Originally from Obninsk, Russia, Bering Strait gained national media attention after moving to the U.S. to perform country and bluegrass-influenced songs. Formed while studying classical music at the State College of Music and Stage Arts near Moscow, the band consists of Ilya Toshinsky (lead guitar, banjo, background vocals); Sasha Ostrovsky (steel guitar, Dobro); Alexander Arzamastsev (drums); Sergei Olhovsky (bass); Natasha Borzilova (lead vocals, acoustic guitar); and Lydia Sainikova (keyboards, background vocals).
At age 14, Toshinsky first visited Nashville in 1992 during an event sponsored by the Tennessee Banjo Institute. A year later, the band traveled to Oak Ridge, Tenn., on a cultural exchange program. They returned to the U.S. in 1994 to perform at the International Bluegrass Music Association convention. With the fall of communism in Russia, the band members realized they would have to move to the U.S. if they expected to achieve widespread success.
Choosing Nashville as their base of operations, Bering Strait saw four deals with major record labels come and go before signing with Universal South. The 2003 release of the band's self-titled debut album coincided with a 90-minute film documentary, The Ballad of Bering Strait. Directed by Nina Gilden Seavey of George Washington University, the film chronicled the band's trials and tribulations. Among the turmoil was the fact that the work visa restricted the members from getting day jobs to earn money for their basic needs. The financial strife also pushed Bering Strait's manager to the brink of bankruptcy. With little airplay on country radio, the film and an extensive feature on CBS-TV's 60 Minutes helped generate CD sales.
The band has maintained an active tour schedule while recording their second album, set for release sometime in 2004.