Alaska Purchase

The Alaska Purchase (Russian: Продажа Аляски, tr. Prodazha Alyaski) was the United States' acquisition of Alaska from the Russian Empire. Alaska was formally transferred to the United States on October 18, 1867, through a treaty ratified by the United States Senate and signed by President Andrew Johnson.

Russia had established a presence in North America during the first half of the seventeenth century, but few Russians ever settled in Alaska. In the aftermath of the Crimean War, Russian Emperor Alexander II of Russia began exploring the possibility of selling Alaska, which would be difficult to defend from Britain and other countries in any future war. Following the end of the American Civil War, U.S. Secretary of State William Seward entered into negotiations with Russian minister Eduard de Stoeckl for the purchase of Alaska. Seward and Stoeckl agreed to a treaty on March 30, 1867, and the treaty was ratified by the United States Senate by a wide margin despite clashes between President Johnson and Congress over Reconstruction.

The purchase added 586,412 square miles (1,518,800 km2) of new territory to the United States for the cost of $7.2 million. Reactions to the purchase in the United States were mostly positive, as many believed possession of Alaska would serve as a base to expand American trade in Asia. Some opponents labeled the purchase as "Seward's Folly" as they contended that the United States had acquired useless land. Nearly all Russian settlers left Alaska in the aftermath of the purchase, and Alaska would remain sparsely-populated until the Klondike Gold Rush began in 1896. Originally organized as the Department of Alaska, the area was renamed the District of Alaska and the Alaska Territory before becoming the modern State of Alaska in 1959.

Alaska Purchase (hi-res)
The US $7.2 million check used to pay for Alaska (roughly $109 million in 2018).[1]


Russian America was settled by promyshlenniki, merchants and fur trappers that expanded through Siberia. They arrived in Alaska in 1732, and in 1799 the Russian-American Company (RAC) received a charter to hunt for fur. No colony was established, but the Russian Orthodox Church sent missionaries to the natives and built churches. About 700 Russians enforced sovereignty in a territory over twice as large as Texas.[2] In 1821, Tsar Alexander I issued an edict declaring Russia's sovereignty over the North American Pacific coast north of the 51st parallel north. The edict also forbade foreign ships to approach within 115 miles of the Russian claim. US Secretary of State John Quincy Adams strongly protested the edict, which potentially threatened both the commerce and expansionary ambitions of the United States. Seeking favorable relations with the U.S., Alexander agreed to the Russo-American Treaty of 1824. In the treaty, Russia limited its claims to lands north of parallel 54°40′ north, and also agreed to open Russian ports to U.S. ships.[3]

By the 1850s a population of 300,000 sea otters was almost extinct, and Russia needed money after being defeated by France and Britain in the Crimean War. The California gold rush showed that if gold were discovered in Alaska, Americans and Canadians would overwhelm the Russian presence in what one scholar later described as "Siberia's Siberia".[2] In any future war with Britain, the hard-to-defend colony would be easily captured. Therefore, Emperor Alexander II decided to sell the territory. The Russian government discussed the proposal in 1857 and 1858.[4] Perhaps in the hope of starting a bidding war, both the British and the Americans were approached in 1859. However, British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston steadfastly rejected the offer, arguing that Canada (which was not independent at the time but a number of separate British colonies with varying arrangements for democratic representation) had enough uncharted wilderness to deal with, and that Britain would overstretch its resources in maintaining Alaska as well as its existing territories and colonies. Then the Russians offered to sell the territory to the United States, hoping that its presence in the region would offset the plans of Britain. However, no deal was reached, as the risk of an American Civil War was a more pressing concern in Washington.[5] [6]

Grand Duke Konstantin, a younger brother of the Tsar, began to press for the handover of Russian America to the United States in 1857. In a memorandum to Foreign Minister Alexander Gorchakov he stated that

we must not deceive ourselves and must foresee that the United States, aiming constantly to round out their possessions and desiring to dominate undividedly the whole of North America will take the afore-mentioned colonies from us and we shall not be able to regain them.[4]

Konstantin's letter was shown to his brother, Tsar Alexander II, who wrote "this idea is worth considering" on the front page.[7] Supporters of Konstantin's proposal to immediately withdraw from North America included Admiral Yevfimy Putyatin and the Russian minister to the United States, Eduard de Stoeckl. Gorchakov agreed with the necessity of abandoning Russian America, but argued for a gradual process leading to its sale. He found a supporter in the naval minister and former chief manager of the Russian-American Company, Ferdinand von Wrangel. Wrangel pressed for some proceeds to be invested in the economic development of Kamchatka and the Amur Basin.[7] The Emperor eventually sided with Gorchakov, deciding to postpone negotiations until the end of the RAC's patent, set to expire in 1861.

Over the winter of 1859–1860 de Stoeckl held meetings with American officials, though he had been instructed not to initiate discussions about the sale of the RAC assets. Communicating primarily with Assistant Secretary of State John Appleton and California Senator William M. Gwin, de Stoeckl reported the interest expressed by the Americans in acquiring Russian America. While President James Buchanan kept these hearings informal, preparations were made for further negotiations.[7] De Stoeckl reported a conversation in which he asked "in passing" what price the U.S. government might pay for the Russian colony and Senator Gwin replied that they "might go as far as $5,000,000", a figure Gorchakov found far too low. De Stoeckl informed Appleton and Gwin of this, the latter saying that his Congressional colleagues in Oregon and California would support a larger figure. Buchanan's increasingly unpopular presidency forced the matter to be shelved until a new presidential election. With the oncoming American Civil War, de Stoeckl proposed a renewal of the RAC's charter. Two of its ports were to be open to foreign traders and commercial agreements with Peru and Chile to be signed to give "a fresh jolt" to the company.[7]

Czar's Ratification of the Alaska Purchase Treaty - NARA - 299810.pdf
The first page of Tsar Alexander II's ratification of the treaty. This page just contains the Tsar's full style. Commons-logo.svg Wikimedia Commons has a file available for full text of ratification.

Russia continued to see an opportunity to weaken British power by causing British Columbia, including the Royal Navy base at Esquimalt, to be surrounded or annexed by American territory.[8] Following the Union victory in the Civil War in 1865, the Tsar instructed de Stoeckl to re-enter into negotiations with William H. Seward in the beginning of March 1867. President Johnson was entangled in negotiations about Reconstruction and Seward had alienated a number of Republicans, so they believed that the purchase would help divert attention from the domestic issues.[9] The negotiations concluded after an all-night session with the signing of the treaty at 04:00 on March 30, 1867,[10] with the purchase price set at $7.2 million ($109 million in 2018), or about 2 cents per acre ($4.74/km2).[1][11]

American ownership

An Aleut name, "Alaska", was chosen by the Americans. This name had earlier, in the Russian era, denoted the Alaska Peninsula, which the Russians had called "Аляска" (Alyaska) (also Alyaksa is attested, especially in older sources).

Seward and many other Americans believed that Asia would become an important market for the country's products, and expected that Alaska would serve as a base for American trade with Asia and globally and for American power in the Pacific. While agreeing with Seward about the benefit to trade, Senator Charles Sumner was unusual in expecting that the territory would be valuable on its own; having studied the records of explorers, he believed that it contained valuable animals and forests. He compared the acquisition to contemporary European colonialism, such as the French conquest of Algeria.[12][13] As chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, he sponsored the bill to acquire the territory. Seward told the nation that the Russians estimated that Alaska contained about 2,500 Russians and those of mixed race (that is, a Russian father and native mother), and 8,000 indigenous people, in all about 10,000 people under the direct government of the Russian fur company, and possibly 50,000 Inuit and Alaska Natives living outside its jurisdiction. The Russians were settled at 23 trading posts, placed at accessible islands and coastal points. At smaller stations only four or five Russians were stationed to collect furs from the natives for storage and shipment when the company's boats arrived to take it away. There were two larger towns. New Archangel, now named Sitka, had been established in 1804 to handle the valuable trade in the skins of the sea otter and in 1867 contained 116 small log cabins with 968 residents. St. Paul in the Pribilof Islands had 100 homes and 283 people and was the center of the seal fur industry.[14] The treaty passed the United States Senate with 37 votes for versus 2 opposed.[15]

Public opinion in the United States

Many Americans believed in 1867 that the purchase process had been corrupt,[13] but W. H. Dall in 1872 wrote that "...there can be no doubt that the feelings of a majority of the citizens of the United States are in favor of it..." while referring to purchasing the territories of Russia in America.[16] The notion that the purchase was unpopular among Americans is, a scholar wrote 120 years later, "one of the strongest historical myths in American history. It persists despite conclusive evidence to the contrary, and the efforts of the best historians to dispel it", likely in part because it fits American and Alaskan writers' view of the territory as distinct and filled with self-reliant pioneers.[12]

A majority of newspapers supported the purchase or were neutral.[13] A review of dozens of contemporary newspapers found general support for the purchase, especially in California; most of 48 major newspapers supported the purchase.[12][17] Public opinion was not universally positive; to some the purchase was known as "Seward's folly", "Walrussia",[2] or "Seward's icebox". Editorials contended that taxpayer money had been wasted on a "Polar bear garden". Nonetheless, most newspaper editors argued that the U.S. would probably derive great economic benefits from the purchase; friendship with Russia was important; and it would facilitate the acquisition of British Columbia.[18][19][20][21] Forty-five percent of supportive newspapers cited the increased potential for annexing British Columbia in their support,[8] and The New York Times stated that, consistent with Seward's reason, Alaska would increase American trade with East Asia.[13]

The principal urban newspaper that opposed the purchase was the New York Tribune, published by Seward opponent Horace Greeley. The ongoing controversy over Reconstruction spread to other acts, such as the Alaska purchase. Some opposed the United States obtaining its first non-contiguous territory, seeing it as a colony; others saw no need to pay for land that they expected the country to obtain through manifest destiny.[12] Historian Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer summarized the minority opinion of some American newspaper editors who opposed the purchase:[22]

Already, so it was said, we were burdened with territory we had no population to fill. The Indians within the present boundaries of the republic strained our power to govern aboriginal peoples. Could it be that we would now, with open eyes, seek to add to our difficulties by increasing the number of such peoples under our national care? The purchase price was small; the annual charges for administration, civil and military, would be yet greater, and continuing. The territory included in the proposed cession was not contiguous to the national domain. It lay away at an inconvenient and a dangerous distance. The treaty had been secretly prepared, and signed and foisted upon the country at one o'clock in the morning. It was a dark deed done in the night… The New York World said that it was a "sucked orange." It contained nothing of value but furbearing animals, and these had been hunted until they were nearly extinct. Except for the Aleutian Islands and a narrow strip of land extending along the southern coast the country would be not worth taking as a gift… Unless gold were found in the country much time would elapse before it would be blessed with Hoe printing presses, Methodist chapels and a metropolitan police. It was "a frozen wilderness."

Transfer ceremony

Alaska purchase
The signing of the Alaska Treaty of Cessation on March 30, 1867. L–R: Robert S. Chew, William H. Seward, William Hunter, Mr. Bodisco, Eduard de Stoeckl, Charles Sumner, and Frederick W. Seward.

The transfer ceremony took place in Sitka on October 18, 1867. Russian and American soldiers paraded in front of the governor's house; the Russian flag was lowered and the American flag raised amid peals of artillery.

A description of the events was published in Finland six years later, written by a blacksmith named T. Ahllund, who had been recruited to work in Sitka only less than two years previously.[23]

We had not spent many weeks at Sitka when two large steam ships arrived there, bringing things that belonged to the American crown, and a few days later the new governor also arrived in a ship together with his soldiers. The wooden two-story mansion of the Russian governor stood on a high hill, and in front of it in the yard at the end of a tall spar flew the Russian flag with the double-headed eagle in the middle of it. Of course, this flag now had to give way to the flag of the United States, which is full of stripes and stars. On a predetermined day in the afternoon a group of soldiers came from the American ships, led by one who carried the flag. Marching solemnly, but without accompaniment, they came to the governor's mansion, where the Russian troops were already lined up and waiting for the Americans. Now they started to pull the [Russian double-headed] eagle down, but—whatever had gone into its head—it only came down a little bit, and then entangled its claws around the spar so that it could not be pulled down any further. A Russian soldier was therefore ordered to climb up the spar and disentangle it, but it seems that the eagle cast a spell on his hands, too—for he was not able to arrive at where the flag was, but instead slipped down without it. The next one to try was not able to do any better; only the third soldier was able to bring the unwilling eagle down to the ground. While the flag was brought down, music was played and cannons were fired off from the shore; and then while the other flag was hoisted the Americans fired off their cannons from the ships equally many times. After that American soldiers replaced the Russian ones at the gates of the fence surrounding the Kolosh [i.e. Tlingit] village.

When the business with the flags was finally over, Captain of 2nd Rank Aleksei Alekseyevich Peshchurov said: "General Rousseau, by authority from His Majesty, the Emperor of Russia, I transfer to the United States the territory of Alaska." General Lovell Rousseau accepted the territory. (Peshchurov had been sent to Sitka as commissioner of the Russian government in the transfer of Alaska.) A number of forts, blockhouses and timber buildings were handed over to the Americans. The troops occupied the barracks; General Jefferson C. Davis established his residence in the governor's house, and most of the Russian citizens went home, leaving a few traders and priests who chose to remain.[24][25]


After the transfer, a number of Russian citizens remained in Sitka, but very soon nearly all of them decided to return to Russia, which was still possible at the expense of the Russian-American Company. Ahllund's story "corroborates other accounts of the transfer ceremony, and the dismay felt by many of the Russians and creoles, jobless and in want, at the rowdy troops and gun-toting civilians who looked on Sitka as merely one more western frontier settlement." Ahllund gives a vivid account of what life was like for civilians in Sitka under U.S. rule, and it helps to explain why hardly any of the Russian subjects wanted to stay there. Moreover, Ahllund's article is the only known description of the return voyage on the Winged Arrow, a ship especially purchased in order to transport the Russians back to their native country. "The over-crowded vessel, with crewmen who got roaring drunk at every port, must have made the voyage a memorable one." Ahllund mentions stops at the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands, Tahiti, Brazil, London, and finally Kronstadt, the port for St. Petersburg, where they arrived on August 28, 1869.[26]

American settlers who shared Sumner's belief in the riches of Alaska rushed to the territory, but found that much capital was required to exploit its resources, many of which were also found closer to markets in the contiguous United States. Most soon left; by 1873 Sitka's population had declined from about 2,500 to a few hundred.[12] The United States acquired an area over twice as large as Texas, but it was not until the great Klondike gold strike in 1896 that Alaska came to be seen generally as a valuable addition to American territory.

The seal fishery was one of the chief considerations that induced the United States to purchase Alaska. It provided considerable revenue to the United States by the lease of the privilege of taking seals, in fact an amount in excess of the price paid for Alaska. From 1870 to 1890, the seal fisheries yielded 100,000 skins a year. The company to which the administration of the fisheries was entrusted by a lease from the U.S. government paid a rental of $50,000 per annum and in addition thereto $2.62½ per skin for the total number taken. The skins were transported to London to be dressed and prepared for world markets. The business grew so large that the earnings of English laborers after the acquisition of Alaska by the United States amounted by 1890 to $12,000,000.[27]

However, exclusive U.S. control of this resource was eventually challenged, and the Bering Sea Controversy resulted when the United States seized over 150 sealing ships flying the British flag, based out of the coast of British Columbia. The conflict between the United States and Great Britain was resolved by an arbitration tribunal in 1893. The waters of the Bering Sea were deemed to be international waters, contrary to the U.S.'s contention that they were an internal sea. The U.S. was required to make a payment to Great Britain, and both nations were required to follow regulations which were developed to preserve the resource.[27]

Financial return

Economist David R. Barker has argued that the U.S. federal government has not earned a positive financial return on the purchase of Alaska. According to Barker, tax revenue and mineral and energy royalties to the federal government have been less than federal costs of governing Alaska plus interest on the borrowed funds used for the purchase.[28]

John M. Miller has taken the argument further, contending that U.S. oil companies that developed Alaskan petroleum resources did not earn profits sufficient to compensate for the risks they have incurred.[29]

Other economists and scholars, including Scott Goldsmith and Terrence Cole, have criticized the metrics used to reach those conclusions, noting that most continental Western states would fail to meet the bar of "positive financial return" using the same criteria and contending that looking at the increase in net national income, instead of simply U.S. Treasury revenue, paints a much more accurate picture of the financial return of Alaska as an investment.[30]

Alaska Day

In Alaska, Alaska Day celebrates the formal transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States, which took place on October 19, 1867. The date is by the Gregorian calendar, which came into effect in Alaska the following day to replace the Julian calendar used by the Russians (the Julian calendar in the 19th century was 12 days behind the Gregorian calendar). Alaska Day is a holiday for all state workers.[31]

Alleged Russian offer to the House of Liechtenstein

In November 2018 a documentary ("SRF bi de Lüt") by the Swiss television broadcast the information that the Russian Tsar in 1867 had first proposed the sale of Alaska to the Prince of Liechtenstein, and that only after the prince rejected, Alaska was offered to the United States. German newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported similar facts earlier, in 2015.[32] The information was vividly discussed in Liechtenstein, and media there first portrayed it as a rumor. However, some days afterwards prince Hans-Adam II personally intervened in the discussion by writing a letter to the media in Liechtenstein, in which he assured that the alleged Alaska purchase offer was not a rumor, and that it was repeatedly a topic of discussion within the princely family in the past. Moreover he showed himself optimistic that archive searches might bring about (so far lacking) historical documents proving that the offer was real. [33][34]


  1. ^ a b Thomas, Ryland; Williamson, Samuel H. (2019). "What Was the U.S. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 6 April 2019. United States Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the Measuring Worth series.
  2. ^ a b c Montaigne, Fen (2016-07-07). "Tracing Alaska's Russian Heritage". Smithsonian Journeys Travel Quarterly. Retrieved 2018-01-20.
  3. ^ Herring, pp. 151–153, 157.
  4. ^ a b Russian Opinion on the Cession of Alaska. The American Historical Review 48, No. 3 (1943), pp. 521–531.
  5. ^ "Purchase of Alaska, 1867". Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  6. ^ Claus-M Naske; Herman E. Slotnick (15 March 1994). Alaska: A History of the 49th State. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 330. ISBN 978-0-8061-2573-2.
  7. ^ a b c d Bolkhovitinov, Nikolay N. (1990). "The Crimean War and the Emergence of Proposals for the Sale of Russian America, 1853–1861". Pacific Historical Review. 59 (1): 15–49. JSTOR 3640094.
  8. ^ a b Neunherz, R. E. (1989). ""Hemmed In": Reactions in British Columbia to the Purchase of Russian America". The Pacific Northwest Quarterly. 80 (3): 101–111. doi:10.2307/40491056. JSTOR 40491056.
  9. ^ Kennedy, Robert C. "The Big Thing". Harp Week. Archived from the original on March 26, 2013. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  10. ^ Seward, Frederick W., Seward at Washington as Senator and Secretary of State. Volume: 3, 1891, p. 348.
  11. ^ "Treaty with Russia for the Purchase of Alaska". Library of Congress. Archived from the original on 29 March 2015. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  12. ^ a b c d e Haycox, Stephen (1990). "Haycox, Stephen. "Truth and Expectation: Myth in Alaska History". Northern Review. 6. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  13. ^ a b c d Cook, Mary Alice (Spring 2011). "Manifest Opportunity: The Alaska Purchase as a Bridge Between United States Expansion and Imperialism" (PDF). Alaska History. 26 (1): 1–10.
  14. ^ Seward (1869).
  15. ^ "A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774–1875".
  16. ^ Dall, W. H. (1872). "Is Alaska a Paying Investment". Harper's New Monthly Magazine. NY: Harper & Brothers. XLIV: 252.
  17. ^ photographs, Preston Jones ;; Holland, illustrations edited by Neal (2013). The fires of patriotism : Alaskans in the days of the First World War 1910–1920. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-60223-205-1. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  18. ^ Welch, Richard E., Jr. (1958). "American Public Opinion and the Purchase of Russian America". American Slavic and East European Review. 17 (4): 481–494. JSTOR 3001132.
  19. ^ Howard I. Kushner, "'Seward's Folly'?: American Commerce in Russian America and the Alaska Purchase". California Historical Quarterly (1975): 4–26. JSTOR 25157541.
  20. ^ "Biographer calls Seward's Folly a myth". The Seward Phoenix LOG. 3 April 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  21. ^ Founding of Anchorage, Alaska (Adobe Flash). Featured Speaker, Professor Preston Jones. CSPAN. July 9, 2015. Retrieved 2017-12-22.CS1 maint: others (link)
  22. ^ Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer, A History of the United States since the Civil War (1917)1:541.
  23. ^ Ahllund, T. (1873/2006).
  24. ^ Bancroft, H. H., (1885) pp. 590–629.
  25. ^ Pierce, R. (1990), p 395.
  26. ^ Richard Pierce, introduction to Ahllund, T., From the Memoirs of a Finnish Workman (2006).
  27. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Sealing" . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  28. ^ Powell, Michael (18 August 2010). "How Alaska Became a Federal Aid Magnet". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
  29. ^ Miller, John. The Last Alaskan Barrel: An Arctic Oil Bonanza that Never Was. Caseman Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9828780-0-2.
  30. ^ Powell, Michael (20 August 2010). "Was the Alaska Purchase a Good Deal?". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 September 2014.
  31. ^ State of Alaska 2014 Holiday Calendar (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on 20 August 2014, retrieved 18 December 2014
  32. ^ "Weltreise: Liechtenstein", journal article in "Welt am Sonntag", 18.01.2015 (German)
  33. ^ "Es ist sicher kein Gerücht", journal article in "Liechtensteiner Vaterland", 27.11.2018 (German)
  34. ^ "Fürst Hans-Adam II. versichert: «Alaska-Angebot ist kein Gerücht»", journal article in "Liechtensteiner Volksblatt", 29.11.2018 (German)

Further reading

  • Bancroft, Hubert Howe: History of Alaska: 1730–1885 (1886).
  • Dunning, William. A. "Paying for Alaska", Political Science Quarterly Vol. 27, No. 3 (September 1912), pp. 385–398. JSTOR 2141366.
  • Farrow, Lee A. Seward's Folly: A New Look at the Alaska Purchase (University of Alaska Press, 2016). xiv, 225 pp.
  • Grinëv, Andrei. V., and Richard L. Bland. "A Brief Survey of the Russian Historiography of Russian America of Recent Years", Pacific Historical Review, May 2010, Vol. 79 Issue 2, pp. 265–278.
  • Herring, George C. (2008). From Colony to Superpower; U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-507822-0.
  • Kushner, Howard. "The significance of the Alaska purchase to American expansion." in S. Frederick Starr, ed., Russia's American Colony. (1987): 295-315.
  • Pierce, Richard: Russian America: A Biographical Dictionary, p. 395. Alaska History no. 33, The Limestone Press; Kingston, Ontario & Fairbanks, Alaska, 1990.
  • Holbo, Paul S (1983). Tarnished Expansion: The Alaska Scandal, the Press, and Congress 1867–1871. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press.
  • Jensen, Ronald (1975). The Alaska Purchase and Russian-American Relations.
  • Oberholtzer, Ellis (1917). A History of the United States since the Civil War. Vol. 1. online

Primary sources

  • Ahllund, T., From the Memoirs of a Finnish Workman, trans. Panu Hallamaa, ed. Richard Pierce, Alaska History, 21 (Fall 2006), 1–25. (Originally published in Finnish in Suomen Kuvalehti (editor-in-chief Julius Krohn) No. 15/1873 (1 August) – No. 19/1873 (1 October)).
  • Seward, William H. Alaska: Speech of William H. Seward at Sitka, August 12, 1869 (1869; Digitized page images & text), a primary source

External links

1867 in Russia

Events from the year 1867 in Russia

Alaska boundary dispute

The Alaska boundary dispute was a territorial dispute between the United States and the United Kingdom, which then controlled Canada's foreign relations. It was resolved by arbitration in 1903. The dispute existed between the Russian Empire and Britain since 1821, and was inherited by the United States as a consequence of the Alaska Purchase in 1867. The final resolution favored the American position, and Canada did not get an all-Canadian outlet from the Yukon gold fields to the sea. The disappointment and anger in Canada was directed less at the United States, and more at the British government for betraying Canadian interests in favour of healthier Anglo-American relations.

Chukotka Autonomous Okrug

Chukotka Autonomous Okrug (Russian: Чуко́тский автоно́мный о́круг, tr. Chukotsky avtonomny okrug, IPA: [tɕʊˈkotskʲɪj ɐftɐˈnomnɨj ˈokrʊk]; Chukot: Чукоткакэн автономныкэн округ, Chukotkaken avtonomnyken okrug, IPA: [tɕukotˈkaken aβtonomˈnəken ˈokɹuɣ]) or Chukotka (Чуко́тка) is a federal subject (an autonomous okrug) of Russia. It is geographically located in the Far East region of the country, and is administratively part of the Far Eastern Federal District. Chukotka is the 2nd-least-populated federal subject at 50,526 (2010) and the least densely populated.Anadyr is the largest town and the capital of Chukotka, and the easternmost settlement to have town status in Russia.

Chukotka is home to Elgygytgyn Lake, an impact crater lake, and the village of Uelen, the easternmost settlement in Russia and the closest substantial settlement to the United States. The autonomous okrug's surface area is 737,700 square kilometers (284,800 sq mi), about 6% larger than the U.S. state of Texas, and is the 7th-largest Russian federal subject. The region is the most northeasterly region of Russia, and since the Alaska Purchase has been the only part of Russia lying partially in the Western Hemisphere (east of the 180th meridian). Chukotka shares a border with the Sakha Republic to the west, Magadan Oblast to the south-west, and Kamchatka Krai to the south.

Chukotka is primarily populated by ethnic Russians, Chukchis, and other indigenous peoples. It is the only autonomous okrug in Russia that is not included in, or subordinate to, another federal subject, having separated from Magadan Oblast in 1993.

Dmitry Petrovich Maksutov

Prince Dmitry Petrovich Maksutov (Russian: Дми́трий Петро́вич Максу́тов, May 10, 1832 – March 21, 1889) was an Imperial Russian Navy rear-admiral who was the last Governor of Russian America (1863–1867). He has streets dedicated to his memory in Sitka and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

Maksutov was born in the city of Perm. In 1840, he enrolled in Naval Cadets Corps, which he graduated in 1847 in the rank of naval cadet. Maksutov was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in March 1851, was assigned to the 46th division and left for the Russian Far East.

As the Crimean War broke out, he was transferred to Petropavlovsk in June 1854. Dmitry and his two brothers—Pavel and Alexander—took part in the war. Pavel Maksutov served in the Black Sea Fleet and was on board the battleship Paris during the Battle of Sinop, while Alexander and Dmitry took part in the defense of Petropavlovsk during the siege of Petropavlovsk. Dmitry Maksutov commanded the legendary cannon battery No. 2, while his brother Alexander commanded the battery No. 3. After the battle, both were awarded with the cross of Order of St. George of the 4th degree (posthumously for Alexander Maksutov).

In 1859, Prince Dmitry Maksutov came to Russian America to work for the Russian-American Company. At the beginning he was Assistant to the Governor Johan Hampus Furuhjelm, whom he succeeded at the helm of the company in March 1864. After the Alaska purchase, the Russian Imperial flag was lowered, and the Star-Spangled Banner was raised on October 6, 1867. Maksutov was Russian America's last governor. He stayed in what became renamed Alaska for one more year, serving as Russian consul in Sitka and was in charge of the emigration of remaining Russians.

In 1869, Maksutov turned over his duties to Fyodor Koskul and returned to Russia. He served at various commercial vessels and was promoted to the rank of counter-admiral on May 17, 1882 (the day of his resignation). He died in St. Petersburg on March 21, 1889 and was buried at Novodevichy Cemetery.

Eduard de Stoeckl

Eduard Andreevich Stoeckl (Russian: Эдуард Андреевич Стекль) (1804 in Constantinople – January 26, 1892 in Paris) was a Russian diplomat best known today for having negotiated the American purchase of Alaska on behalf of the Russian government. He was son of Andreas von Stoeckl, Austrian diplomat in Constantinople, and Maria Pisani, daughter of Nicolas Pisani, Russian dragoman in Constantinople.

He died in Paris on January 26, 1892.

In 1850 he became chargé d'affaires of the Russian embassy in Washington, and in 1854 held the post of minister, vacant after death of Aleksandr Bodisko. Like his predecessor, Stoeckl married an American woman, Elisa Howard.

Stoeckl established close friendly relations with many American officials and politicians, including the senator and the future Secretary of State William H. Seward, with whom he would later negotiate the Alaska purchase.

Stoeckl advocated the sale of Alaska (then known as Russian America) to the United States, asserting that this would prevent the United Kingdom from seizing the territory in case of war between the two countries and would allow Russia to concentrate its resources on Eastern Siberia, particularly the Amur River area. He also insisted that by doing so, Russia would avoid any future conflict with the United States, viewing further U.S. expansion in North America as inevitable.

Etolin Island

Etolin Island is an island in the Alexander Archipelago of southeastern Alaska, United States at 56°05′52″N 132°21′37″W. It is between Prince of Wales Island, to its west, and the Alaska mainland, to its east. It is southwest of Wrangell Island. It was first charted in 1793 by James Johnstone, one of George Vancouver's officers during his 1791-95 expedition. He only charted its southwest and east coasts, not realizing it was an island. It was originally named Duke of York Island but was renamed by the United States after the Alaska Purchase. It is named after Adolf Etolin, governor of the Russian American colonies from 1840 to 1845.

The island is 30 mi (48 km) long and 10–22 miles (16–35 km) wide, with a land area of 339.03 sq mi (878.08 km2), making it the 24th largest island in the United States. As of the 2000 census, Etolin had a population of 15 persons.

It contains a population of introduced elk. The entire island lies within the boundaries of Tongass National Forest. The southern part of the island has been officially designated the South Etolin Wilderness.

The ETOLIN CANOE is a historic dugout canoe, found unfinished on the island, which is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Fort Nikolaevskaia

Fort Nikolaevskaia or Fort St. Nicholas was a fur trading post founded by the Lebedev-Lastochkin Company (LLC) in Alaska, the first European settlement on the Alaskan mainland. It is located on the site of modern Kenai. It was one of several posts maintained by the company on Cook Inlet. With the creation of a monopoly in Russian America around the Russian-American Company in 1799, the station continued operations until the Alaska Purchase.

Fort William H. Seward

Fort William H. Seward, also known as Chilkoot Barracks and Haines Mission, is a site at Port Chilkoot in Haines Borough, Alaska, about 0.5 miles (0.80 km) from the city of Haines. It was the last of a series of 11 military posts established in Alaska during the gold rush era, and was Alaska's only military facility between 1925 and 1940. It provided a policing presence for miners moving into the gold mining areas in the Alaskan interior, and a military presence during negotiations over the nearby international border with Canada. The fort is named for William H. Seward, the United States Secretary of State who oversaw the Alaska purchase.

History of Alaska

The history of Alaska dates back to the Upper Paleolithic period (around 14,000 BC), when foraging groups crossed the Bering land bridge into what is now western Alaska. At the time of European contact by the Russian explorers, the area was populated by Alaska Native groups. The name "Alaska" derives from the Aleut word Alaxsxaq (also spelled Alyeska), meaning "mainland" (literally, "the object toward which the action of the sea is directed").The U.S. purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867. In the 1890s, gold rushes in Alaska and the nearby Yukon Territory brought thousands of miners and settlers to Alaska. Alaska was granted territorial status in 1912 by the United States of America.

In 1942, two of the outer Aleutian Islands—Attu and Kiska—were occupied by the Japanese during World War II and their recovery for the U.S. became a matter of national pride. The construction of military bases contributed to the population growth of some Alaskan cities.

Alaska was granted U.S. statehood on January 3, 1959.

In 1964, the massive "Good Friday earthquake" killed 131 people and leveled several villages.

The 1968 discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay and the 1977 completion of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline led to an oil boom. In 1989, the Exxon Valdez hit a reef in Prince William Sound, spilling between 11 and 34 million U.S. gallons (42,000 and 130,000 m3) of crude oil over 1,100 miles (1,600 km) of coastline. Today, the battle between philosophies of development and conservation is seen in the contentious debate over oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

John Appleton

John Appleton (February 11, 1815 – August 22, 1864) was an American lawyer, politician and diplomat who served as the United States' first chargé d'affaires to Bolivia, and later as special envoy to Great Britain and Russia. Born in Beverly, Massachusetts, Appleton graduated from Bowdoin College in 1834 and attended Harvard Law School from 1835 to 1836. On leaving Harvard, he became a barrister and newspaper editor while maintaining a vigorous involvement in Democratic politics. In 1840 he was appointed as registrar of probates for Cumberland County, Maine, and in 1845 became Chief Clerk for the United States Department of the Navy.

In January 1848 Appleton was promoted to Chief Clerk of the State Department, but resigned in March when he was named as the United States' first chargé d'affaires to Bolivia. The posting was unsuccessful, and Appleton resigned after six months service and returned to the United States to pursue his personal political interests. In 1851 he was narrowly elected to Congress, representing Maine's 2nd congressional district. As a Congressman he became noted for his oratorical skills, and was selected to give the obituary address for former Senator and Secretary of State Daniel Webster in 1852.

In 1855 Appleton was sent as diplomatic envoy to London, England to promote United States interests in negotiations to end the Crimean War. He returned to the United States in 1857 and was appointed as the fourth Assistant Secretary of State, a post he held for the following three years. As Assistant Secretary he opened discussions with Russia regarding a prospective Alaska Purchase, leading to the United States acquiring that territory in 1867. Concurrently, he was editor of a pro-Democratic newspaper The Washington Union, but his career was marred by allegations that he misused this position for personal gain. He was the United States' envoy to Russia from 1860 until his retirement in 1861. Appleton died on August 22, 1864, and is buried in Portland's Evergreen Cemetery.

Kake, Alaska

Kake (, like 'cake') is a first-class city in Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area, Alaska, United States. The population was 557 at the 2010 census. The name comes from the Tlingit word Ḵéix̱ (Northern Tlingit) or Ḵéex̱ (Southern Tlingit), which is derived from ḵée 'dawn, daylight' and x̱ʼé 'mouth', i.e. 'mouth of dawn' or 'opening of daylight'.

Native Village of Afognak

The Native Village of Afognak is a federally recognized Alutiiq Alaska Native tribal entity, originally native to the island of Afognak.

Russian Empire–United States relations

The relations between the Russian Empire and the United States of America (1776–1922) predate the Soviet Union–United States relations (1922–1991) and the Russia–United States relations (1991–present). Relations between the two countries were established in 1776.

Russian colonization of the Americas

The Russian colonization of the Americas covers the period from 1732 to 1867, when the Russian Empire laid claim to northern Pacific Coast territories in the Americas. Russian colonial possessions in the Americas are collectively known as Russian America. Russian expansion eastward began in 1552, and in 1639 Russian explorers reached the Pacific Ocean. In 1725, Emperor Peter the Great ordered navigator Vitus Bering to explore the North Pacific for potential colonization. The Russians were primarily interested in the abundance of fur-bearing mammals on Alaska's coast, as stocks had been depleted by over hunting in Siberia. Bering's first voyage was foiled by thick fog and ice, but in 1741 a second voyage by Bering and Aleksei Chirikov made sight of the North American mainland.

Russian promyshlenniki (trappers and hunters) quickly developed the maritime fur trade, which instigated several conflicts between the Aleuts and Russians in the 1760s. The fur trade proved to be a lucrative enterprise, capturing the attention of other European nations. In response to potential competitors, the Russians extended their claims eastward from the Commander Islands to the shores of Alaska. In 1784, with encouragement from Empress Catherine the Great, explorer Grigory Shelekhov founded Russia's first permanent settlement in Alaska at Three Saints Bay. Ten years later, the first group of Orthodox Christian missionaries began to arrive, evangelizing thousands of Native Americans, many of whose descendants continue to maintain the religion. By the late 1780s, trade relations had opened with the Tlingits, and in 1799 the Russian-American Company (RAC) was formed in order to monopolize the fur trade, also serving as an imperialist vehicle for the Russification of Alaska Natives.

Angered by encroachment on their land and other grievances, the indigenous peoples' relations with the Russians deteriorated. In 1802, Tlingit warriors destroyed several Russian settlements, most notably Redoubt Saint Michael (Old Sitka), leaving New Russia as the only remaining outpost on mainland Alaska. This failed to expel the Russians, who reestablished their presence two years later following the Battle of Sitka. (Peace negotiations between the Russians and Native Americans would later establish a modus vivendi, a situation that, with few interruptions, lasted for the duration of Russian presence in Alaska.) In 1808, Redoubt Saint Michael was rebuilt as New Archangel and became the capital of Russian America after the previous colonial headquarters were moved from Kodiak. A year later, the RAC began expanding its operations to more abundant sea otter grounds in Northern California, where Fort Ross was built in 1812.

By the middle of the 19th century, profits from Russia's American colonies were in steep decline. Competition with the British Hudson's Bay Company had brought the sea otter to near extinction, while the population of bears, wolves, and foxes on land was also nearing depletion. Faced with the reality of periodic Native American revolts, the political ramifications of the Crimean War, and unable to fully colonize the Americas to their satisfaction, the Russians concluded that their American colonies were too expensive to retain. Eager to release themselves of the burden, the Russians sold Fort Ross in 1842, and in 1867, after less than a month of negotiations, the United States accepted Emperor Alexander II's offer to sell Alaska. The purchase of Alaska for $7.2 million ended Imperial Russia's colonial presence in the Americas. Many indigenous peoples protested the sale, arguing that they were the rightful owners of the land and that Russia had no right to sell Alaska.


Sahneuti (also spelled Shahnyaati, Sahnyateh, Sanytyi, Senati, Sinate), died c.1900 was a Gwich'in First Nation chief and a fur trader.

After the establishment of the Hudson's Bay Company trading post at Fort Yukon in 1847, Alexander Hunter Murray appointed him Chief Trader. Following the expulsion of the Hudson's Bay Company from Fort Yukon in 1869 after the Alaska Purchase, he attempted to trade with the Americans, but dissatisfaction led him to lead a raid on Fort Yukon. Eventually, the Alaska Commercial Company put him in charge of their trade at Fort Yukon. Nevertheless, he kept good relations with the Hudson's Bay Company, playing off the two companies to ensure maximum advantage for his people.

He is the namesake of Senati, Alaska (65.266°N 151.183°W / 65.266; -151.183), an area of the middle Yukon River that was settled by the Gwichyaa Gwich’in.

Seward's Day

Seward's Day is a legal holiday in the U.S. state of Alaska. It falls on the last Monday in March and commemorates the signing of the Alaska Purchase treaty on March 30, 1867. It is named for then-Secretary of State William H. Seward, who negotiated the purchase from Russia.

It should not be confused with Alaska Day, which marks the formal transfer of control over Alaska from Russia to the United States.

Spruce Island (Alaska)

Spruce Island (Russian: Еловый остров) is an island in the Kodiak Archipelago of the Gulf of Alaska in the US state of Alaska. It lies just off the northeast corner of Kodiak Island, across the Narrow Strait. Spruce Island has a land area of 46.066 km² (17.786 sq mi) and a population of 242 as of the 2000 census, mostly in its only city, Ouzinkie, in the southwestern part of the island.

From 1808 to 1818, Spruce Island was the hermitage of Herman of Alaska, later glorified as a saint and considered the patron saint of the Orthodox Church in the Americas. The island is a site of pilgrimages by Orthodox Christians.

In 2008, researchers led by the mayor of the northern Siberian city of Yakutsk alleged that the island should legally still belong to the Russian Orthodox Church because the Russian Empire had no authority to sell the church's land as part of the Alaska Purchase.

Tongass Island

Tongass Island, historically also spelled Tongas Island, is an island in the southern Alaska Panhandle, near the marine boundary with Canada at 54-40 N. It was the site of Fort Tongass, which was established shortly after the Alaska Purchase as a customs port for travelers bound from British Columbian waters to the Stikine River, which was one of the main routes of access to the Cassiar Gold Rush of the 1870s. It lies west of Port Tongass in Nakat Bay, adjacent to the Dixon Entrance and is 0.8 miles in length. Its Native Alaskan name "Kut-tuk-wah" was published in 1869 by the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey; its current name was first published in 1891.

United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

The United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is a standing committee of the United States Senate. It is charged with leading foreign-policy legislation and debate in the Senate. The Foreign Relations Committee is generally responsible for overseeing (but not administering) and funding foreign aid programs as well as funding arms sales and training for national allies. The committee is also responsible for holding confirmation hearings for high-level positions in the Department of State. The committee has considered, debated, and reported important treaties and legislation, ranging from the Alaska purchase in 1867 to the establishment of the United Nations in 1945. It also holds jurisdiction over all diplomatic nominations. Along with the Finance and Judiciary Committees, the Foreign Relations Committee is one of the oldest in the Senate, going back to the initial creation of committees in 1816. Its sister committee in the House of Representatives is the Committee on Foreign Affairs (renamed from International Relations by the 110th Congress in January 2007).

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