Russian Heritage

Russian Heritage

Russian ChurchA Brief History and Timeline Up to the Purchase of Alaska from the Russians.

~40,000 to ~5,000 years ago: Bering Land Bridge (Beringia) connected Asian and American land masses, facilitating migration of animals and peoples.

~5,000 to ~as much as 30,000 or more years ago: Human settlements established around Alaska.

1648 Russian explorer Semyon Dezhnev rounds the Chukotka Peninsula, discovering that a narrow waterway separates the Eurasian continent from the American continent. His discovery does not become widely known until Bering's later voyage.
1725 Czar Peter the Great sends mariner Vitus Bering to explore beyond the far eastern reaches of Russia and to claim new territory for the Russian Empire.
1728 Bering sails through the strait, which now bears his name, but does not reach the Alaska coast.
1741 In command of the second vessel on Bering’s next expedition, Aleksei Chirikov’s crew reaches land in Southeast Alaska on July 15; Bering sights land the following day. The expedition returns to Russia with sea otter pelts, but Bering himself dies on what is now known as Bering Island off the Kamchatka Peninsula.
1742 Russian explorers and traders return and begin mass hunting of sea otters for pelts, the beginning of a Russian fur trading industry based in Alaska that became the mainstay of the Alaska colonial economy for much of the rest of the century.
1759 Russian explorer and commander Stephan Glotov lands on Unimak Island and hears the Aleut natives refer to the land as Alyaska or Alyeska, which became the basis for the name Alaska.
1761 Russian explorers land on the mainland on the Alaska Peninsula.

1762

Glotov lands at Unalaska in the Aleutian Island chain, and in 1763 on Kodiak Island.

1764 Fighting between Russians and Aleuts.
1772 Russian settlement established at Unalaska. In 1778, during his exploration of the southern Alaska coast, British explorer Capt. James Cook reports finding a Russian settlement at Unalaska. Spanish explorers reaching Alaska in the late 18th century also find permanent Russian settlements.
1781

Russian fur trading company established by Siberian merchant and shipbuilder Grigori Shelikov.

1784 Russian settlement established on Kodiak Island.
1785 Gerasim Pribilof discovers fur seal rookeries on Bering Sea islands now named for him.
1791 Shelikov hires Alexander Baranof to manage his Alaska trading operations. Baranof serves until 1818, the longest serving Russian-Alaska manager.
1795 Russian Orthodox Church established on Kodiak Island.
1799 Russian Czar Paul I signs decree chartering the Russian-American company as a monopoly to handle Russia's trade in its American colony and to administer Russian activities in Alaska. Alexander Baranof establishes Russian fort and administrative headquarters in Sitka, which became capital of the Alaska colony.
1802 Battles between Russians and Indians in Sitka.
1821 Russian-America Company asserts exclusive control in Alaska trade and waters.
1824 Russians begin exploring mainland Alaska, over the next 20 years reaching as far north as the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers. Russia establishes southern boundary with the United States and one year later the eastern boundary of Alaska with Britain.
1840 Russian Orthodox Diocese established for Alaska. Russian liturgy given in Alaska Native languages. Russians begin establishing missionary schools and churches.

1841

Russian Attach´┐Ż Edward de Stoeckel assigned to Russian delegation to the United States.

1853 Russian explorers and trappers find oil seeps in Cook Inlet.
1859 De Stoeckel gets authority to start negotiating the sale of Alaska to the United States.
1867 U.S. Secretary of State William Seward negotiates the purchase of Alaska for $7.2 million. Treaty signed March 30. Transfer occurs at the Russian Alaska capital of Sitka on Oct. 18.

Alaska - Russian Facts

  • Alaska and Russia share a border. The U.S.-Russian maritime boundary zigzags down the Bering Strait between the Asian and American land masses.

  • Alaska and Russia are less than 3 miles apart at their closest point in the Bering Strait where two islands, Russia's Big Diomede Island and Alaska's Little Diomede Island, are located. In winter it is possible to walk across the frozen Bering Strait border between these two islands. At its closest, the American mainland and the Russian mainland are 55 miles apart where Alaska's Seward Peninsula and Russia's Chukotka Peninsula reach out to each other.

  • Cities and towns in Alaska and the RFE are closer to each other than they are to their own national capitals.

  • Russia governed Alaska as a colony for almost as long as the United States has now governed Alaska as a territory and state.

  • Alaska has two official state holidays: Seward's Day, the last Monday in March, commemorates the 1867 signing of the treaty in which U.S. Secretary of State William Seward agreed to purchase Alaska from the czar; and Alaska Day, Oct. 18, which marks the formal transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States in the Russian capital of Sitka.

  • Alaska has many historic Russian buildings. There are active Russian Orthodox Churches in some 80 Alaska communities, many of which still use the old-style Russian Orthodox calendar and celebrate Christmas on what is marked as Jan. 7 in Western calendars.

  • Many of Alaska's native peoples who lived in the regions colonized by Russia have Russian surnames, stemming from the days when they were colonial subjects of the czar and many intermarried. Russian names mark Alaska's geographical landscape.

  • Russian Orthodox "Old Believers" who emigrated from the Soviet Union have their own old-style Russian villages in Alaska.

  • Except during the Cold War, Alaska and Russian natives on either side of the Bering Strait carried on with routine visits, seasonal festivals and subsistence trade.

  • During the Cold War, Alaskans referred to the closed border between Russia and Alaska as the "Ice Curtain." Their goal: to melt the Ice Curtain.

  • The University of Alaska has more Russian students at its campuses than any other university in the United States.

  • Much of the flora and fauna and geology in Alaska are similar to the Russian Far East and eastern Siberia.

  • Alaska serves as the U.S. gateway for all flights between the Russian Far East and the United States.

Alaska Facts

State Nick Name: "The Last Frontier" - the name Alaska is derived from the Aleut word "Aleyska," meaning "great land."

State Motto: "North to the Future"

State Capital: Juneau, located in the Southeast region of Alaska, has a population of 33,277 (2015 Estimate of Population, Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development)

Alaska Map:

Map of Alaska

Alaska Flag:

Alaska state flag is dark blue with yellow stars in the shape of the big dipper with the North star

NOTE: The State of Alaska is not responsible for the content/information on any site outside of a State of Alaska department.