuhs is a former commerce commissioner for the State of Alaska. He's also a member of a business group called the Russian-American Pacific Partnership.

The group, which has been meeting since the early 1990s, brings together business and government officials from Western states with their counterparts in Russia's Far East. Their annual meeting, which rotates between the two countries, takes place in Anchorage next week.

The totem is a traditional symbol of friendship in Siberian culture meant to welcome the participants, Fuhs said. Carvers from the city of Yakutsk, in Siberia, are volunteering their skills. The 30-foot spruce was harvested from the Portage area; Fuhs said it's been cured for three years and is now ready to carve.

Fuhs is negotiating with the city to find a permanent spot for the totem once it's finished. His hope is to put it in a public place like the Anchorage Museum of History and Art or the Loussac Library.

In the meantime, the carvers will be busy at work for the next few days. Fuhs has invited people to stop by his house at 11th Avenue and Cordova Street to watch them at work.

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