Russian American Company

Russian American Company,

colonial trading company, chartered by Czar Paul I in 1799. The charter granted the merchant-dominated company monopoly trading privileges in Russian America, which included the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, and the territory down to 55° N lat. (a second charter, granted in 1821, extended its domain to 51°); one third of all profits were to go to the czar. Under Aleksandr BaranovBaranov, Aleksandr Andreyevich
, 1747–1819, Russian trader, chief figure in the period of Russian control in Alaska. When his Siberian business faltered, Baranov accepted (1790) an offer to become managing agent of a Russian fur-trading company on Kodiak Island.
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, who governed the region (1800–1818), a permanent settlement was established at Sitka and a thriving fur trade organized. The company failed, however, in its intention to create a large, settled population of Russians. The inhospitable climate, persistent shortages of food and supplies, and the unwillingness of the czar to send serfs to North America kept the colony weak and small. In the 1840s, as the profits from the fur trade began to decline, the czarist government took control of the Russian-American Company from the merchants. The company was officially dissolved in 1867 when Alaska was sold to the United States.
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Located on a shelf overlooking Bodega Bay, its mission was to serve as a trading post for the Russian American Company (RAC) in support of sea otter hunting off the coast of California and the supply of agricultural produce sorely needed by RAC employees in Alaska.
Interesting tidbits, such as an accounting of the rations provided by Spanish authorities to various Russians and native Alaskans detained in the presidios, make for intriguing insights into the record-keeping of the period as well as the fate of some of the Russian American Company employees who were captured by the Spanish.
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