Russian America

Russian America (Russian: Русская Америка, Russkaya Amerika) was the name of the Russian colonial possessions in North America from 1733 to 1867. Its capital was Novo-Archangelsk (New Arkhangelsk), which is now Sitka, Alaska, USA. Settlements spanned parts of what are now the U.S. states of California, Alaska and two ports in Hawaii. Formal incorporation of the possessions by Russia did not take place until the Ukase of 1799 which established a monopoly for the Russian–American Company and also granted the Russian Orthodox Church certain rights in the new possessions. Many of its possessions were abandoned in the 19th century. In 1867, Russia sold its last remaining possessions to the United States of America for $7.2 million ($129 million in today's terms).

Russian America
Русская Америка
Russkaya Amerika
Colony of the Russian Empire

Flag Coat of arms
Flag Coat of arms
Location of Russian America
Russian America in 1860
Capital Novo-Archangelsk
 •  1799–1818 (first) Alexander Andreyevich Baranov
 •  1863–1867 (last) Dmitry Petrovich Maksutov
 •  Company Charter[a] 8 July 1733
 •  Alaska Purchase 18 October 1867
Today part of  United States
a. ^ The Russian-American Company was chartered by the Emperor in 1799, to govern Russian possessions in North America on behalf of the Russian Empire.

Russian sighting of Alaska

The earliest written accounts indicate that the first Europeans to reach Alaska came from Russia. In 1648 Semyon Dezhnev sailed from the mouth of the Kolyma River through the Arctic Ocean and around the eastern tip of Asia to the Anadyr River. One legend holds that some of his boats were carried off course and reached Alaska. However, no evidence of settlement survives. Dezhnev's discovery was never forwarded to the central government, leaving open the question of whether or not Siberia was connected to North America.[1]

In 1725, Tsar Peter the Great called for another expedition. As a part of the 1733–1743 Second Kamchatka expedition, the Sv. Petr under the Dane Vitus Bering and the Sv. Pavel under the Russian Alexei Chirikov set sail from the Kamchatkan port of Petropavlovsk in June 1741. They were soon separated, but each continued sailing east.[2] On 15 July, Chirikov sighted land, probably the west side of Prince of Wales Island in southeast Alaska.[3] He sent a group of men ashore in a longboat, making them the first Europeans to land on the northwestern coast of North America.

On roughly 16 July, Bering and the crew of Sv. Petr sighted Mount Saint Elias on the Alaskan mainland; they turned westward toward Russia soon afterward. Meanwhile, Chirikov and the Sv. Pavel headed back to Russia in October with news of the land they had found.

In November Bering's ship was wrecked on Bering Island. There Bering fell ill and died, and high winds dashed the Sv. Petr to pieces. After the stranded crew wintered on the island, the survivors built a boat from the wreckage and set sail for Russia in August 1742. Bering's crew reached the shore of Kamchatka in 1742, carrying word of the expedition. The high quality of the sea-otter pelts they brought sparked Russian settlement in Alaska.

Russian colonization

1740s to 1800

From 1743 small associations of fur traders began to sail from the shores of the Russian Pacific coast to the Aleutian islands.[4] As the runs from Asiatic Russia to America became longer expeditions (lasting two to four years or more), the crews established hunting and trading posts. By the late 1790s, some of these had become permanent settlements. Approximately half of the fur traders were from the various European parts of the Russian Empire, while the others were Siberian or of mixed origins.

Bering Strait.jpeg
Bering Strait, where Russia's east coast lies closest to Alaska's west coast

Rather than hunting the marine life, the Russians forced the Aleuts to do the work for them, often by taking hostage family members in exchange for hunted seal furs.[5] As word spread of the riches in furs to be had, competition among Russian companies increased and the Aleuts were enslaved.[5] Catherine the Great, who became Empress in 1763, proclaimed goodwill toward the Aleuts and urged her subjects to treat them fairly. On some islands and parts of the Alaska Peninsula, groups of traders had been capable of relatively peaceful coexistence with the local inhabitants. Other groups could not manage the tensions and committed acts of violence. Hostages were taken, families were split up, and individuals were forced to leave their villages and settle elsewhere. The growing competition between the trading companies, merging into fewer, larger and more powerful corporations, created conflicts that aggravated the relations with the indigenous populations. Over the years, the situation became catastrophic.

As the animal populations declined, the Aleuts, already too dependent on the new barter economy created by the Russian fur-trade, were increasingly coerced into taking greater and greater risks in the highly dangerous waters of the North Pacific to hunt for more otter. As the Shelekhov-Golikov Company developed a monopoly, it used skirmishes and violent incidents turned into systematic violence as a tool of colonial exploitation of the indigenous people. When the Aleuts revolted and won some victories, the Russians retaliated, killing many and destroying their boats and hunting gear, leaving them no means of survival. The most devastating effects were from disease: during the first two generations (1741/1759-1781/1799 AD) of Russian contact, 80 percent of the Aleut population died from Eurasian infectious diseases; these were by then endemic among the Europeans, but the Aleut had no immunity against the new diseases.[6]

Though the Alaskan colony was never very profitable because of the costs of transportation, most Russian traders were determined to keep the land for themselves. In 1784, Grigory Ivanovich Shelekhov, who would later set up the Russian-Alaska Company that became the Alaskan colonial administration, arrived in Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island with two ships, the Three Saints and the St. Simon.[7] The Koniag Alaska Natives harassed the Russian party and Shelekhov responded by killing hundreds and taking hostages to enforce the obedience of the rest. Having established his authority on Kodiak Island, Shelekhov founded the second permanent Russian settlement in Alaska (after Unalaska, permanently settled from 1774) on the island's Three Saints Bay.

In 1790, Shelekhov, back in Russia, hired Alexander Andreyevich Baranov to manage his Alaskan fur enterprise. Baranov moved the colony to the northeast end of Kodiak Island, where timber was available. The site later developed as what is now the city of Kodiak. Russian colonists took Koniag wives and started families whose surnames continue today, such as Panamaroff, Petrikoff, and Kvasnikoff. In 1795, Baranov, concerned by the sight of non-Russian Europeans trading with the Natives in southeast Alaska, established Mikhailovsk six miles (10  km) north of present-day Sitka. He bought the land from the Tlingit, but in 1802, while Baranov was away, Tlingit from a neighboring settlement attacked and destroyed Mikhailovsk. Baranov returned with a Russian warship and razed the Tlingit village. He built the settlement of New Archangel on the ruins of Mikhailovsk. It became the capital of Russian America - and later the city of Sitka.

As Baranov secured the Russians' settlements in Alaska, the Shelekhov family continued to work among the top leaders to win a monopoly on Alaska's fur trade. In 1799 Shelekhov's son-in-law, Nikolay Petrovich Rezanov, had acquired a monopoly on the American fur trade from Tsar Paul I. Rezanov formed the Russian-American Company. As part of the deal, the Tsar expected the company to establish new settlements in Alaska and to carry out an expanded colonisation programme.

1800 to 1867

Baranov Alexandr
Alexander Andreyevich Baranov, called "Lord of Alaska" by Hector Chevigny, played an active role in the Russian–American Company and was the first governor of Russian America.

By 1804, Baranov, now manager of the Russian– American Company, had consolidated the company's hold on fur trade activities in the Americas following his suppression of the local Tlingit clan at the Battle of Sitka. The Russians never fully colonized Alaska. For the most part, they clung to the coast and shunned the interior.

From 1812 to 1841, the Russians operated Fort Ross, California. From 1814 to 1817, Russian Fort Elizabeth was operating in the Kingdom of Hawaii. By the 1830s, the Russian monopoly on trade was weakening. The British Hudson's Bay Company was leased the southern edge of Russian America in 1839 under the RAC-HBC Agreement, establishing Fort Stikine which began siphoning off trade.

A company ship visited the Russian American outposts only every two or three years to give provisions.[8] Because of the limited stock of supplies, trading was incidental compared to trapping operations under the Aleutian laborers.[8] This left the Russian outposts dependent upon British and American merchants for sorely needed food and materials; in such a situation Baranov knew that the RAC establishments "could not exist without trading with foreigners."[8] Ties with Americans were particularly advantageous since they could sell furs at Guangzhou, close to the Russians at the time. The downside was that American hunters and trappers encroached on territory Russians considered theirs.

Starting with the destruction of the Phoenix in 1799, several RAC ships sank or were damaged in storms, leaving the RAC outposts with scant resources. On 24 June 1800, an American vessel sailed to Kodiak Island. Baranov negotiated the sale of over 12,000 rubles worth of goods carried on the ship, averting "imminent starvation."[9] During his tenure Baranov traded over 2 million rubles worth of furs for American supplies, to the consternation of the board of directors.[8] From 1806 to 1818 Baranov shipped 15 million rubles worth of furs to Russia, only receiving under 3 million rubles in provisions, barely half of the expenses spent solely on the Saint Petersburg company office.[8]

The Russo-American Treaty of 1824 recognized exclusive Russian rights to the fur trade above Latitude 54°, 40' North, with the American rights and claims restricted to below that line. This division was repeated in the Treaty of Saint Petersburg, a parallel agreement with the British in 1825 (which also settled most of the border with British North America). However, the agreements soon went by the wayside, and with the retirement of Alexandr Baranov in 1818, the Russian hold on Alaska was further weakened.

When the Russian-American Company's charter was renewed in 1821, it stipulated that the chief managers from then on be naval officers. Most naval officers did not have any experience in the fur trade, so the company suffered. The second charter also tried to cut off all contact with foreigners, especially the competitive Americans. This strategy backfired since the Russian colony had become used to relying on American supply ships, and the United States had become a valued customer for furs. Eventually the Russian– American Company entered into an agreement with the Hudson's Bay Company, which gave the British rights to sail through Russian territory.

Russian settlements in North America

View of New Archangel, 1837
New Archangel (present-day Sitka, Alaska), the capital of Russian America, in 1837

Missionary activity

Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox church in present-day Sitka.

At Three Saints Bay, Shelekov built a school to teach the natives to read and write Russian, and introduced the first resident missionaries and clergymen who spread the Russian Orthodox faith. This faith (with its liturgies and texts, translated into Aleut at a very early stage) had been informally introduced, in the 1740s-1780s. Some fur traders founded local families or symbolically adopted Aleut trade partners as godchildren to gain their loyalty through this special personal bond. The missionaries soon opposed the exploitation of the indigenous populations, and their reports provide evidence of the violence exercised to establish colonial rule in this period.

The RAC's monopoly was continued by Emperor Alexander I in 1821, on the condition that the company would financially support missionary efforts.[10] Company board ordered chief manager Etholén to build a residency in New Archangel for bishop Veniaminov[10] When a Lutheran church was planned for the Finnish population of New Archangel, Veniamiov prohibited any Lutheran priests from proselytizing to neighboring Tlingits.[10] Veniamiov faced difficulties in exercising influence over the Tlingit people outside New Archangel, due to their political independence from the RAC leaving them less receptive to Russian cultural influences than Aleuts.[10][11] A smallpox epidemic spread throughout Alaska in 1835-1837 and the medical aid given by Veniamiov created converts to Orthodoxy.[11]

Inspired by the same pastoral theology as Bartolomé de las Casas or St. Francis Xavier, the origins of which come from early Christianity's need to adapt to the cultures of Antiquity, missionaries in Russian America applied a strategy that placed value on local cultures and encouraged indigenous leadership in parish life and missionary activity. When compared to later Protestant missionaries, the Orthodox policies "in retrospect proved to be relatively sensitive to indigenous Alaskan cultures."[10] This cultural policy was originally intended to gain the loyalty of the indigenous populations by establishing the authority of Church and State as protectors of over 10,000 inhabitants of Russian America. (The number of ethnic Russian settlers had always been less than the record 812, almost all concentrated in Sitka and Kodiak).

Difficulties arose in training Russian priests to attain fluency in any of the various Alaskan Indigenous languages. To redress this, Veniaminov opened a seminary for mixed race and native candidates for the Church in 1845.[10] Promising students were sent to additional schools in either Saint Petersburg or Irkutsk, the later city becoming the original seminary's new location 1858.[10] The Holy Synod instructed for the opening of four missionary schools in 1841, to be located in Amlia, Chiniak, Kenai, Nushagak.[10] Veniamiov established the curriculum, which included Russian history, literacy, mathematics and religious studies.[10]

A side effect of the missionary strategy was the development of a new and autonomous form of indigenous identity. Many native traditions survived within local "Russian" Orthodox tradition and in the religious life of the villages. Part of this modern indigenous identity is an alphabet and the basis for written literature in nearly all of the ethnic-linguistic groups in the Southern half of Alaska. Father Ivan Veniaminov (later St. Innocent of Alaska), famous throughout Russian America, developed an Aleut dictionary for hundreds of language and dialect words based on the Russian alphabet.

The most visible trace of the Russian colonial period in contemporary Alaska is the nearly 90 Russian Orthodox parishes with a membership of over 20,000 men, women, and children, almost exclusively indigenous people. These include several Athabascan groups of the interior, very large Yup'ik communities, and quite nearly all of the Aleut and Koniag populations. Among the few Tlingit Orthodox parishes, the large group in Juneau adopted Orthodox Christianity only after the Russian colonial period, in an area where there had been no Russian settlers nor missionaries. The widespread and continuing local Russian Orthodox practices are likely the result of the syncretism of local beliefs with Christianity.

In contrast, the Spanish Roman Catholic colonial intentions, methods, and consequences in California and the Southwest were the product of the Laws of Burgos and the Indian Reductions of conversions and relocations to missions; while more force and coercion was used, the indigenous peoples likewise created a kind of Christianity that reflected many of their traditions.

Observers noted that while their religious ties were tenuous, before the sale of Alaska there were 400 native converts to Orthodoxy in New Archangel.[11] Tlingit practitioners declined in number after the lapse of Russian rule, until there were only 117 practitioners in 1882 residing in the place, by then renamed as Sitka.[11]

Sale of Alaska to the United States

Alaska Purchase (hi-res)
Cheque used to pay for Alaska

By the 1860s, the Russian government was ready to abandon its Russian America colony. Zealous overhunting had severely reduced the fur-bearing animal population, and competition from the British and Americans exacerbated the situation. This, combined with the difficulties of supplying and protecting such a distant colony, reduced interest in the territory. After Russian America was sold to the U.S. in 1867, for $7.2 million (2 cents per acre, totalling $114,657,180.85 in today's USD),[12] all the holdings of the Russian–American Company were liquidated.

Following the transfer, many elders of the local Tlingit tribe maintained that "Castle Hill" comprised the only land that Russia was entitled to sell. Other indigenous groups also argued that they had never given up their land; the Americans encroached on it and took it over. Native land claims were not fully addressed until the latter half of the 20th century, with the signing by Congress and leaders of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

At the height of Russian America, the Russian population had reached 700, compared to 40,000 Aleuts. They and the Creoles, who had been guaranteed the privileges of citizens in the United States, were given the opportunity of becoming citizens within a three-year period, but few decided to exercise that option. General Jefferson C. Davis ordered the Russians out of their homes in Sitka, maintaining that the dwellings were needed for the Americans. The Russians complained of rowdiness of the American troops and assaults. Many Russians returned to Russia, while others migrated to the Pacific Northwest and California.

See also


  1. ^ Robert Bruce Campbell (2007). In Darkest Alaska: Travels and Empire Along the Inside Passage. p. 1.
  2. ^ Lydia Black, Russians in Alaska, 1732–1867 (2004).
  3. ^ "Russia's Great Voyages". Archived from the original on 13 April 2003. Retrieved 23 September 2005.
  4. ^ Compare: Sarah Crawford Isto (2012). "Chapter One: The Russian Period 1749-1866". The Fur Farms of Alaska: Two Centuries of History and a Forgotten Stampede. University of Alaska Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-60223-171-9. Retrieved 15 January 2016. Russian merchants along the route from Kamchatka to Kiakhta must have been elated when Vitus Bering's expedition returned in 1742 to report that the northern coast of America was nearby and that its waters teemed with fur seals and sea otters. By the following year, the first commercial vessel had already been constructed in Kamchatka and had set off for a two-year voyage to the Aleutians. [...] A rush of fur-seeking expeditions followed
  5. ^ a b Roger M. Carpenter (2015). "Times Are Altered with Us": American Indians from First Contact to the New Republic. Wiley. pp. 231–232. ISBN 978-1-118-73315-8. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  6. ^ "Aleut History". The Aleut Corporation. Archived from the original on 2 November 2007.
  7. ^ "Alaska History Timeline". Retrieved 31 August 2005.
  8. ^ a b c d e Wheeler, Mary E. (1971). "Empires in Conflict and Cooperation: The "Bostonians" and the Russian-American Company". Pacific Historical Review. 40 (4): 419–441. doi:10.2307/3637703. JSTOR 3637703.
  9. ^ Tikhmenev, P. A. (1978). Pierce, Richard A.; Donnelly, Alton S. (eds.). A History of the Russia-American Company. Seattle: University of Washington Press. pp. 63–64.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Nordlander, David (1995). "Innokentii Veniaminov and the Expansion of Orthodoxy in Russian America". Pacific Historical Review. 64 (1): 19–35. JSTOR 3640333.
  11. ^ a b c d Kan, Sergei (1985). "Russian Orthodox Brotherhoods among the Tlingit: Missionary Goals and Native Response". Ethnohistory. 32 (3): 196–222. doi:10.2307/481921. JSTOR 481921.
  12. ^ (total $114,657,180.85 in today's terms.)

Further reading

  • Essig, Edward Oliver. Fort Ross: California Outpost of Russian Alaska, 1812-1841 (Kingston, Ont.: Limestone Press, 1991.)
  • Gibson, James R. Imperial Russia in frontier America: the changing geography of supply of Russian America, 1784-1867 (Oxford University Press, 1976)
  • Gibson, James R. "Russian America in 1821." Oregon Historical Quarterly (1976): 174-188. online
  • Pierce, Richard A. Russian America, 1741-1867: A Biographical Dictionary (Kingston, Ont.: Limestone Press, 1990)
  • Vinkovetsky, Ilya. Russian America: an overseas colony of a continental empire, 1804-1867 (Oxford University Press, 2011)

Primary sources

  • Gibson, James R. (1972). "Russian America in 1833: The Survey of Kirill Khlebnikov". The Pacific Northwest Quarterly. 63 (1): 1–13. JSTOR 40488966.
  • Golovin, Pavel Nikolaevich, Basil Dmytryshyn, and E. A. P. Crownhart-Vaughan. The end of Russian America: Captain PN Golovin's last report, 1862(Oregon Historical Society Press, 1979.)
  • Khlebnikov, Kyrill T. Colonial Russian America: Kyrill T. Khlebnikov's Reports, 1817-1832 (Oregon Historical Society, 1976)
  • baron Wrangel, Ferdinand Petrovich. Russian America: Statistical and ethnographic information (Kingston, Ont.: Limestone Press, 1980)



External links

Coordinates: 57°03′N 135°19′W / 57.050°N 135.317°W

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.

Alexander Andreyevich Baranov

Alexander Andreyevich Baranov (Russian: Алекса́ндр Андре́евич Бара́нов) (1747–16 April 1819), sometimes spelled Aleksandr or Alexandr and Baranof, was a Russian trader and merchant, who worked for some time in Siberia. He was recruited by the Shelikov Company for trading in Russian America, beginning in 1790 with a five-year contract as manager of the outpost. He continued to serve past the end date of his contract.

In 1799 Baranov was promoted, appointed by the recently chartered Russian-American Company as Chief Manager, effectively the first governor of Russian America. He served until 1818. This was the early colonial period of expansion of settlements. He founded Pavlovskaya (Kodiak) and later New Archangel (Sitka), Russian colonies that were bases of the company in present-day Alaska. In addition, he oversaw the expansion of the lucrative fur trade with Alaska Natives.

He continued to support his Russian wife and children, who had moved from Siberia back to live near St. Petersburg. In Pavlovskaya, Baranov took an Aleut woman as mistress and had three mixed-race children with her. After learning that his wife had died in 1807 in Russia, he married his mistress, legitimizing their children. In 1817 Irina, his oldest daughter born in Alaska, married Semyon Yanovksy, a Russian naval officer. Late in 1818, Yanovsky was appointed as Chief Manager and successor to Baranov. That year Baranov departed to sail back to Russia, but he died in April 1819 and was buried at sea.

Evstratii Delarov

Evstratii Ivanovich Delarov (also spelled Evstrat Delarov and Eustrate Delarof, c. 1740 – 1806, Greek: Ευστράτιος Ντελάρωφ) was a Greek-born mariner who served with several Russian maritime fur trade companies in Russian America. He was born in Ottoman Macedonia. He was the first documented Greek explorer and merchant to arrive in Alaska.Delarov's career in Russian America dates to at least 1764, when he was in the Aleutian Islands on board the Petr i Pavel under Ivan Maksimovich Solov'ev. Delarov participated in Solov'ev's 1764 attacks on the Umnak-Unalaska Aleut alliance, which were carried out in revenge for the 1762 Fox Islands revolt—a coordinated Aleut attack on four Russian vessels and several shore parties, during which over 300 Russians were killed.While serving Panov brothers company, Delarov used the harbor on Unga Island as a base of operations, which for many years the harbor was known as Delarov Harbor or Greko-Delarovskoe, because Delarov was Greek. In 1781-1786 Delarov and two other captains made exploratory forays from Unga Island into Prince William Sound.Over time Delarov gained a reputation as an excellent skipper. He became part owner of various fur-trading vessels. Grigory Shelikhov met Delarov in Irkutsk and persuaded him to become the chief manager of his establishment at Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island. Delarov sailed to Kodiak in 1787 aboard the Three Saints, commanded by Gerasim Grigor'ievich Izmailov. From 1787 to 1791 he was Alexander Baranov's predecessor as chief manager of the Shelikhov-Golikov Company. He later became a partner in the Shelikhov enterprises and a major shareholders. In 1796 he directed the company's affairs in Irkutsk.In 1787 Delarov established an outpost at Karluk, on Kodiak Island facing the mainland across Shelikof Strait. Delarov also sent hunting parties into Resurrection Bay, where a post called Aleksandrovskaia was founded at modern-day Seldovia.In 1788 the Spanish expedition of Gonzalo López de Haro and Esteban José Martínez sailed to Alaska to investigate Russian activity. A number of earlier Spanish voyages to Alaska had failed to find any Russians, but direct contact was made during the 1788 expedition. Haro found Shelikhov's settlement at Three Saints Bay and met with Delarov. Haro and Delarov conversed at length. Delarov informed Haro that there were seven Russian posts on the coast between Unalaska and Prince William Sound and that a Russian sloop traded south along the coast each year, as far as Nootka Sound. This latter piece of information was most likely a fabrication intended to intimidate the Spanish. That Delarov had exaggerated the strength of Russian America became clear to the Spaniards when they visited Unalaska. Delarov had told Haro that 120 Russians lived there, but the Spaniards discovered that Potap Zaikov was the only Russian there—the rest were Aleuts.When the Russian-American Company was founded in 1799 Delarov moved to Saint Petersburg and served on the company's board of directors until his death in 1806.

Herman of Alaska

Saint Herman of Alaska (Russian: Преподобный Герман Аляскинский, tr. Prepodobnyy German Alyaskinskiy; c. 1750s – November 15, 1836) was a Russian Orthodox monk and missionary to Alaska, which was then part of Russian America. His gentle approach and ascetic life earned him the love and respect of both the native Alaskans and the Russian colonists. He is considered by many Orthodox Christians as the patron saint of North America.

Johan Hampus Furuhjelm

Johan Hampus Furuhjelm, (Russian: Фуругельм, Иван Васильевич) (March 11, 1821 – September 21, 1909) was a Finnish-Russian vice-admiral and explorer, commander of the Russian Baltic Fleet, Governor of the Russian Far East, Taganrog and Russian America.

Joseph Billings

Joseph Billings (c.1758 – 1806) was an English navigator and explorer who spent the most significant part of his life in Russian service.

Kenai, Alaska

Kenai (, KEY-nigh) (Dena'ina: Shk'ituk't) is a city in the Kenai Peninsula Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska. The population was 7,100 as of the 2010 census, up from 6,942 in 2000.

Kodiak, Alaska

Kodiak (Alutiiq: Sun'aq; Russian: Кадьяк, tr. Kadʹyak) is one of seven communities and the main city on Kodiak Island, Kodiak Island Borough, in the U.S. state of Alaska. All commercial transportation between the entire island and the outside world goes through this city either via ferryboat or airline. The population was 6,130 as of the 2010 census. 2014 estimates put the population at 6,304.

Originally inhabited by Alutiiq natives for over 7,000 years, the city was settled in the 18th century by the subjects of the Russian crown and became the capital of Russian Alaska.

Harvesting of the area's sea otter pelts led to the near extinction of the animal in the following century and led to wars with and enslavement of the natives for over 150 years.

After the Alaska Purchase by the United States in 1867, Kodiak became a commercial fishing center which continues to be the mainstay of its economy. A lesser economic influence includes tourism, mainly by those seeking outdoor adventure trips. Salmon, halibut, the unique Kodiak bear, elk, Sitka deer (black tail), and mountain goats attract hunting tourists as well as fishermen to the Kodiak Archipelago. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game maintains an office in the city and a website to help hunters and fishermen obtain the proper permits and learn about the laws specific to the Kodiak area.

The city has four public elementary schools, a middle and high school, as well as a branch of the University of Alaska. An antenna farm at the summit of Pillar Mountain above the city historically provided communication with the outside world before fiber optic cable was run. Transportation to and from the island is provided by ferry service on the Alaska Marine Highway as well as local commercial airlines.

Lavrenty Zagoskin

Lavrenty Alekseyevich Zagoskin (Russian: Лаврентий Алексеевич Загоскин; 21 May 1808 – 22 January 1890) was a Russian naval officer and explorer of Alaska.

Zagoskin was born in 1808 in the Russian district of Penza in a village named Nikolayevka. Even though Nikolayevka was not near the ocean, Zagoskin would eventually train for the Russian Navy and served as a naval officer in the Baltic and Caspian seas. He would subsequently receive training in mineralogy, zoology, botany, and entomology from Russian scientist I.G. Voznesensky

In 1799, Russia formed the Russian America Company and gave it monopolistic powers over the region now known as Alaska as part of their colonization effort. Early Russian explorers like Vitus Bering, Mikhail Gvozdev, and Georg Steller provided knowledge of the coastal region, however by the 1840s very little was known about the interior of the colony. Such knowledge was desired in the hopes of expanding the commercial opportunities for the Russian America Company. Zagoskin was given a two-year assignment to conduct reconnaissance of the region to help determine the most profitable and convenient sites for forts and trading posts in the region - an assignment he was well suited for given his background and in fact a mission he had proposed.

In 1842 and 1843, he traveled extensively on the Yukon, Kuskokwim, Innoko and Koyukuk Rivers all told traveling over 3,300 miles (5,300 km). His journals included details about the native people, their customs, language, and environment in the region all noted with remarkable accuracy.

Zagoskin received national Academy of Science award for his work. To this day, his writing is recognized for its accuracy, quality and insight and is often referenced by local residents, historians, anthropologists, and geographers.

Settlements visited by Zagoskin:

Upper Kalskag, Alaska

Golovin, Alaska

Shaktoolik, Alaska

Selawik, Alaska

Crow Village, Alaska

Georgetown, Alaska

Kwigiumpainukamiut, AlaskaZagoskin died in Ryazan.

Natalia Shelikhova

Natalia Alekseevna Shelikhova (Russian: Ната́лья Алексе́евна Ше́лихова; 1762-1810), was a Russian businessperson and the spouse of Grigory Shelikhov, founder of Russian Alaska. She was one of the founders of the Russian-American Company and has been referred to as one of the first successful female entrepreneurs in Russia.

Otto von Kotzebue

Otto von Kotzebue (Russian: О́тто Евста́фьевич Коцебу́, tr. Ótto Evstáf’evich Kotsebú; 30 December [O.S. 19] 1787 – 15 February [O.S. 3] 1846) was a Baltic German officer and navigator in the Imperial Russian Navy. He was born in Reval. He was known for his explorations of Oceania.

Russian-American Company

The Russian-American Company Under the Supreme Patronage of His Imperial Majesty (Russian: Под высочайшим Его Императорского Величества покровительством Российская-Американская Компания Pod vysochayshim Yego Imperatorskogo Velichestva porkrovitelstvom Rossiyskaya-Amerikanskaya Kompaniya) was a state-sponsored chartered company formed largely on the basis of the United American Company. The company was chartered by Tsar Paul I in the Ukase of 1799. Its mission was to establish new settlements in Russian America, conduct trade with natives, and carry out an expanded colonization program.

This was Russia's first joint-stock company, and it came under the direct authority of the Ministry of Commerce of Imperial Russia. The Minister of Commerce (later, Minister of Foreign Affairs) Nikolai Petrovich Rumyantsev was a pivotal influence upon the early Company's affairs. In 1801, the company's headquarters were moved from Irkutsk to Saint Petersburg, and the merchants who were initially the major stockholders were soon replaced by Russia's nobility and aristocracy.

Count Rumyantsev funded Russia's first naval circumnavigation under the joint command of Adam Johann von Krusenstern and Nikolai Rezanov in 1803–1806. Later he funded and directed the voyage of the Ryurik's circumnavigation of 1814–1816, which provided substantial scientific information on Alaska's and California's flora and fauna, and important ethnographic information on Alaskan and Californian (among others) natives. During the Russian-California period (1812–1842) when they operated Fort Ross, the Russians named present-day Bodega Bay, California as "Rumyantsev Bay" (Залив Румянцев) in his honor.

Russian Americans

Russian Americans are Americans who trace their ancestry to Russia, the former Russian Empire, or the former Soviet Union. The definition can be applied to recent Russian immigrants to the United States, as well as to settlers of 19th-century Russian settlements in northwestern America.

After Russian America (now territory part of present-day Alaska) was sold to the United States in the mid-nineteenth century, waves of Russian immigrants fleeing religious persecution settled in the United States, including Russian Jews and

Spiritual Christians. These groups mainly settled in coastal cities, including Brooklyn (New York City) on the East coast, and Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon, on the West coast.

Emigration was very restricted during the Soviet era, though in 1990s immigration to the U.S. increased exponentially.

Some Ukrainian Americans, Belarusian Americans, Rusyn Americans along with Jewish Americans, German Americans from the former Russian Empire and Soviet Union identify as Russian Americans.

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.

Russian–American Telegraph

The Russian–American Telegraph, also known as the Western Union Telegraph Expedition and the Collins Overland Telegraph, was a $3,000,000 (equivalent to $49.1 million in present-day terms) undertaking by the Western Union Telegraph Company in 1865–1867, to lay an electric telegraph line from San Francisco, California to Moscow, Russia.

The route was intended to travel from California via Oregon, Washington Territory, the Colony of British Columbia and Russian America, under the Bering Sea and across Siberia to Moscow, where lines would communicate with the rest of Europe. It was proposed as an alternate to long, deep underwater cables in the Atlantic.

Abandoned in 1867, the Russian–American Telegraph was considered an economic failure, but history now deems it a "successful failure" because of the many benefits the exploration brought to the regions that were traversed. To date, no entities have attempted a communications cable across the Bering Sea, with all extant submarine communications cables that travel westbound from North America following more southerly routes across much longer stretches of the North Pacific Ocean, connecting to Asia in Japan and then on to the Asian mainland.

Russo-American Treaty of 1824

The Russo-American Treaty of 1824 (also known as the Convention Between the United States of America and His Majesty the Emperor of All the Russias, Relative to Navigating, Fishing, Etc., in the Pacific Ocean) was signed in St. Petersburg between representatives of Russia and the United States on April 17, 1824, ratified by both nations on January 11, 1825 and went into effect on January 12, 1825. The accord contained six articles. It gave Russian claims on the Pacific Northwest coast of North America south of parallel 54°40′ north over what Americans had known as the Oregon Country to the United States.

The Anglo-Russian Treaty of 1825 between Russia and Great Britain then fixed the Russian Tsar's southernmost boundary of Alaska at the line of 54°40′N — the present southern tip of the Alaska Panhandle — but Russian rights to trade in the area south of that Iattitude remained. The Oregon dispute between the United States and Britain over jurisdiction in the region was already underway as a result of the Adams–Onís Treaty between the U.S. and Spain over the latter's former claims north of the 42nd Parallel (today's Oregon-California boundary).

Sitka, Alaska

The City and Borough of Sitka (Tlingit: Sheetʼká), formerly Novo-Arkhangelsk, or New Archangel under Russian rule (Russian: Ново-Архангельск or Новоaрхангельск, t Novoarkhangelsk), is a unified city-borough on Baranof Island and the south half of Chichagof Island in the Alexander Archipelago of the Pacific Ocean (part of the Alaska Panhandle), in the U.S. state of Alaska. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 8,881.In terms of land area, it is the largest city-borough in the U.S., with a land area of 2,870.3 square miles (7,434 square kilometres) and a total area (including water area) of 4,811.4 square miles (12,461 square kilometres). Urban Sitka, the part usually thought of as the "city" of Sitka, is on the west side of Baranof Island.

St. Michael's Cathedral (Sitka, Alaska)

St. Michael's Cathedral (Russian: Собор Архангела Михаила Sobor Arkhangela Mikhaila, also known as the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel) is a cathedral of the Orthodox Church in America Diocese of Alaska, at Lincoln and Matsoutoff Streets in Sitka, Alaska. The earliest Orthodox cathedral in the New World, it was built in the nineteenth century, when Alaska was under the control of Russia. After 1872, the cathedral came under the control of the Diocese of Alaska. It has been a National Historic Landmark since 1962, notable as an important legacy of Russian influence in North America and Southeast Alaska in particular.An accidental fire destroyed the cathedral during the night of January 2, 1966, but it was subsequently rebuilt. The new building's green domes and golden crosses are a prominent landmark in Sitka. Some of the icons date to the mid-17th century; two icons are by Vladimir Borovikovsky.

St. Michael's Cathedral is located in the downtown business district in Sitka, on the southwestern coast of Baranof Island in the Alexander Archipelago of Southeastern Alaska. Its surroundings along Lincoln Street and Maksutoff Street, which ends at the cathedral, have not altered much during the last more than 100 years. Harrigan Centennial Hall on Harbor Drive lies behind the cathedral, while Pioneers' Home is to its left. The restored Russian Bishop's House, home of the first Orthodox Bishop of Alaska, Innocent (Veniaminov), is also nearby, operated by the National Park Service as part of the Sitka National Historical Park.

Stickeen Territories

The Stickeen Territories , also colloquially rendered as Stickeen Territory, Stikine Territory, and Stikeen Territory, was a territory of British North America whose brief existence began July 19, 1862, and concluded July of the following year. The region was split from the North-Western Territory in the wake of the Stikine Gold Rush. The initial strike attracted large numbers of miners — mostly American — to the region; by detaching the region from the exclusive trade zone of the Hudson's Bay Company, British authorities were able to impose tariffs and licences on the speculators. The new territory, named after the Stikine River, was under the responsibility of the Governor of the Colony of British Columbia, James Douglas, who was appointed "Administrator of the Stickeen Territories" and under British law, within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

The boundaries of the territory were the 62nd parallel to the north, the 125th meridian to the east, the Nass and Finlay Rivers to the south, and the panhandle of Russian America to the west (only vaguely defined by treaty and disputed until resolved with the Alaska Boundary Settlement of 1903).A year later, the Stickeen was added to the Colony of British Columbia (along with the Colony of the Queen Charlotte Islands), except for the sector north of the 60th parallel, which was returned to the North-Western Territory. In 1895, this strip was again redistributed, this time to the District of Yukon, as newly constituted during the midst of the Klondike Gold Rush.

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