Russian America

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Russian America


the unofficial name for the possessions held by Russia in North America from the second half of the 18th century to the second half of the 19th century. The possessions included Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, and land extending south along the northwest coast of North America to 54°40’ N lat.

The name “Russian America” arose after the expedition of V. Bering and A. I. Chirikov in 1741 and as a result of numerous voyages of Russian navigators and trappers to the northern part of the Pacific Ocean, such as those of M. N. Nevodchikov, A. Tolstykh, and S. G. Glotov. Russian settlements, among them St. Paul on Kodiak Island, were founded in 1784 after the voyage of G. I. Shelikhov. New Archangel (now Sitka) on Baranof Island became the administrative center of Russian America. Russian settlers played an important role in the exploration and economic development of Russian America. Prominent among the governors of Russian America were A. A. Baranov (1790–1818), F. P. Wrangel (1829–35), and M. D. Teben’kov (1845–50). In 1799 the tsarist government granted a monopoly in the exploitation of resources in Russian America to the Russian-American Company for a period of 20 years (extended three times and lasting until 1861).

The depletion of furs, the tsarist government’s weakened position in the Pacific Ocean, and the difficulty of maintaining regular communication with Russia led to the gradual liquidation of Russian possessions in America. In 1821 the tsarist government declared the Bering Sea a part of its territorial waters but then renounced the claim in the face of protests by Great Britain and the United States. In 1824 and 1825, agreements were concluded with the United States and Great Britain, according to which the boundaries of Russian settlements in North America were reduced. Furthermore, Great Britain and the United States were granted rights to enter Russian waters in North America and trade with the local population. The Russian settlement of Fort Ross in northern California was abandoned in 1841.

In 1854 the United States made the first attempt to purchase Russian America. On Mar. 18 (30), 1867, a treaty between the Russian Empire and the United States was signed providing for the sale of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands to the United States for $7.2 million (approximately 11 million rubles). Many Russian names of geographical features, such as mountains and rivers, have been retained in former Russian America.


Shelikhov, G. I. Rossiiskogo kuptsa Grigoriia Shelikhova stranstviia iz Okhotskapo Vostochnomu okeanu k Amerikanskim beregam. Khabarovsk, 1971.
Polevoi, B. P. Grigorii Shelikhov—“Kolumb rosskii.” Magadan, 1960.
Alekseev, A. I. Kolumby rosskie. Magadan, 1966.
Alekseev, A. I. Syny otvazhnye Rossii. Magadan, 1970.
Fedorova, S. G. Russkoenaselenie Aliaski i Kalifornii. Moscow, 1971.
Markov, S. N. lukonskii voron. Yaroslavl, 1974.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Owen Matthews, Glorious Misadventures: Nikolai Rezanov and the Dream of a Russian America. 386 pp.
Exploring and Mapping Alaska: The Russian America Era, 1741-1867
However, it is noteworthy that the golden era of HBC-Smithsonian cooperation ended abruptly as geographical boundaries were clarified, with Canadian confederation, the US purchase of Russian America, and the Canadian purchase of Rupert's Land all taking place in the 1867-70 period.
Noteworthy observations of a journey to Russian America, Micronesia, and through Kamchatka.
"When one reads what the Russians were like, and what would have been the fate of Alaska and other parts of the Northwest if Rezanov had been successful in his efforts to create a Russian America, it is difficult not to conclude that America and the people of that area dodged a bullet.
(3) The topic has been more fully investigated in American historiography: A 1977 article by Winston Sarafian provided, on the basis of archival documents, an in-depth study of the life of the settlers in Russian America and their descendants in 1818-1823.
In which year was Vogue first published in churches, is the seat of the Russian America - 1892, 1905 or 1921?
Kodiak Kreol; communities of empire in early Russian America.
Celebrate Alaska Day with films about the Last Frontier, hands-on science, art activities and a theatrical journey to Russian America. 1 p.m., Anchorage Museum.
The Treaty of 1824 also provided for Russia to station a brig [two-masted sailing ship], the Chichagoff, at the southern border of Russian America. Alaska urged that this provision implied that Russia's purpose in stationing the brig there was to keep any foreign vessels from entering the Alexander Archipelago's waters.

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