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Russian colonization of North America

Coordinates: 57°03′N 135°19′W / 57.050°N 135.317°W / 57.050; -135.317
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Russian America
Русская Америка
Russkaya Amerika
Colony of the Russian Empire

Russian Creole settlements

Russian possessions in North America (1835)
"Боже, Царя храни!"
Bozhe Tsarya khrani! (1833–1867)
("God Save the Tsar!")
DemonymAlaskan Creole
 • Coordinates57°03′N 135°19′W / 57.050°N 135.317°W / 57.050; -135.317
• 1799–1818 (first)
Alexander Baranov
• 1863–1867 (last)
Dmitry Maksutov
15 July 1741
18 October 1867
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Alaska Natives
Department of Alaska
Today part ofUnited States

From 1732 to 1867, 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: Русская Америка, romanizedRusskaya Amerika; 1799 to 1867). It consisted mostly of present-day Alaska in the United States, but also included the outpost of Fort Ross in California, and three forts in Hawaii, including Russian Fort Elizabeth. Russian Creole settlements were concentrated in Alaska, including the capital, New Archangel (Novo-Arkhangelsk), which is now Sitka.

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 overhunting 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. Bering claimed the Alaskan country for the Russian Empire.[1] Russia later confirmed its rule over the territory with the Ukase of 1799 which established the southern border of Russian America along the 55th parallel north.[2] The decree also provided monopolistic privileges to the state-sponsored Russian-American Company and established the Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska.

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.[3] 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 re-established 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 North 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 North American colonies were too expensive to retain. Eager to release themselves of the burden, the Russians sold Fort Ross in 1841, and in 1867, after less than a month of negotiations, the United States accepted Emperor Alexander II's offer to sell Alaska. The Alaska Purchase for $7.2 million (equivalent to $157 million in 2023) ended Imperial Russia's colonial presence in the Americas.


Map of northwesterna America, East Asia and the northern Pacific. The coast of northwestern America is only very roughly outlined.
A 1773 map of northwestern America based on reports from Russian explorers.

The earliest written accounts indicate that the Eurasian Russians were the first Europeans to reach Alaska. There is an unofficial assumption that Eurasian Slavic navigators reached the coast of Alaska long before the 18th century.

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.[4]

The first sighting of the Alaskan coastline was in 1732; this sighting was made by the Russian maritime explorer and navigator Ivan Fedorov from sea near present-day Cape Prince of Wales on the eastern boundary of the Bering Strait opposite Russian Cape Dezhnev. He did not land.

The first landfall happened in southern Alaska in 1741 during the Russian exploration by Vitus Bering and Aleksei Chirikov. In the early 1720s, 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.[5] On July 15, Chirikov sighted land, probably the west side of Prince of Wales Island in southeast Alaska.[6] 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 July 16, 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.

Due to the distance from central authority in St. Petersburg, and combined with the difficult geography and lack of adequate resources, the next state-sponsored expedition would wait more than two decades until 1766, when captains Pyotr Krenitsyn and Mikhail Levashov embarked for the Aleutian Islands, eventually reaching their destination after initially been wrecked on Bering Island. Between 1774 and 1800 Spain also led several expeditions to Alaska in order to assert its claim over the Pacific Northwest. These claims were later abandoned at the turn of the 19th century following the aftermath of the Nootka Crisis. Count Nikolay Rumyantsev funded Russia's first naval circumnavigation under the joint command of Adam Johann von Krusenstern and Nikolai Rezanov in 1803–1806, and was instrumental in the outfitting of the voyage of the Riurik'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 other) natives.

Trading company[edit]

Imperial Russia was unique among European empires for having no state sponsorship of foreign expeditions or territorial (conquest) settlement. The first state-protected trading company for sponsoring such activities in the Americas was the Shelikhov-Golikov Company of Grigory Shelikhov and Ivan Larionovich Golikov. A number of other companies were operating in Russian America during the 1780s. Shelikhov petitioned the government for exclusive control, but in 1788 Catherine II decided to grant his company a monopoly only over the area it had already occupied. Other traders were free to compete elsewhere. Catherine's decision was issued as the imperial ukase (proclamation) of September 28, 1788.[7]

The Shelikhov-Golikov Company formed the basis for the Russian-American Company (RAC). Its charter was laid out in a 1799, by the new Tsar Paul I, which granted the company monopolistic control over trade in the Aleutian Islands and the North America mainland, south to 55° north latitude.[5]: 102  The RAC was Russia's first joint stock company, and came under the direct authority of the Ministry of Commerce of Imperial Russia. Siberian merchants based in Irkutsk were initial major stockholders, but soon replaced by Russia's nobility and aristocracy based in Saint Petersburg. The company constructed settlements in what is today Alaska, Hawaii,[8] and California.

Russian colonization[edit]

1740s to 1800[edit]

Beginning in 1743, small associations of fur-traders began to sail from the shores of the Russian Pacific coast to the Aleutian islands.[9]

The Bering Strait, where Russia's east coast lies closest to Alaska's west coast. Early Russian colonization occurred well south of the strait, in the Aleutian Islands.
Sibero-Russian promyshlenniki (hunter-trapper frontiersmen)

Rather than hunting the marine life themselves, the Sibero-Russian promyshlenniki forced the Aleuts to do the work for them, often by taking hostage family members in exchange for hunted seal-furs.[10] This pattern of colonial exploitation resembled some of the promyshlenniki practices in their expansion into Siberia and the Russian Far East.[11] As word spread of the potential riches in furs, competition among Russian companies increased and a large number of Aleuts were apparently enserfed.[12][10][13][14]

Flag of the Russian-American Company (1806–1881).
Tlingit Chieftain of Sitka

As the animal populations declined, the Aleuts, already too dependent on the new barter-economy fostered 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.[citation needed] As the Shelekhov-Golikov Company of 1783-1799 developed a monopoly, its use of skirmishes and violent incidents turned into systematic violence as a tool of colonial exploitation of the indigenous people. When the Aleutian serfs revolted and won some victories, the promyshlenniki retaliated, killing many and destroying their boats and hunting gear, leaving them no means of survival.[citation needed] The most devastating effects came from disease: during the first two generations (1741-1759 & 1781-1799) of Sibero-Russian promyshlenniki contact, 80 percent of the Aleut population died from Eurasian infectious diseases; these were by then endemic among Eurasians, but the Aleuts had no immunity against the diseases.[15]

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 later set up the Russian-American Company[16][better source needed] that developed into the Alaskan colonial administration, arrived in Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island with two ships, the Three Saints (Russian: Три Святителя) and the St. Simon.[17] 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 since 1774) on the island's Three Saints Bay.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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 (Russian: Ново-Архангельск, romanizedNovo-Arkhangelsk) on the ruins of Mikhailovsk.[citation needed] It became the capital of Russian America – and later the city of Sitka.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] In 1799 Shelekhov's son-in-law, Nikolay Petrovich Rezanov, had acquired a monopoly on the American fur trade from Emperor Paul I. Rezanov formed the Russian-American Company. As part of the deal, the Emperor expected the company to establish new settlements in Alaska and to carry out an expanded colonization program.[citation needed]

1800 to 1867[edit]

Aleutian & Russian allied forces defeat the Tlingit tribe at the Battle of Sitka, 1804.

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 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.[citation needed]

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.

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.[citation needed]

A company ship visited the Russian American outposts only every two or three years to give provisions.[18] Because of the limited stock of supplies, trading was incidental compared to trapping operations under the Aleutian laborers.[18] 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."[18] Ties with Americans were particularly advantageous since they could sell furs at Guangzhou, closed to the Russians at the time. The downside was that American hunters and trappers encroached on territory Russians considered theirs.[citation needed]

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 June 24, 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."[19] During his tenure Baranov traded over 2 million rubles worth of furs for American supplies, to the consternation of the board of directors.[18] 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.[18]

The Russo-American Treaty of 1824 recognized exclusive Russian rights to the fur trade north of latitude 54°40'N, 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.[citation needed]


The first Russian colony in Alaska was founded in 1784 by Grigory Shelikhov.[5]: 102  Subsequently, Russian explorers and settlers continued to establish trading posts in mainland Alaska, on the Aleutian Islands, Hawaii,[citation needed] and Northern California.


The Russian-American Company was formed in 1799 with the influence of Nikolay Rezanov for the purpose of hunting sea otters for their fur.[5]: 40  The peak population of the Russian colonies was about 4,000 although almost all of these were Aleuts, Tlingits and other Native Alaskans. The number of Russians rarely exceeded 500 at any one time.[5]: xiii 


The Russians established an outpost called Fortress Ross (Russian: Крѣпость Россъ, Krepost' Ross) in 1812 near Bodega Bay in Northern California,[5]: 181  north of San Francisco Bay. The Fort Ross colony included a sealing station on the Farallon Islands off San Francisco.[20] By 1818 Fort Ross had a population of 128, consisting of 26 Russians and of 102 Native Americans.[5]: 181  The Russians maintained it until 1841, when they left the region.[21] As of 2015 Fort Ross is a Federal National Historical Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. It is preserved—restored in California's Fort Ross State Historic Park, about 80 miles (130 km) northwest of San Francisco.[22]

Spanish concern about Russian colonial intrusion prompted the authorities in New Spain to initiate[when?] the upper Las Californias Province settlement, with presidios (forts), pueblos (villages), and the California missions. After declaring their independence in 1821, the Mexicans also asserted themselves in opposition to the Russians: the Mission San Francisco de Solano (Sonoma Mission, 1823) specifically responded to the presence of the Russians at Fort Ross; and Mexico established the El Presidio Real de Sonoma or Sonoma Barracks in 1836, with General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo as the Commandant of the Northern Frontier of the Alta California Province. The fort was the northernmost Mexican outpost to halt any further Russian settlement southward.[citation needed] The restored Presidio and mission are in the present-day city of Sonoma, California.

In 1920 a one-hundred-pound bronze church bell was unearthed in an orange grove near Mission San Fernando Rey de España in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California. It has an inscription in the Russian language (translated here): "In the tear 1796, in the month of January, this bell was cast on the Island of Kodiak by the blessing of Juvenaly of Alaska, during the sojourn of Alexander Andreyevich Baranov."[citation needed] How this Russian Orthodox Kodiak church artifact from Kodiak Island in Alaska arrived at a Roman Catholic Mission Church in Southern California remains unknown.

Missionary activity[edit]

Russian Orthodox cathedral in present-day Sitka
St.Peter the Aleut, a martyred Aleutian Creole.
An Aleutian man and woman.
The Sanctuary of St.Michael's Cathedral.

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.[23] The company board ordered chief manager Arvid Adolf Etholén to build a residency in New Archangel for bishop Veniaminov[23] When a Lutheran church was planned for the Finnish population of New Archangel, Veniamiov prohibited any Lutheran priests from proselytizing to neighboring Tlingits.[23] 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.[23][24] A smallpox epidemic spread throughout Alaska in 1835-1837 and the medical aid given by Veniamiov created converts to Orthodoxy.[24]

Inspired by the same pastoral theology as Bartolomé de las Casas or St. Francis Xavier, the origins of which were in early Christianity's need to adapt to the cultures of Classical 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."[23] 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 Indigenous Alaskan languages. To redress this, Veniaminov opened a seminary for mixed race and native candidates for the Church in 1845.[23] Promising students were sent to additional schools in either Saint Petersburg or Irkutsk, the later city becoming the original seminary's new location in 1858.[23] The Holy Synod instructed for the opening of four missionary schools in 1841, to be located in Amlia, Chiniak, Kenai, and Nushagak.[23] Veniamiov established the curriculum, which included Russian history, literacy, mathematics, and religious studies.[23]

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 Alutiiq 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.[24] 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.[24]

Russian settlements in North America[edit]

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

Purchase of Alaska[edit]

Check used for the purchase of Alaska
A map depicting the territory of Alaska in 1867, immediately after the Alaska Purchase

By the 1860s, the Russian government was ready to abandon its Russian America colony. Over-hunting 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. In addition, Russia was in a difficult financial position and feared losing Russian Alaska without compensation in some future conflict, especially to the British. The Russians believed that in a dispute with Britain, their hard-to-defend region might become a prime target for British aggression from British Columbia, and would be easily captured. So following the Union victory in the American Civil War, Tsar Alexander II instructed the Russian minister to the United States, Eduard de Stoeckl, to enter into negotiations with the United States Secretary of State William H. Seward in the beginning of March 1867. At the instigation of Seward the United States Senate approved the purchase, known as the Alaska Purchase, from the Russian Empire. The cost was set at 2 cents an acre, which came to a total of $7,200,000 on April 9, 1867. The canceled check is in the present day United States National Archives.

After Russian America was sold to the US in 1867, for $7.2 million (2 cents per acre, equivalent to $156,960,000 in 2023), 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 had encroached on it and taken 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 and assaults by the American troops. Many Russians returned to Russia, while others migrated to the Pacific Northwest and California.


The Soviet Union (USSR) released a series of commemorative coins in 1990 and 1991 to mark the 250th anniversary of the first sighting of and claiming domain over AlaskaRussian America. The commemoration consisted of a silver coin, a platinum coin, and two palladium coins in both years.

At the beginning of the 21st century, a resurgence of Russian ultra-nationalism has spurred regret and recrimination over the sale of Alaska to the United States.[25][26][27] There are periodic mass media stories in the Russian Federation that Alaska was not sold to the United States in the 1867 Alaska Purchase, but only leased for 99 years (= to 1966), or 150 years (= to 2017)—and would be returned to Russia.[28] During the war in Ukraine, such statements reappeared in Russian media. Those claims of illegitimacy derive from wrong or misleading interpretations of a policy of the Russian Federation to re-acquire formerly held properties.[29] The Alaska Purchase Treaty is absolutely clear that the agreement was for a complete Russian cession of the territory.[30][31] Not the purchase from the Russian Empire, but the legitimacy of colonial rule altogether has been an issue of the Alaskan Native peoples in their struggle to democracy and indigenous rights.[32]

Russian settlements in North America[edit]

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Charles P. Wohlforth (2011). Alaska For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons. p. 18.
  2. ^ United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, "Text of Ukase of 1779" in Behring Sea Arbitration (London: Harrison and Sons, 1893), pp. 25-27
  3. ^ Sergei, Kan (2014). Memory Eternal: Tlingit Culture and Russian Orthodox Christianity Through Two Centuries. Seattle: University of Washington Press. ISBN 9780295805344. OCLC 901270092.
  4. ^ Campbell, Robert (2007). In Darkest Alaska: Travel and Empire Along the Inside Passage. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-8122-4021-4.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Black, Lydia T. (2004). Russians in Alaska, 1732–1867. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press.
  6. ^ ""The People You May Visit"". Russia's Great Voyages. California Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on April 13, 2003. Retrieved September 23, 2005.
  7. ^ Pethick, Derek (1976). First Approaches to the Northwest Coast. Vancouver: J.J. Douglas. pp. 26–33. ISBN 0-88894-056-4.
  8. ^ "Russian Fort". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on October 18, 2007. Retrieved July 4, 2008.
  9. ^ Compare: Isto, Sarah Crawford (2012). "Chapter One: The Russian Period 1749-1866". The Fur Farms of Alaska: Two Centuries of History and a Forgotten Stampede. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-60223-171-9. 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
  10. ^ a b Carpenter, Roger M. (2015). "Times Are Altered with Us": American Indians from First Contact to the New Republic. Wiley Blackwell. pp. 231–232. ISBN 978-1-118-73315-8.
  11. ^ Etkind, Alexander (2011). Internal Colonization: Russia's Imperial Experience. Cambridge: John Wiley & Sons (published 2013). p. 68. ISBN 9780745673547. Agreeing with Soloviev that the history of Russia was the history of colonization, Shchapov described the process .... Two methods of colonization were primary: 'fur colonization,' with hunters harvesting and depleting the habitats of fur animals and moving further and further across Siberia all the way to Alaska; and 'fishing colonization,' which supplied Russian centers with fresh- or salt-water fish and caviar.
  12. ^ Stephen W. Haycox, Mary Childers Mangusso (2011). An Alaska Anthology: Interpreting the Past. University of Washington Press. p. 27.
  13. ^ Compare: Grinëv, Andrei Val'terovic (2016). "Russian Promyshlenniki in Alaska at the end of the Eighteenth Century". Russian Colonization of Alaska: Preconditions, Discovery, and Initial Development, 1741-1799 [Predposylki rossiisoi kolonizatsii Alyaski, ee otkrytie i pervonachal'noye osnovanie]. Translated by Bland, Richard L. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press (published 2018). p. 198. ISBN 9781496210852. The Aleuts and other dependent Natives of the Russian colonies could never be considered slaves, or feudal serfs, or civilian workers in the usual sense of the terms. ... Up to the 1790s the Natives were obligated to pay tribute to the royal treasury, demonstrating personal dependence on the Russian emperor. Some of the Natives, evidently making up from a twelfth to an eighth of the adult population, belonged to the so-called kayury, whose position was in fact that of slaves, since they received nothing for their labor besides scanty clothing and food. However, this was not slavery as once existed in ancient Rome or in the American South ....
  14. ^ Compare: Gwenn, Miller (December 15, 2015). "Introduction". Kodiak Kreol: Communities of Empire in Early Russian America. Ithaca: Cornell University (published 2010). p. 2. ISBN 978-1-5017-0069-9. The people of Kodiak kept some slaves, kalgi, outsiders whom they acquired through trading and warfare with people from other areas.
  15. ^ "Aleut History". The Aleut Corporation. Archived from the original on November 2, 2007.
  16. ^ Mathews-Benham, Sandra K. (March 10, 2008). "5: From the Aleutian Chain to Northern California". American Indians in the Early West. Cultures in the American West. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO (published 2008). p. 246. ISBN 9781851098248. ... before he died, Shelikhov had appointed Alexandr Baranov as governor of the Russian Alaska Company, the first functional and approved Russian monopoly in Alaska.
  17. ^ "Alaska History Timeline". Kodiakisland.net. Archived from the original on October 27, 2005. Retrieved August 31, 2005.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ 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. ISBN 9780295955643.
  20. ^ Schoenherr, Allan A.; Feldmeth, C. Robert (1999). Natural History of the Islands of California. California natural history guides. Vol. 61. University of California Press. p. 375. ISBN 9780520211971. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  21. ^ "Fort Ross Cultural History Fort Ross Interpretive Association". www.fortrossinterpretive.org. Archived from the original on May 28, 2010. Retrieved January 15, 2022.
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  23. ^ 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. doi:10.2307/3640333. JSTOR 3640333.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ Nelson, Soraya Sarhaddi (April 1, 2014). "Not An April Fools' Joke: Russians Petition To Get Alaska Back". NPR. Retrieved November 26, 2019.
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  32. ^ "There Are Two Versions of the Story of How the U.S. Purchased Alaska From Russia". Smithsonian Magazine. Smithsonian Institution. March 29, 2017. Retrieved May 22, 2024.

Further reading[edit]

  • Black, Lydia T. (2004). Russians in Alaska, 1732–1867. Fairbanks, AK: University of Alaska Press. ISBN 978-1-889963-05-1.
  • Black, Lydia T.; Dauenhauer, Nora; Dauenhauer, Richard (2008). Anóoshi Lingít Aaní Ká/Russians in Tlingit America: The Battles of Sitka, 1802 and 1804. University of Washington Press. ISBN 978-0-295-98601-2.
  • Essig, Edward Oliver. Fort Ross: California Outpost of Russian Alaska, 1812–1841 (Kingston, Ont.: Limestone Press, 1991.)
  • Frost, Orcutt (2003). Bering: The Russian Discovery of America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-10059-4.
  • Gibson, James R. "Old Russia in the New World: adversaries and adversities in Russian America." in European Settlement and Development in North America (University of Toronto Press, 2019) pp. 46–65.
  • 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
  • Grinev, Andrei Valterovich (2008). The Tlingit Indians in Russian America, 1741–1867. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-8032-2071-3.
  • Grinëv, Andrei Val’terovich. "The External Threat to Russian America: Myth and Reality." Journal of Slavic Military Studies 30.2 (2017): 266–289.
  • Grinëv, Andrei Val’terovich. Russian Colonization of Alaska: Preconditions, Discovery, and Initial Development, 1741–1799 Translated by Richard L. Bland. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2018. ISBN 978-1-4962-0762-3. online review
  • Kobtzeff, Oleg (1985). La Colonization russe en Amérique du Nord: 18 - 19 ème siècles [Russian Colonization in North America, 18th-19th Centuries] (in French). Paris: thesis, University of Paris 1 - Panthéon Sorbonne (available in limited editions in specialized libraries).
  • Miller, Gwenn A. (2010). Kodiak Kreol: Communities of Empire in Early Russian America. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-4642-9.
  • Oleksa, Michael J. (1992). Orthodox Alaska: A Theology of Mission. Yonkers, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary Press. ISBN 978-0-88141-092-1.
  • Oleksa, Michael J., ed. (2010). Alaskan Missionary Spirituality (2nd ed.). Yonkers, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary Press. ISBN 978-0-88141-340-3.
  • Pierce, Richard A. Russian America, 1741–1867: A Biographical Dictionary (Kingston, Ont.: Limestone Press, 1990)
  • Starr, S. Frederick, ed. (1987). Russia's American Colony. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-0688-7.
  • Saul, Norman E. "Empire Maker: Aleksandr Baranov and Russian Colonial Expansion into Alaska and Northern California." Journal of American Ethnic History 36.3 (2017): 91–93.
  • Saul, Norman. "California-Alaska trade, 1851–1867: The American Russian commercial company and the Russian America company and the sale/purchase of Alaska." Journal of Russian American Studies 2.1 (2018): 1–14. online
  • Vinkovetsky, Ilya (2011). Russian America: An Overseas Colony of a Continental Empire, 1804–1867. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-539128-2.


  • Grinëv, Andrei V. "Natives and Creoles of Alaska in the maritime service in Russian America." The Historian 82.3 (2020): 328–345. online[dead link]
  • The Tlingit Indians in Russian America, 1741–1867, Andreĭ Valʹterovich Grinev (GoogleBooks)
  • Luehrmann, Sonja. Alutiiq villages under Russian and US rule (University of Alaska Press, 2008.)
  • Smith-Peter, Susan (2013). ""A Class of People Admitted to the Better Ranks": The First Generation of Creoles in Russian America, 1810s–1820s". Ethnohistory. 60 (3): 363–384. doi:10.1215/00141801-2140758.
  • Savelev, Ivan. "Patterns in the Adoption of Russian Linguistic and National Traditions by Alaskan Natives." International Conference on European Multilingualism: Shaping Sustainable Educational and Social Environment EMSSESE, 2019. (Atlantis Press, 2019). online

Primary sources[edit]

  • 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[edit]