Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Meeting of Frontiers: Alaska

Meeting of Frontiers: Alaska - Offers timelines, pictures, and articles relating to Alaska as being a frontier where Russia and America met in the 18th and 19th centuries. The site is available in both English and Russian.

Article topics include the Russian colonization of Alaska, the Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska, the Alaskan fur trade, and the American purchase of Alaska.

I wonder how different the Cold War would have been if Russia had not sold Alaska to the USA. How would an Alaskan Soviet Socialist Republic had impacted the security of Canada and the United States?

From the site:

The Russian and American frontiers met in Alaska. The Bering Strait had long been a link between Siberia and North America--many scholars believe the first Native Americans originally populated the American continents traveling from Siberia to Alaska. Russian servitors [government officials] reached the Pacific Coast by the mid-1600s, sighted Alaska in 1741, and established their first permanent settlement in North America by 1773, probably at Captain's Harbor on Unalaska Island. Kodiak became the capital of Russian America in 1792, only to be surpassed by New Archangel (Sitka) in 1808.

Russians came to North America for the same reason they penetrated Siberia, to find furs, in this case sea otters. Missionaries soon followed the traders, looking to convert souls to Christianity. Russia also established outposts on Hawaii and the California coast to facilitate the sea-otter trade. But in Alaska conditions were even more difficult for traders than in Siberia: food was scarce, the Russian supply centers far away, the climate cold and wet, the native Tlingits well-armed and often hostile to the Russians, and the competition of British and especially American traders for furs was stiff. By the mid-nineteenth century, Russian officials realized that they had overextended themselves; Russian America was abandoned with the sale of Alaska to the United States in 1867.

No comments: